Water-based, oil-based… there are a lot of products out there and it can get a little confusing sometimes figuring out what’s going to work. To that effect, I’m often asked ‘can you use water based primer under oil paint?’.
Turns out, that you can. You’ll have to wait for the primer to completely dry before you get started (about 3 hours at the most) and then you can start painting with your oils. When you compare that to the up-to-24 hours that oil-based primer can take to try, it’s a pretty sweet deal!
Today I’ll talk a little more about oil paints and how they get along with water-based paints and primers, so that you can experiment confidently with a little glorious medium-mixing. Without further ado, let’s get started!
What kind of primer do you use for oil paint?
While the traditional route is an oil-based primer, you definitely aren’t limited to using only that kind. Water-based primers will work a treat, as long as they are applied and allowed to fully dry, and one common trend these days is using acrylic primers. They dry fast, provide an excellent surface for painting on, they’re inexpensive, and they really work well.
If you’d like to try a water-based primer that works well, then look no further than good old Gesso. Gesso is inexpensive and it dries very quickly, plus it’s also available at just about any art supply in town (or you can simply order it online).
Some of the cheaper oil paints won’t work as well with a water-based primer, but if your Gesso is good then just about any oil paints set should work well with it. Give it a try and see what you think. That white coat really makes your work stand out nicely and you can apply it, let it dry for 3 hours, and then you can get started on your painting right away!
Can I use water-based primer under oil-based gloss?
Yes, it’s perfectly fine to use a water-based primer under an oil-based gloss, as long as you make sure that the primer is well and fully dry before you begin painting. The reason for this is the huge difference in their drying times. While oils take forever to dry, water-based primers are only going to take about 3 hours –tops. So, if you want to give a try yourself, then paint on your primer, wait 3 hours, and then go to town.
I should mention that if you are using water-based paints or primers with oils, always do the water-based stuff first – never the other way around. That huge divide in drying times will work in your disfavor if you try to paint, say, water-based acrylics on top of your oils. The slowly-drying oils will ‘draw’ from the already dry acrylics, cracking them in the process. This won’t happen if you paint the water-based acrylics on first and then paint oils on top of them, as your oils will simply draw from the air when it comes to drying.
Can you put oil paint over water-based paint?
Yes, Painting oil paints over water-based paints is a great way to produce an interesting and very distinctive look. This means you can incorporate vibrant acrylics or wild watercolors into your work, provided that you always make sure that the oil is on top of the water-based paint and not the other way around.
The water-based paints will dry more quickly, making them a good surface for the oil to cling to, and this is why it works. If you make the mistake of painting the oils on first, however, then with watercolors you’ll find that the paint won’t even stick. With acrylics, it will stick, but the acrylics will dry well-before the oil paints do, and so the oil paints are going to essentially be ‘breathing’ through your acrylic paints – resulting in destabilization of the semi-plastic the acrylics form and you’re going to get some serious cracking and flaking as a result.
You can mix the mediums, just put the water-based paints in place FIRST if you want them to stay in one piece.
Some closing commentary
In todays article I’ve answered the question ‘can you use water-based primer under oil paint’ and the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Water-based paints dry more quickly than oil paints do, making an excellent surface for your oil paints to cling to and to slowly dry upon. Just be sure never to paint water-based paints on top of oil or your painting will crack at record speed!
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article and before I go, I’ve got a nice 3rd party link for you on the subject of priming your canvas. If you’re fairly new to painting, this will provide you with some useful tips and options for priming and preparing for that work that we all enjoy so much.