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I have been priming canvases with alkyd primer (sizing with rabbit skin glue)
I like that it drys quickly and smoothly, and is almost slightly shiny compared with acrylic primers have used in the past. However I stain the canvas anyway so this isnt too important.

I know rabbit skin glue has its issues, though so far it's worked well for me the 10 years i've painted. But it can be a hassle making it and then having to use it all within a certain time.

The reason I am thinking about switching my priming method is a question of underpainting.
So currently I will either paint onto the white canvas, or stain the canvas as mentioned. So not much of an underpainting, just a ground. I would like to paint underpainting in which the colour is more closely associated with the colour in the final painting (eg a brighter version of the colour, or a complimentary colour).

Currently to do this I could just paint without adding any medium, scrub the paint on thinly and wait a day or two for it to dry. This isn't ideal if I want to start the oil painter sooner. Another option is alkyd paints, I haven't tried these before in this way, but I could thin alkyd paints slightly and they would certainly be dry by the next day.

3rd option would be acrylic paints. this appeals to me because any way I can minimise solvents is preferable. Also I paint quite big so I could thin the acrylic down and cover a lot of ground quickly, creating a vibrant under painting.

Alkyds have a strong smell and my studio doesn't have good ventilation.

So the acrylic underpainting option is probably the best option. Low/No odour, thinned and washed with water and drys as fast as it takes for the water to evaporate. In which case, what primer do I use?

I've heard about using GAC 200, which is extremely expensive and apparently HAS to be applied at a very specific temperature, and several layers at that. This doesn't appeal to me.

Then there is something like Golden Acrylic Primer. I will probably go for this. I also have some universal canvas sealer made by Roberson & Co. It smells like watered down PVA.

Questions:

When priming with acrylic gesso in the past I didn't like how loose the canvas felt compared with rabbit skin glue which makes a really taught canvas. How do I fix this, or is it not necessary to fix?

I have applied gesso acrylic with brushes and rollers both of which leave a texture which I definitely don't want. So I am considering either a sponge brush or a squeegee. I think the sponge brush would be better as I feel the squeegee will leave a ridge. The only problem here is the sponge brushes (also called foam brush) are tiny. Biggest I could find online is about 4 inches, and my work is often around 2-3 meters wide. I need a way of smoothly and quickly covering a large area.

I am keen to not use the alkyd primer because as well as the fumes it also is difficult to clean off brushes. It's also quite expensive, possibly a bit more than acrylic gesso? Another flaw is that it drys really easily as soon as the tin is open, so if I prime a few canvases and then use it again a few weeks later there will be a 1cm 'skin' formed which needs to be removed, and the primer becomes less smooth as little bits of this oxidized paint gets mixed in with the rest. It's not a big problem but it feels like its quite wasteful removing dried paint each time, and also picking bit of dry paint out of the freshly primed canvas. I know some fill their tins with marbles so there's no air, so if I continue using alkyd maybe i'll do that, but it seems a hassle. I have a small tub of acrylic gesso that was opened a couple of years ago, about half full and is still useable, albeit a little stiffer.

I am not such a fan of the chalky quality acrylic primer gives but again if i'm painting with acrylics over the top of that before the oil then it doesn't really matter.

Any feedback would be appreciated thanks.
 
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