how to stain a canvas

how to stain a canvas

WARNING! Artists’ materials are very dangerous and can cause
injury or death! Use in a well-ventilated area, read all warning labels, and keep out of
reach of children! Use at your own risk! I’m going to show you how to stain a canvas. This is a stain color that I like that’s somewhere between black and white. I don’t like to paint on a white canvas, and I wouldn’t want to paint on a black canvas. This is a good neutral color. It’s not as blue as a lot of greys. It’s maybe shifted more toward orange, but it’s a color that I like that I get from mixing burnt umber. I use Winsor & Newton Burnt Umber, but you can use almost any good quality burnt umber. Then, I like this Holbein Quick Drying White, but you can use any foundation white. I just like the way it dries, and I like the tooth that it has once I’ve finished staining. The tooth is the… Whether it’s glossy, or whether it’s matte, it has a certain “matte-ness”
that grabs the paint that I like a lot, so I really like the Quick Drying White by Holbein. So, let me take this little bowl here, and I’m going to mix some up, then I’m going to stain this canvas when I’m finished. It’s just Claessens #13, which is a canvas I like, but you can stain any kind
of canvas with this stain. All I’m going to use to thin my paint with is just some inexpensive mineral spirits. I’m going to take some Quick Drying White first — and I usually use a little extra so I don’t have to mix it up twice — and then some burnt umber. And it’s about 1/3 as much burnt umber — I probably put too much — but about 1/3 burnt umber and 2/3 of the white. Mix those two together. And the color… I’m not so much interested in the color. Depending on what kind of burnt umber you use, some are more red, some are more blue, but to me, it’s not really very critical. I could use any burnt umber to mix my stain with. What I’m really interested in is getting the darkness and the lightness right. In other words, I don’t want it to be too dark or too light. I want to show you how to test this. This is too dark. I’m just putting these on a
piece of regular cardboard so that you can judge for yourself by just getting some regular
cardboard and using that. That’s too dark, so I’m going to lighten it up some. I like my stain to be dark enough that I get full coverage with my blacks with one stroke of paint. And yet, not so dark that when I paint with a really light color, I don’t want the dark stain
showing through my light colors. This color here is about perfect, because I can get full coverage with white paint, and I can get full coverage with black paint. Let me take a little bit of this and let’s see where we are. Still too dark. And, the camera, if anything, will make this look darker to you, on a video, than it really is. But that’s still too dark, so we’re going to go even lighter. OK, so that’s getting pretty good. That’s close. So, if you look at that, it’s one good step darker than this cardboard, which is just regular box cardboard. Now I’m going to take that and I’m going to add some mineral spirits to it to thin it down. So, when you start to add the mineral spirits at the very beginning, we’re just going to put a very small splash. Just a very little bit. And then, mix that in first until it’s nice and smooth, and then add more. And then we just keep on adding it. This room has got a ton of ventilation. Normally, I would do this outside, but I’m in this open garage, and I’ve got it set up where
the air just blows through here. Do this outside or somewhere with really, really good ventilation. It’s a lot more smelly than painting with your regular oil paint. This is mixed now to the consistency that I want. You can see how runny that is. I mean, it’s just real runny. That’s the way I like it. You don’t want it watery thin, but it’s very runny. Look how it drips off my brush. So, that’s that. Let me bring the canvas up here. This isn’t really complicated. I always make sure there’s no hair or lint or anything stuck on my canvas. Just brush it on. Brush it on just thick enough so that you get good coverage. You really don’t need any more than that. If your canvas shows through
a little bit, that’s fine. You want it to be on there as thick as possible, but not so much that it’s pooling up, or so that when you brush it, the canvas doesn’t show through too much. You’re going to see it a little bit, and that’s OK, but you shouldn’t see it too much. Even though this paint is pretty watery, I’m getting pretty good coverage here. Look for all the hairs. There’s always a few brush hairs
that fall into the paint. And you’ve got plenty of time to work it. This isn’t like varnish. That’s about it. That’s how I stain my canvases. Give it a good 48 hours to dry before you start penciling on it. That’s about it. That’s all there is to it.


  • Chris E says:

    Thank you Mark for your video tips! The Claessens # 13 canvas that you are using – is it the DP (double primed?) I have used the Claessens #12 DP and found it too thick for portraits, plus it has a very strong odor (not unpleasant, but I am sure unhealthy) compared to other oil primed canvases that don't smell at all..

