6 Best Primers To Use for Oil Painting

Oil may be considered a painter’s best friend and the standard for fine art, but that doesn’t mean it’s the easiest to work with. It requires special primers to prepare its surface area. Investing in high-quality oil primers becomes essential if you want to get your painting off on the right foot.

The best primer for oil painting is the Mont Marte Premium Gesso Universal PrimerOpens in a new tab.. It can be used on various materials without causing damage, including canvas, paper, cardboard, painting boards, wood, air dry clay, and plaster. It has a thick consistency that spreads easily and dries quickly.

If you want to know which other primers are great for oil painting, keep reading!

Best Overall: Mont Marte Premium Gesso Universal PrimerOpens in a new tab.

I’ve tried a lot of primers for oil painting, and I can confidently say that Mont Marte Premium Gesso is in the running for the best of them all.

Mont Marte Premium Gesso Universal Primer 64oz (1.89L), Suitable for Acrylic Paint, Oil Paint, Color Pencils, Pastels, Graphite and Charcoal
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Mont Marte Premium Gesso Universal Primer 64oz (1.89L), Suitable for Acrylic Paint, Oil Paint, Color Pencils, Pastels, Graphite and Charcoal Opens in a new tab.
  • Prepare surfaces for a range of art projects
  • Ideal for use with painting mediums such as acrylic, oil, gouache and enamel
  • Suitable for most porous surfaces including canvas, paper, cardboard, painting boards, wood, air dry...

Last update on 2022-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This thick, creamy consistency dries to a smooth, matte finish when dry. It goes on smoothly, dries fast, and completely covers any surface. Compared to similar products from other brands, this one is quite affordable—and the pricing is fair considering the amount of primer you get in a single bottle. 

This product’s quality far exceeded my expectations, as it can be easily used on several purpose materials without damaging them. If you work with several mediums, you’ll be pleased to know that this primer works just as well with acrylics, gouache, and enamel paints as well. 

Most Non-Absorbent: Gamblin Oil Painting GroundOpens in a new tab.

If you’re looking for an alternative to acrylic gesso as a painting ground for oil paintings, try Gamblin Oil Painting Ground. This absorbent-free base makes the canvas more rigid and brilliant, and you only need to apply a couple of coats before the surface is ready to paint. 

I also like that this doesn’t have the unpleasant smell of some other primers. The oil painting ground is contained in a 32-ounce (950 ml) tin can with a locking lid to prevent spills. This works really on wooden panels, so if you love painting on wooden panels, this primer is for you!

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Gamblin Oil Painting Ground 8 oz.
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51 Reviews
Gamblin Oil Painting Ground 8 oz. Opens in a new tab.
  • Bright white - non-absorbent ground like a traditional oil ground
  • Non-absorbent grounds are brighter because the oil is retained in the paint
  • Grounds make canvas and linen stiffer

Last update on 2022-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Most Tooth: Winsor & Newton Oil Painting PrimerOpens in a new tab.

Winsor & Newton Oil Painting Primer flows well and offers a perfectly even surface for oil painting. You can thin the primer if necessary with Gamsol, but for the most part, it can be used without needing any additions or mixing. 

The Winsor & Newton Oil Painting Primer dries quickly- typically, your surface is ready for painting after a day or two of applying this primer, depending on the weather and the porosity of the surface you’re working with. 

The primer has enough tooth to ensure easy paint adhesion, but you don’t need to worry too much sanding. 

Most Odorless: Bob Ross R62GESSO-50 White GessoOpens in a new tab.

For starters, it’s smooth and easy to apply. The consistency is just right—not too runny or thick. You won’t have trouble using this product in your brush or spreading it across the canvas.

And then there’s the low odor. Compared to other brands of gesso, Bob Ross has virtually no smell at all! If you’re anything like me, that makes all the difference!

Bob Ross R62GESSO-50 White Gesso 16 fl. oz. (473ml)
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Bob Ross R62GESSO-50 White Gesso 16 fl. oz. (473ml) Opens in a new tab.
  • Ideal for painting techniques with oil colors and other media
  • Includes 473-milliliter bottle of gesso
  • Conforms to ASTM d4236

Last update on 2022-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Fastest Drying: Sargent Art – 22-9703 Gesso

Even while this primer is not as thick as traditional gesso and requires more applications to achieve the desired coverage, it dries quickly, allowing you to prepare your canvases quickly. The consistency of the primer means that you don’t have to thin it, and it will ensure that your surface is ready to paint in 24 hours. 

