Sunday, January 31, 2010

Preparing copper for oil painting

Sand the surface with fine grit sandpaper in a circular motion, until the surface is matt. It should be well cleaned and degreased with denatured alcohol. Do NOT touch the cleaned copper surface, or your fingerprints will show up through your paint layers! After cleaning, the surface should be rubbed with garlic cloves, or better perhaps, the juice of crushed garlics, which could be brushed on and allow to dry. The acidic juice of garlic etches the copper surface and aid bonding of oil paint. You can start painting on copper directly, or, if preferred, on a thin layer of lead white. Always use a lead white bound in linseed oil for this. I rub it on the surface with the palm of my hand, wearing Nitrile gloves. I let it dry for a week, and apply another thin layer, this time using a blend of lead white, a bit of titanium and chalk. I also add a small amount of medium to this, made from 1 part balsam and 2 parts sun thickened oil. Again, I rub it onto the surface, then blend it with a large soft brush. The surface will be smooth. If you feel the need, you can sand it afterwards with very fine grit sandpaper, but be very careful; inhaling lead dust is VERY poisonous! Always wet-sand, but use oil instead of water. Wipe the surface dry and clean with a rag. I prefer to use another, ancient method; I scrape the surface after a few days of drying. I use a glass plate for this. The result is a very smooth surface. You probably need to scrape just one single time in one direction, it's quick, clean and perfect.


  1. This is an excellent post! So many artists have asked for help painting on copper that I've copied your post in my blog with credit to you. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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