  • Draw Mix Paint says:

    I like both the single and double primed #13, can't really tell the difference.

  • Galleria Campagna says:

    On a scale from 1-10, what would you guess the value to be for the stain?

  • Draw Mix Paint says:

    Gosh, I have no idea, it would depend on the scale type. Use the cardboard test like in the video, the color is not critical.

  • Cunco Maclovio says:

    Exelente con subtitulos!!! Felicidades.

  • dactylus90 says:

    did you prime with gesso or any materials your canvas first?

  • Doris Hensley says:

    were do you get your paint in stores or wholesale,?

  • TTundragrizzly says:

    Hi, I like to tone the canvas with a mix of Burnt Sienna and mineral spirits. Paint it on canvas, then rub it out with paper towel. Leaves a nice light sienna tone.

  • Mars P says:

    Hello, thx for vid and website etc. I have a question as to the tooth of your preferred canvas. From what I can tell thru vids your seem to be fairly smoothly primed, the foundation white providing tooth rather then a pronounced weave, is this correct…close too? 🙂 I like the "red bole" like ground to work with as well and find the alkyd based 'foundation' white to be a good final layer before painting. As you stated the tooth etc. of a canvas is a bigger deal than I a had figured upon at 1st.

  • Steven Jones says:

    the purpose of staining a canvas is not mandatory, its purpose is mainly to give a neutral colour to start the painting on; the eyes tend to be rather overwhelmed with all the white so the neutral colour allows the artist to judge value against a medium tone rather than the white!
    Again, it isnt necessary but does help, if nothing else, to fool the mind into feeling that the painting has started! I think we have all felt stupified staring at a blank canvas! lol

  • Celia Younger says:

    THANK YOU very much.


    gracias..muchas gracias

  • Elena Mour says:

    All these videos are so helpful! I am starting painting properly for the first time. Is refined linseed oil the same as mineral spirit? Does it matter if I use Refined Linseed oil for the stain? Thanks!

  • kbld1 says:

    Excellent video – thank you. I couldn't quite catch the dry time. Did you say wait 4-8 hours before penciling on the canvas, or was it 48 hours? Thanks.

  • Rafael Ramírez says:

    Thank's a lot 🙂 you're great. . . I

  • mahyati tehrany says:

    Hi. Thanks for the training. Just I have one question… can I use Methylated spirit instead of mineral spirit? Thanks again 

  • Misana says:

    Why do we need to stain the canvas? Curious…

  • Mary Beatty-Brooks says:

    " to answer the lady's question "why" its because the local colors(applied later) will jump out more with something neutral under them………………………………..Digitalogo

  • Renée says:

    Is it okay if I mix oil paint with linseed oil and turpentine instead of mineral spirit? Or is the latter better?

  • SwirlyColors says:

    Would using acrylics for this be okay?
    W&N says so:
    but I want to make sure.

  • Luka Miklavžič says:

    Hi Mark.
    I like tour videos very much so keep up the good work : )
    One question for you…
    Is it possible to stain canvas with acrylic colors?
    Thank you

  • lnuxkid says:

    Thank you for taking the time to make these videos they have provided me with so much information, specially for someone who is just beginning to explore oil paintings like myself.
    I do have a couple of questions.
    can i stain a canvas for later use, say a week after staining the canvas? Or is it better to just stain the one canvas i know i am going to use?
    also are you able to ship your paint to an addressed located within an USA military installation?

  • Dorimant Heathen says:

    Why does no manufacturer produce a line of already neutral-color stained canvases, alongside with classic white canvases? I would be happy to pay a canvas a little extra more for that plus, spare me the time and the smelly staining color mix…

  • bea gustafson says:

    HiDo you gesso the canvas before staining it? If so what brand do you use? I stain mine with very thinned out Burnt Sienna .Thank you

  • A. Random says:

    Why wouldn't one use a color close to what photographers use (used to use?) for tricky light meter situations, the '18% gray' card? Is it that burnt umber adds warmth?

  • Jonathan Snow says:

    Thank you for the tutorials! Question: How important is it to us the quick dry white? Would a regular titantium or zinc white work for staining?

  • MindOverArt says:

    is there anything else we can use to stain the canvas instead of using mineral spirits ? can we mix water with the colours ?

