Grid the Canvas

Posted by Guy Maishman 15/09/2014 0 Comment(s) Painting Canvas Preparation,

Gridding the canvas is an essential step for me to accurately place my image on the canvas.  The process is to:

  • Start with an enlarged photocopy of a chosen black and white image taken from a publication.
  • Grid the photocopy with spacing that can be transferred to the canvas.
  • Adjust the grid area on the photocopy to provide a good mathematical link with the grid on the canvas. 

The dimensions of the canvas are fixed.  Grid area and line adjustments have to be made on the photocopy to fit what will be seen on the canvas.  Often, I have to crop the grid area or extend the grid off the photocopy image to:

  • Center the train
  • Take out image features I do not want
  • Include new features I wish to add
  • Make the gridded photocopy image fit the canvas grid

Then, using a ruler or yard stick and a pencit, I mark both sides of the canvas where each grid line will span.  I use an artist's ebony pencil with smooth jet black lead, because ordinary pencils do not show up well on the canvas.


The canvas spacing is a direct multiplier of the spacing worked out on the photocopy:

  • Use a yardstick to draw grid lines accross the canvas both vertically and horizontally.
  • Draw grid lines to place image features.
  • Omit grid lines for empty expanses such as the sky for cleaner painting.

The canvas is then ready for drawing in the outlines of all the features in the painting in roughly the right place.

Without the grid lines on the canvas, all subsequent work would be a guess.  I would not be able to efficiently place or size the images I want to paint.

My first three paintings were done without grid lines.  None of them appear on the SteamBritannia website.  I am a self-taught artist, and I learned that:

  • I could not accurately place my paint without reference points on the canvas.
  • The grid provides an essential guide.
  • Placement judgement is needed when drawing in outlines.
  • More judgement is needed when painting.
  • Placement is still imprecise and must be corrected often as the paintings progress.

Grid lines at least start my efforts in the ballpark.