How to make an Oil Ground

This page teaches you how to make oil grounds for canvases made from white lead and stand oil.

You will need the following materials and tools.

Linen cloth , Stretcher ,
Pigments ( White lead , Titanium White , Chalk ) ,
Stand oil , Terpentine ,
Grinding slab ( Marble Palette ) and Muller ,
Palette knife , Brush

You should buy linen cloth adjusted to art use at the art supply store. You should ask about linen at the largest shop in your city or the shop specialized to traditional art material.

Attach the linen cloth to the stretcher.

Attach the linen cloth to the stretcher. Let the grain of the linen cloth be parallel to the stretcher. If you drow lines on the linen cloth along the grain by a softer lead pencil in advance, you can attach the cloth straight.

Size on the surface of the canvas.

Now you will size on the surface of the canvas by animal skin glue solution. Prepare the glue solution at first. The concentration of this glue solution should be 10% ( e.g. 30g of glue and 300ml of water ). See "How to make glue solution".

As for small canvas, you can size easily after attaching the canvas to the stretcher. But large linen cloth stretchs and contracts in the process of sizing. Sometimes , large linen cloth destroys the stretcher by its contracting. In case of large canvas , you have to observe the all process of sizing and if it's necessary, control the stress of linen cloth. Or you can size before attaching the canvas to the stretcher. But in this case you have to stratch the cloth while you size it and it would be a littel large-scale work. And also , you may buy the linen cloth which already sized at art sppuly stores or canvas makers.

Let the glue solution cool a bit and paint it on the surface of canvas. Do not let the glue solution soak to the reverse side of the canvas. After the first layer dries, paint the second layer. You should paint on the side of canvas too, but do not paint on the reverse side.

Make the paint for the ground

White lead pigment ( Silver White ) is the best for ground of oil canvas because of its strength and speed of dryness. And adding Titanium white into them is effective for improving white color and avoiding to increase in transparency of White lead film. And also , you can add inert pigments, such as calcium carbonate or bsrium sulphate. In case of old example , the ratio of inert pigments in the upper layer of the ground was larger than in the lower layer.

Materials the ratio
White lead 6
Titanium White 3
Inert Pigment
( Chalk, etc.)
stand oil 1
linseed oil 1

Now you make the paint for the ground according to the right table. White lead is poisonous. Be careful about health hazard when you treat the pigment. When you put pigments on the grinding slab and start to grind them , pigments fly most and you will take them with your breath. You should put on a dastploof mask. If you are worry , you can mix the pigment and binder in the stainless steel bowl by a rubber spatula at first ( Do not add too much binder ) , and then remove it on the grinding slab. In this way, the pigment does not fly so much.

And you have to prepare binders for grinding pigments. I recommend Mixture of Stand oil and Raw linseed oil. Stand oil provides the fastness , Raw linsed oil provides the mobility. If you can get , you should use Cold pressed linseed oil as Raw linseed oil.

Put pigments on the grinding slab and add stand oil. Mix them by a palette knife at first. And then start to grind the mixture by a Muller. See "How to make your own oil paint".

You can put the paint you made in a empty tube to keep it.

Paint the ground

Now paint the ground on the sized linen cloth attached to the strecher. At the first layer , thin the paint by terpentine. And then from 2nd layer , paint it without thinning. It takes several month to dry perfectly.

You can paint this oil ground on not only a linen cloth attached to the strecher but a sized wood board or a wood board coverd with linen cloth.

Author: N,Matsukawa E-Mail:
Copyright(C)2001-2002 Norihiro Matsukawa, All Rights Reserved.