Restoring a used canvas

Reader Question: When I am painting the background on a canvas, I sometimes mess it up, so I let it dry and then start again. Because I am painting over it again, sometimes the surface gets thick and the paint starts to pull. What can I do to stop that? Or do I have to use a new canvas?

If you want to return your used canvas to a nice, workable surface so that the paint goes on smoothly, here are a few things you can do:

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  • If the dried paint is too bumpy, you can lightly sand the surface of your canvas with a fine-grit sandpaper. Do this carefully, because you don't want to sand off the actual canvas itself! After you sand off the excess dried paint and the canvas looks and feels sufficiently smoother, use a damp cloth to wipe off any dust or residue. Gesso the canvas again, and once that dries the canvas should be ready for you to paint!
  • If you actually like the texture of the bumpy canvas (and some people do), you can simply paint gesso over the dried paint. The dried gesso will give the canvas more "tooth" so that the paint will stick to it better.

Hope that helps. If you try these two ideas and the canvas still isn't "restored" to the state that you would like, then your best bet would be to start again with a fresh canvas. You can still keep this used canvas though, because it's sometimes handy to have a spare canvas laying around in case you want to test out new colors, or you can experiment and turn the used canvas into a collage or mixed media painting!  

Check out my guide to Painting with Acrylics