  • HERNANDO. M. says:

    Saludos desde Medellin, Colombia.
    Felicitaciones por su gran trabajo.
    Por favor me responde lo siguiente:
    ¿ El titanium white opaca un poco el burnt umber para el manchado del lienzo? o no tiene nada que ver?
    Muchas gracias

  • ohiorn34 says:

    Thanks for all your videos. They are so helpful to us beginning artists. I especially like your video "The myth of natural talent" and the one where you paint the silver cup. Of course all of them are excellent and so encouraging and helpful. Thank you.

  • an ocean says:

    I really appreciate your approach to painting because you mostly use nontoxic substances. When you stain a canvas, is it possible to use paint alone without the mineral spirits to obtain a stained background color? Is the main reason that you use the mineral spirits to thin the paint and to speed the drying time? I know that you might need to wait a little longer for paints to dry without the mineral spirits, but for some people, it might be worth it.

  • Russian Walker says:

    is that acrylic?

  • Norman CSY says:

    thanks for the great video.

    I am a little unclear regarding staining and canvas and the concern of fat-over-lean.

    The way I understand it, at the bottom, we've the support (canvas., board ..etc.), then we've something like rabbit-skin glue followed by lets say an oil primer. It seems to me that the oil primer is pretty fat since it came soaked in linseed oil. Yes, we would thin it for application but I'd guess its fatter than what you (or I would have been) doing here.

    Another related question would be some artists like to have semi-transparent washes (eg of umber) to start their painting. Sort of a monochrome watercolour-like sketch, before they actually paint. Some of these washes may remain un-covered in the fished work (eg, in the shadow area). Again, would this be a violation of fat-over-lean?

    thanks in advance.

  • Laurel Knight says:

    you are so gracious to share your extensive knowledge ! Thank you!

  • yvie01 says:

    Hi Thank you for your videos and website. Can you tell me if I my painting is going to hav a lot of white in it should I still stain the canvas this color. I am wanting to paint some white and cream roses.?

  • Laurel Schmitz says:

    What are mineral spirits. I use water mixable oil paints…I have really bad respiratory problems and live in an apartment that doesn't have great ventilation Plus there is no where to dispose of dirty turpentine and much easier to clean the water mixable oil (just telling you why I use it). anyway, can I still use some of your tips? or most/all of them? such as this tutorial in staining the canvas? and what kind of varnish should I get.

  • Molly Muzette says:

    Hi, Please clarify if you prime your canvases with oil primer and then stain them as a separate step? Can these steps be combined? Thanks for all your videos/ resources. I am learning so much!

  • Jonathan Snow says:

    lol. I get that all the time.

  • Alan Dawson says:

    Do you ever find that the tone value of your toned canvas, ever relates to a shadow tone value, or, does it always relate to light, or mid lights.thanks.

  • bugisami says:

    Why not compare the stain to your palette?

  • taritamily says:

    Can I stain a canvas and use it only ten month later? There is a time limite between stain and painting on it?

  • Calvin Jansen Van Vuuren says:

    hi. i accidentally bought genuine terpentine…its expensive…how can i use it with oil paints?

  • Alexandra Yakovleva says:

    I mixed and odorless paint thinner ( mona lisa brand) and an yellow oil paint color for the base, i feel i made a mistake it has been 2-3 days and its still wet, should i just clean the surface of it, because ots not drying?Thank you!

  • bluemoon says:

    Hello Mark, I've bought Winsor&Newton Artist underpainting white, will it be ok for staining canvas? Can I use underpainting white exclusevily for on store bought primed canvas in order my paint looked better on it?

  • Thomas says:

    hi. could I use also acrylic paint for this step?

  • taritamily says:

    Can I stain canvas to only painting on it several moth later?

  • Oyie Arcala says:

    What is staining for?

  • Roxanne says:

    Could I use liquin instead of mineral spirits?

  • JSG1138 says:

    I am so happy to have found this channel. There are thousands if not millions of videos, books and websites dedicated to tutorials for anything ranging from guitar to carpentry. These videos are undoubtedly some of the most helpful and concise that you will find on any subject anywhere on the planet. Such a great channel…

  • Alexis Gonzalez says:

    Mark, do you apply anything to the canvas before you paint it with the base color?

  • Sima abedini says:

    Wowwwww thank you so much for sharing your info so clear and generous 🙏👏👩‍🎨

  • Sheri Broadbent says:

    Just stained my first canvas! I typically use acrylic paint but I've been itching to try oils, so here I go! Thank you so much for all your down to earth instructions!

