If you are wondering if you can gesso over an old oil painting to cover it up, you cannot simply go over an oil painting if you decide to start over.
The reason is that oil paints are very durable and long-lasting; this means that eventually the gesso or whatever else you try to cover the oil paint with will peel off and expose the oil painting beneath.
What is Gesso, and Why Won’t it Work?
It is ideal for starting a canvas or for painting over things like pencil marks, outlines, watercolor, and even acrylic paint that is not put on too thick.
It is not ideal for oil paint as the layer of gesso you would need to use would have to be very thick, and you would have to do multiple layers to cover the colors that were present on the canvas.
Gesso might be good for covering smaller areas or very small mistakes, but it is not ideal for a whole canvas reset.
How to Cover an Oil Painting and Start Over?
There are a few ways that you can reset or restart on an oil canvas. The first is if the canvas is not dried down.
Oil paint takes up to 24 hours to fully dry if you are using a thinner layer of oil paint. Oil paint does not dry like normal paint.
With normal paint, it simply dries as the water in the paint dries up and evaporates.
The oil acts differently. With oil, it has to go through a curing process to be fully set. The oil has to oxidize and cure as a reaction to the air in the room.
Often, this type of paint dries from the top down, this means that the outer layers of the oil paint are going to dry before the inner layers have a chance to dry and cure.
If you have paint that is very thick or that is not uniform thickness, some areas of the painting might be dry and cured while other parts of the painting might still be tacky and wet.
If you have an oil painting that is not dry and that is still fully wet or mostly wet, you can scrape the canvas and remove as much of the paint as possible.
This may be enough to start over and continue your work, if it is not, there is another option.
You may also be able to use turpentine to gently wipe away paint that has not dried yet and that you want to remove.
For those paintings that are fully dry or that are mostly dry, the best way to reset your canvas so that you can use them again is to use oil paint to cover the existing oil paint.
The only medium that is going to cover the oil paint that is already present is more oil paint. You do have two options with painting over your oil painting.
First, with paintings that need a white base, you need to use white to go over the painting that you messed up.
You can mix the oil paint with a quick drying medium like liquin, cold wax, and more to help make the drying process a bit faster, or you can go with straight oil paint.
You can pick off very thick areas if you have any that might make repainting difficult or that might just stand out.
If you have a painting that you can do on a black background, you can also use black oil paint to cover the old painting.
How to Cover an Oil Canvas
The first thing that you need to do when you do decide to cover an oil painting is to decide if you want to cover the entire canvas and start over, or if you just want to pick and choose areas that you want to cover.
You can choose to cover the entire canvas and start over, or you can simply cover a portion of the painting and re-imagine that area.
If you want to only cover a portion of the painting, use your oil paint to cover that area and start over.
If you want to cover the entire canvas, take the time to work slowly and in sections to help cover the canvas fully and ensure that you get an even coating.
Painting over an oil painting can be intimidating. It does not have to be impossible, with the right materials and patience, you can paint over any mistakes that you might have made or the entire canvas.
After allowing proper drying time you can start over and get back to creating.
Joseph Colella (Joe Colella) is an Editor and Writer at WastedTalentInc. As a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech).
While Joseph holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent fashion he spent years applying for various Art degrees; from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), to failing to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney.
While he jokes about his failures at gaining formal art qualifications, as a self-taught artist he has had a fruitful career in business, technology and the arts making Art his full time source of income from the age of 18 until 25.
His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. Joseph’s art has been sold to private collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia.
He is a trusted source for reliable art advice and tutorials to copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.