How I prep my canvas for a custom pet portrait

Here’s my step by step of creating a custom pet portrait.

In this blog I will focus on prepping my canvas and image before I start painting



I always use artist’s quality materials. These Create Art stretched canvas’ are great quality. They are well made and don’t warp. Their corners are folded neatly and because they are stretched with heavy duty canvas which is triple primed with good quality gesso, I can paint straight onto them without any other preparation. I like this because it saves me a lot of time.


Title Panel

I used to title my paintings by writing straight onto the back of the canvas with a charcoal pencil, and then spraying with fixative. I didn’t like the solvents going into the air though.

Now I paint a square in the top corner with a house paint acrylic sample pot .I’m using a colour called raw canvas to match the actual canvas. This will give the canvas protection later when I title the painting with a permanent pen.


Masking the edges

I love the clean white edge of a canvas. For me it sits nicely on the wall without the painting being framed.

I find that I don’t have to be concerned about seepage into the sides of the painting if mark it off first. I use the professional painters marking tape, because the cheap stuff just doesn’t work as well, and I hate it when it seeps through to the edges and I have to paint over it with gesso.

Attaching the D-Hooks

Now I mark the holes for the D-Hooks. Sometimes I am so keen to get into the painting that I forget this step. Once I start the oil paint layers I can’t lie the painting down flat until it’s very dry. So it’s always frustrating to have to wait until then before we drill into the wood.

To hang a painting, I measure down a third of the length on both sides and pencil in a dot using the D-Hook as a guide. Next I get my trusty hubby to do the drilling, because he likes to contribute to my art making process, and power tools scare me.


Grid lines

This is my final non-creative step of the painting prep.

I always mark a grid 2” x 2". I use inches because it’s easier to see than cm and my canvas’ are measured in inches.Two inch squares work well for me when I’m drawing up the image of the pet I’m drawing. You may be asking why I use a grid and not freestyle it?

The simple answer is that I pride myself on getting a realistic likeness of the animal and the most effective and accurate way for me to create that likeness is to use the age-old technique of the grid.

In my next blog, I will take you through the process of painting a commissioned memorial portrait, from the initial design process through the different production stages.