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What Are The Benefits Of Oil Ground Preparation

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

Via @kitschmeister and @nic.thurman on Instagram

What is Oil Ground Preparation?

Oil ground is a gummy-feeling preparation layer that serves as a base for your oil painting. It is the most time honored surface for classical painters and has been used since the Renaissance by masters like Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Odd Nerdrum.

It is comprised of chalk aka calcium carbonate, linseed oil, and oil colors. It creates additonal separation between your painting and the underlying material. Not only does this add protection to your painting but it also serves as an ideal surface to work on top of because of its smooth texture.

Oil Ground is not the same as sizing. Tradtionally classical painters have used rabbit skin glue or hide sizing to seal the canvas. Sizing prevents the interaction between raw material and oil. Without this separation the oxidization process can cause canvas to rot. Therefore oil ground must be added on top of sized canvas.

What Are The Benefits of Using Oil Ground Preparation?


  • Oil ground serves as a protective layer between your paint and sized canvas. It adds additional weight and flexibility which means that your painting will be able to survive longer.

Glossy Finish

  • Because of the additional protection your paint will also maintain more vibrancy and more of a 'wet' feel. The paint will still dry with a glossier finish. While gesso surfaces tend to 'absorb' the oil and leave the painting looking dry and flat, the oil ground keeps your paint feeling fresh.


  • The additional layer of oil ground also means that you can scrape into the surface to create more layers & transparency without needing to worry about damaging the canvas. This is crucial if you plan to scrape down between layers like the old masters.

Slick & Smooth

  • The slick and smooth surface makes starting a painting extremely easy. Your brush will glide across the canvas smoothly. That means you can cover more area more easily without the canvas ‘absorbing’ your color.


  • The ground is colored to make achieving life like results easier than any other method.


  • Using a fleshy mid tone means that most of the surface area is already covered for you. You can immediately begin to fill in is the shadows and highlights leading to better results more quickly.


  • Having this base mid tone also means you can use more transparent effects. You can intentionally leave transparency in your paint knowing that the fleshy mid tone will support you on the base level.

Mood & Contrast

  • Having the mid tone color on the canvas from the beginning will set the mood of your painting and will create relative contrast. Everything you do moving forward will be relative to the base color which makes achieving a satisfying palette easier.

Should I Use Oil Ground Preparation?

Ideal For Oil Painters

If you are using oil colors then there is no surface that is better than glued linen with oil ground preparation. There is no alternative that offers the same slick and smooth feel while maintaining such solidity. Whether you're painting landscapes, portraits, or large scale compositions oil ground preparation is the ideal surface to work on.

Time Honored

As a classical painter myself, I don't trust any other material to stand the test of time. Oil ground has proven itself to be the best surface to work on and to keep paintings alive. I would not trust any other surface to hold my painting.

Want To Learn More About Classical Oil Painting Techniques?

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