Thursday, July 22

How To: Save Money On Primer (Like I Do)


In addition to being a painter, I am also a promoter of the idea of frugality in all its forms. I see being frugal as an offshoot of being environmentally friendly, as in Reduce-Reuse-Recycle.

Artists and painters can certainly find ways to contribute to these three Rs.

I do my part. Have you ever heard of 'Oops! paint?'

Instead of buying gesso for priming canvases, I buy paint that has been returned to the store for whatever reason.

Now there are a couple of caveats here. One, I’m talking about latex paint. And two, I’m talking about using it as the undercoat for my acrylic paintings, usually on canvas, rather than the paint to paint the painting, if you can follow that.

if you do follow what I’m saying, I think you will see the merit in this.

If not, please let me let enlighten you. Oops! paint is the paint that house painters, and by that I mean anyone who goes to the paint store to buy house paint, return. When they got home and painted it on the wall, Oops!, it was the wrong color.

I am assuming that sometimes even you visit a (house) paint store or big-box home-improvement store (not mentioning any names here).

If you do, then next time go over to the paint department and look around for a shopping cart full of all sizes of latex paint with a sign on it that says Oops! or some similar wording.

What you will find is a variety of very cheaply priced latex paint in random colors (no accounting for taste, you know) and ranging in size from the sample-jar all the way to 5-gallonUS buckets. In many cases the cost will be under $1US.

I have found that this makes excellent and inexpensive primer for my canvases. It’s certainly cheaper than gesso, and I think its smooth surface after application is superior to gesso (or just about any other primer)

I have used it only as an undercoat for acrylics, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work just as well under oil, that is, if you want a smooth surface.

I specifically look for lighter neutral tones for priming, but heck, when you see the random samples of Oops! paint available, it may spur you to get creative with your underpainting.

Note--I am not saying you should be buying the cheapest art supplies. But for priming, why not? It’s sure to last as long as the acrylic, and if I were a betting man, I would wager it will outlast oil.

Just wanted to pass this along. Remember--Reduce-Reuse-Recycle.

Until next blog…


  1. This is a good tip, Byrne. I don't use the oops paint, but I do use the cheapest white primer I can find. A gallon of white latext paint costs a fraction of the small jar of gesso.

  2. What a GREAT idea! I'll definitely try that!!