Also, this high-quality primer covers well and is water-resistant, even if it gets wet after the gesso is applied. It also has a matte finish so that you won’t be painting on a bright white canvas.

This acid-free and non-toxic product will keep your artwork looking great for years!

Most Smooth: Breathing Color White Gesso Canvas Primer 

You can easily apply this primer with a brush straight from the bottle, and it dries quickly. Because of its bright white, non-yellowing color,  you can easily see where you’ve applied it to your paper. The texture will be too heavy with two applications, so just one will do.

This primer is known for its smooth application, to the extent that some painters find that it lacks the tooth they prefer to ensure paint adhesion. However, for many painters, the primer’s smoothness is a key advantage, ensuring a smooth finish. 

White Gesso Canvas Primer 8 oz Give Your Art The Ultimate Base Prime! Keep Paint from Absorbing! Whether Acrylics, Oils, Watercolors or Pastels, Make Every Painting Look its Absolute Best
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168 Reviews
White Gesso Canvas Primer 8 oz Give Your Art The Ultimate Base Prime! Keep Paint from Absorbing! Whether Acrylics, Oils, Watercolors or Pastels, Make Every Painting Look its Absolute Best Opens in a new tab.
  • 🎨 TOOLS OF THE TRADE: Artists like you have a discerning eye for the details. A solid foundation...
  • 🏆 PREMIUM IS OUR FIRST NAME: The premium white Gesso by Breathing Color is unlike any other gesso...
  • ⌛ OVER 2 YEARS IN THE MAKING: This Premium Gesso can only bear the Breathing Color logo after...

Last update on 2022-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Things To Consider When Buying a Primer

Primers will provide an even base for your paintings and allow the oil paint to absorb into the surface without leaving streaks or blotches. One way to select the best primerOpens in a new tab. is to know what they do before using them while picking the right brand. 

When looking for a primer, there are a few things to consider.

  • The medium: What kind of paint are you going to use? Is it oil-based or acrylic-based? Do you want a matte finish or a glossy one? Will it need to be flexible to move with the oil paints?
  • The rigidity of your primer: Will it hold up under hours of painting and multiple coats, or does it need to be flexible enough to flow with your brush strokes and still provide good coverage?
  • The tooth: Tooth refers to the texture of your primer coat—how rough or smooth it feels when you run your hand across it. This will affect how well your oil paints adhere to it and how much paint is absorbed by the surface before it dries.
  • The color: Oil primers come in various colors, but they’re typically shades of white or gray—this is because they don’t have any pigment in them, so they don’t really change the hue of any subsequent layers you apply over them later on down the road!

WATCH – Primers Explained How to Choose a PrimerOpens in a new tab.

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Final Words

Primers affect the outcome of your paintings. Oil paints can’t stick on canvas without a primer. So, while picking an oil painting primer, look for one that will support your oil paints and avoid cracking and flaking.

The list above includes the best oil painting primers available online. Additionally, you should consider the price and possible discounts when you want to buy a product, as well as researching for more ecological options when possible.

When I decided to research if there are any eco-friendly primers, I ran into the webpage of Graphestone UK. Graphestone, according to their About UsOpens in a new tab. offers ‘harm-free’ paints and primers, certified by the pre-eminent evaluators of products in the world, such as Cradle to Cradle Institute (gold, silver and bronze certifications), Green Tag (Health Rate Platinum) and Eurofins Air Comfort (Gold). Although aimed for wall-painting rather than art-making, this could be worth a shot, particularly if you are in the UK. At the moment of publishing, Graphenstone Eco Paints have a 4.8 stars review on Trustpilot.Opens in a new tab. Have you tried it? Do you think it would work for oil painting in canvas? Let me know.

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Ines

Ines is a self-taught artist based in the UK. Originally from Caracas, she has dabbled in the world of arts and crafts in a diversity of ways participating in city intervention projects, sustainable practices’ open exhibitions, and her illustrations being featured in anniversary editions of literary magazines.

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