Oil Paint Not Sticking to Canvas: Possible Causes and Solutions

There can be quite a few reasons why oil paint does not adhere well to canvas.

Here are the main reasons why oil paint is not sticking to the canvas, but I will explore more reasons further along in the section Additional Causes of Oil Paint Not Sticking to Canvas:

  • Fat over lean violation. This is where the top layers dry faster than the lower layers leading to peeling and cracking.
  • Improper preparation of the canvas. If the canvas has not been properly primed, the paint will not stick well to the canvas or substrate well.
  • You used the wrong materials or paints, or the paint has been contaminated with a medium that repels oil.
  • You used a low quality paint or mediums.
  • In some cases, the issue could be with the quality of the canvas itself.

If you are having with this issue now, don’t stress. There are a few solutions available that can help you fix this problem.

By understanding the causes behind oil paint not sticking to canvas you can stop making the same mistakes in the future and you can hopefully fix any problems you might have now.

Additional Causes of Oil Paint Not Sticking to Canvas

Like I said earlier, oil paint not sticking to canvas is a common issue faced by many artists.

It can be frustrating to put in all that time and effort into a painting, only to have the paint peel off the canvas as it dries.

Here are some common causes of oil paint not sticking to canvas:

Improper priming

Not properly priming the canvas can cause the oil paint to not adhere properly.

You should also make sure the painting surface is clean, dry, and primed with a suitable oil primer or acrylic gesso before painting.

This will create a surface that the oil paint can bond with.

Incompatible materials

Using different types of paint or mediums, such as oil and acrylic, can cause delamination as they dry and cure at different rates, leading to loss of adhesion between the layers.

Poor quality paint

Low-quality oil paints may contain impurities, inferior pigments, or low-quality binders that can compromise adhesion and cause delamination.

Excessive use of solvents

Overusing solvents (e.g., turpentine, mineral spirits) while mixing oil paint can weaken the paint film, making it more susceptible to delamination.

Fat over lean rule violation

In oil painting, it’s essential to apply layers of paint following the “fat over lean” principle, which means that each subsequent layer should have a higher oil content than the previous one.

Failing to follow this rule can cause the upper layers to dry faster than the lower ones, leading to cracks and delamination.

Environmental factors

Exposure to extreme temperatures, humidity fluctuations, or direct sunlight can negatively affect the paint layers’ adhesion, causing delamination.

Mechanical stress

Physical impact or stress on the painting (e.g., stretching, rolling, or transportation) can cause the paint layers to detach from the substrate or each other.


Over time, paint layers can become brittle and lose their elasticity, leading to cracking and delamination.

Some pigments and binders can also undergo chemical changes that weaken the paint film.

By properly priming your canvas, allowing each layer to dry completely, using the correct ratio of paint to solvent, and avoiding incompatible layers, you can ensure that your oil paint will adhere properly to the canvas.

Preventing Oil Paint from Not Sticking to Canvas

Oil paint not sticking to canvas can be a really frustrating problem for artist but there are some easy things you can do to stop this issue from happening in the first place.

Properly prime your canvas

Make sure to prime your canvas with gesso before painting. This will create a more receptive surface for the paint to adhere to.

Apply gesso with a soft-bristled brush using long, straight strokes. A thin layer of gesso is all that is needed, so avoid laying it on too heavy.

Even if you don’t use gesso, a good quality acrylic primer will also work.

Allow each layer to dry a bit

Don’t rush you painting unless you’re working wet on wet and allow each layer of paint to dry completely before applying the next layer.

This will prevent the new layer from removing the previous layer of paint.

Avoid using zinc oxide paint over acrylic

Zinc oxide paint (PW4) should not be used over acrylic as it is likely to delaminate eventually. Stick to good old-fashioned oil paint instead.

Lightly oil the canvas with Linseed Oil

If you’re still having trouble with paint not sticking to the canvas, try priming the canvas with a light coat of linseed oil before painting.

This can help create a more receptive surface for the paint to stick to. Remember to oil up the brush and towel off excess before picking up paint.

By following these steps, you can prevent oil paint from not sticking to canvas and create beautiful works of art with confidence.

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