  • wolfumz says:

    Damn. I just take some burnt umber, solvent, and a rag. Fantastic video

  • afpandra says:

    absolutely adore your videos! I've been binge watching them for hours

  • Kevin Queen says:

    Sometimes I paint a crazy mixture of car yellow deep, yellow ochre and magenta, not much magenta, it works well to help me get those sky's that just pop

  • Gabriel Flores says:

    hi Mark what brand of mineral spirits do you use?

  • Hiloha'homa says:

    Did he say 4 to 8 hours or 48 hours ?

  • ชาวส์ RPG says:

    Do you have to use a pre-primed canvas before applying stain? Or is the stain itself considered sufficient priming? I am new to oil painting, please help. Thank you

  • T. Bunker says:

    Can a foam brush be used with an oil ground coat? Or is the canvas at this stage too rough of a surface? What about a low-nap roller or foam roller?. I would worry that a roller might force paint down through the Gesso into the canvas — and oil and canvas don't play nice together.

  • Alexandra M says:

    lol wtf who staples their canvas on the sides that's strange

  • Namrith Babu says:

    Thank you for sharing the knowledge… I am a beginner for oil based colours. All your videos are very helpful for me.

  • Charlene Cleniuk says:

    Can we use Titanium White paint?

  • Bob Wilson says:

    Good news, I heard a rumor that brush dip is on the way!

  • Janet says:

    If you put white paint over it, would the white not look as white than if you put it over a white canvas? No back lighting underneath for a translucent medium mixed paint? because of the tan?

  • Mike Nino says:

    Just use black Acrylic it's faster.

  • Mike Nino says:

    You don't have to use that and wait that long .

  • Steven Davis says:

    Question here and I'm being honest why do you stain a canvas

  • Lyn Clarke says:

    So what do I do here? I've stained my canvas too dark. How do I lighten it. I know, should have watched your video first! I initially used gesso and too much Paynes Grey. HELP.

  • Lone Star Rocker says:

    I'm so thankful I can watch you work. It really helps elevate my art. I was going to buy a brown gesso but now I can mix this up pretty fast. Thank you!

  • Hard Style says:

    I have no Burnt Umber, all I got is red, blue, and yellow,so I'll settle for those and see how close I get to that color😁

  • San Diego Rideshare Driver says:

    Best art instruction on the Net.

  • ALEX WHITE says:

    Dont worry about the dislike you got … you are great 👍🏼…

  • Elle scooter says:

    Would you tone a canvas like this for a landscape painting or only portraits and still lifes?

  • Linda Taylor says:

    I have asthma. How would I do this without mineral spirits?

  • Linda Taylor says:

    to avoid fumes, could I stain my canvas using a mocha acrylic paint then do my oil painting over it?

  • Al Gallucci says:

    I don't know what I did wrong but after getting the color I added a little mineral sprits and it immediately turned ten shades darker. In addition the oil and mineral spirits never really mixed fully, I had dark brown mineral spirits with a glob of oil paint in it. I mixed for about twenty minutes and also tried adding a little more mineral spirits before I gave up. It was about 45 degrees in the area I was working, could that have something to do with it? any suggestions would be appreciated

  • Roxito 75 says:

    Dear Mark, I'm writing from Paris (France not Texas. Cheers to Wim Wenders). I have a problem with the staining. On your video "I paint three peaches" (I love this video) your staining seems really different that the one on your video "How to draw in proportion". Do you have any clew concerning the intensity of your stain ? (color, pantone ref….). Many thanks in advance and please keep going, you're absolutely the best teacher I've ever seen.

  • Sameeha Khaliq says:

    I use turpentine oil for cleaning brushes. And linsed to dilute. Can I use turpentine oil to stain canvas too as it is cheap as compare to linsed oil

  • Galaxy’s Rose says:

    Why do you not give the comments a little heart ? Sometimes I want to read comments that the You-Tuber liked .

  • Uncle60 says:

    So what if I let the stained canvas dry for 2 months then paint. Do I oil out first ?

  • 《YELLOW 》 says:

    unitentional asmr

  • Tory Tuan says:

    Nevermind found it

  • Tory Tuan says:

    Okay u prime it opaque

  • John Cowburn says:

    Is there a problem with using an acrylic paint to stain the canvas?

  • Beverley Christiansen says:

    Thank you so much for sharing you talent in your videos. Can you advise, with acrylics, should you stain the canvas? If so how should it be done properly. I have not ventured to oils yet.

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