How to Paint with Watercolour on Regular Canvas

Painters are always looking for new ways to paint art on different stuff. Among different types of painting watercolour painting is the most common. Artists from around the world seek different methods and different materials to paint on. Most artists use oil colour and acrylic colour to paint on canvas.

It is because oil colour and acrylic colours both can stay on the non-absorbent surface. That is why there is not much effort in preparing the canvas.

Usually, watercolour is painted on paper or watercolour canvas. But you can also do painting on normal canvas as art means trying new things. 

But it is not as normal as it seems. You need to prepare the canvas for watercolour painting.


Difficulties in directly painting on canvas:

Watercolour is water-based paint, which means that watercolour is mixed with water and then painted on the surface like paper, watercolour canvas, etc. 

When water dry-off of the surface, paint remains on the surface. That is how watercolour works. Watercolour works on the absorbent surface only.

While normal canvas is made of cotton and linen, both are hydrophobic (resistant to water), which means water will not absorb. 

Hence, the watercolour water will not absorb in the canvas, and it just drop-off of the surface of the canvas.

The surface of the canvas is fibrous, which makes it non-absorbent for water. Paints like oil paints and acrylic paints work fine on this surface because they are paste and are oily in nature. 

On the other hand, watercolours are not oil-based; instead, they are water-based paints. They need to be absorbed to paint on any surface.

Normal canvas can be prepared to paint watercolours. Few products are used to make the surface of the canvas absorbent for watercolours.

Now you can easily paint on the surface of canvas which is porous enough to absorb water.

Following is the method to prepare the canvas to paint watercolours. Every step is simple and easy to follow.

Prepare canvas to paint watercolour:

Preparing a canvas is the most crucial thing to paint watercolour. It is because watercolour don’t stick to the surface of the normal canvas.

The surface of the canvas is non-absorbent which does not absorb the watery content of watercolour. 

Hence, the watercolour slide-off of the canvas. To prepare the canvas all you need to do is to apply the gesso first on the canvas.

Gesso, when dries, make the surface stiffer. Gesso makes the surface of canvas slightly textured and ready to accept the watercolour.

One to two layers of gesso are enough to prepare the canvas to absorb the water from watercolour. 

By absorbing the water from watercolour, the paint in the watercolour gets attached to the canvas’s surface.

What is Gesso?

Gesso is a crucial art supply for canvas painters. You can buy it from a nearby art supply store. It is present in almost all the art supply stores.

Gesso is very similar to acrylic paints. It is available in squeeze tubes, big bottles, and jars, also available in spray form.

Artist-grade gesso is more expensive, has more colourless filler, and is of better quality, making it thicker and opaque. 

While, student grade gesso has more filler, less colour, and is cheaper than the artistic one.

Gesso is mostly available in white, but it is also available in black colour, clear gesso, and coloured gesso.

Steps to Paint on Canvas:

When the canvas is ready, it is time to do some painting on the canvas. Step by step method of painting on the canvas is given below.

  1. First, we need to draw the sketch of what you are going to paint. It helps artist to determine where to paint what colour.

    Artists like Bob Ross are great teachers and provide all the information to learn painting and look at the painting from all angles to make it the best painting.

  2. In the second step, you paint over the sketch. Take a round watercolour brush (or any other shape), dip in the water, paint circular motion on canvas with light colour, and leave it to dry.
  3. After an hour, repeat the process with the next colour, but use darker colours this time.
  4. After it gets completely dried, paint a random pattern of water using a brush and thin down watercolours.
    Water should be used in place of turpentine which is generally known for painting canvas.
  5. Continue the process until you get colourful combinations.
  6. After that apply varnish to protect your canvas work from any harm or damage.

When we are done with our painting, it needs to dry completely so that only paint remains on the surface of the canvas. Drying the canvas takes about 24 hours.

Methods to Seal the painting:

After the paint is dry, the painting can be ruined by a single drop of water. So, it needs to be waterproofed (sealed).

You can use Spray Varnish to make your painting waterproof.

Using Varnish

Varnishes are used to waterproof the watercolour painting, which is not paper but on other non-absorbent surfaces like canvas, wood, and others.

Brushed-on and water-based varnish is not used to fix the painting as it ruins the whole painting by smearing it.

Instead, you can use spray-on varnish or brush-on varnish, which is not water-based. So that it will not destroy all the effort in making the painting.

Using Glass Frame

Artists use glass frame to protect their paintings from any kind of damage or harm.

It will not let the dust stick with it and it would be safe from water and paint as well. This way your painting is protected completely.


Painting watercolour on regular canvas is not an easy task. Normally, watercolour doesn’t work on regular canvas because it is not absorbent enough to absorb watercolour water.

So, different techniques are made to make the canvas normal for watercolours.

Painting on the canvas is easy but maintaining the painting is difficult to do.

Different techniques are developed to preserve the painting and save all the effort put in making the piece of art.

Painting is a lot easier now than ever before. Artists from around the globe are trying different methods, creating different techniques, and making new art and art forms.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *