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I just received a GIFT from an old friend who had several used canvas which were partially painted with oils. I use acrylics.

I know that I cannot (or have been told) paint acrylics directly on top of oil as it will cause problems later. However, can I collage over the oil first somehow... then work with acrylics over that?

If so, what do you recommend. I would be happy to use the opportunity to experiment with oils but do not have any and heard they are expensive.... and I am flat broke....

So, any suggestions on how I can use acrylics with these oil painted canvas? I appreciate your help! Thanks!

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well, I don't have much experience in oils either (I use acrylics also). But my experience in being a painting contractor tells me that you'd just need to use a primer of some sort (like "1.2.3. by Killz.. its water based) in order to just paint over top. But... if you're going to collage first, covering the oil paint with glue and paper, I see no reason you couldn't just start with the acrylics.
What a good question. I know that you can paint oils over acrylic paint but not the other way around. The acrylic will peal off eventually. I don't see why you can't gesso over the canvas and go from there. I have done that, it gives you a new surface to work on. (Make sure you put a few coats on the canvas.)
Oils can be expensive but I started with a starter kit that had the primary and secondary colors in it just to see if I would like them or not. I have also found they can run about the same as acrylic depending on manufacturer and pigments.
I hope this helps, by no means am I a expert, but in my experience this is what I have found.
Good luck and would love to hear how it comes out!
All the best!
Thank you to all of you for your responses and suggestions.

I think some I will plan on collage since I had some collage projects in mind anyways.... So thanks Christopher (Gaudreau)

And thanks Kathryn for the gesso over idea. I wasn't sure if that would work.

Christopher Adam Lessley... (all these Chris')... yours was a very thorough suggestion. In particular, the sanding over the oil prior to gesso. I was wondering if just applying gesso over the oil would hold. I am very appreciative for those those steps. Both the steps to re-use the canvas and to cut out the canvas and re-use the frame.

This was all very helpful! Thank you to each of you!
Hi Christina, I'm coming into this discussion late, but just want to add my two cents since I can't fall asleep so I'm online! Even if you do collage, I'd sand first because the range of modern glues is another vast chemistry subject! When sanding, wear a good mask since you're lifting the highly toxic dust of old oils. Some of the newer oils are designed with less toxicity. Many artists don't think about the cadmiums, cobalts, thalos, etc. Ideally, do it outdoors. Use a fine bristle brush and/or hair dryer or vacuum to really blast off the dust, and then wipe down further with alcohol or white vinegar if you don't have spirits. Lessley's advice on the sanding and resanding process is excellent and you don't want to take short-cuts to rush that process. Also there's a site called and the topic Painting is edited by a knowledgeable woman, who offers lots of basic practical tips. Good luck and have fun with those canvases! I've heard it's a good idea to begin projects during the new moon.
You guys are great. This is really helpful. Thanks about using the Alcohol or white vinegar. I am sooo broke right now I couldn't even buy the solvents, so knowing I can use these basic items I already have in the house is a blessing.

Thank you for all your experience!
You know I was thinking... what if you covered it in some different kinds of fabric or even burlap and then painted over, you know take advantage of the holes and tears. or paper, I have been quietly experimenting with the idea of doing that. I am working on a piece now that I think is going in a good direction.
The old stuff is kind of there and brought in to the new piece on top.
Hi Christina,

I have heard that using Easy Off oven cleaner works well when removing paint from canvas. However, it may eat through the canvas over time. You may be able to hose them down right afterward and put on a fresh coat of gesso right afterward.

Also, consider checking with Michael's (Shaw Ave. in Clovis). They sell student grade oil paints. Not as expensive as popular brands. Oils can get really expensive but, the results are outstanding concerning color
and reproduction of work. If you choose to use oils you can use a paint thinner also that works well for thining out your paints (Tupinoid paint thinner) also sold at Michaels. Best results for mediu mix is 3 equal
parts of Demar Varnish, Tupintine, and Linseed Oil. Mixed in equal parts creates a great medium mix when workng with oils.

-Dennis Lewis
The rule is ALWAYS fat over lean.
christina i have a few canvas boards you can have if you want them

Christina R Martinez said:
You guys are great. This is really helpful. Thanks about using the Alcohol or white vinegar. I am sooo broke right now I couldn't even buy the solvents, so knowing I can use these basic items I already have in the house is a blessing.

Thank you for all your experience!
that would be great. Thank you! I just need to work out a way to get them. I don't have a car so I usually have to plan out when I borrow a car to go somewhere. Can you message me your number? And I will get back to you soon. :) :)
Hey Christina, I would suggest you sand the oil painting down with a fine sandpaper to get all of the bumps off, then apply 4 or 5 layers of gesso, after that sand it again. Then you're ready to roll.
I do not think it is a good idea. I have painted over paintings and regret not having done it on a clean canvas. Then the peeling starts. Polyurathane sprayed over the painting will help for awhile but the problem is the foundation so it reoccurs and spraying is required periodically.


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