Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Bringing home your wet canvas

When you go out to paint on location in oil, one of the problems is how to get your newly painted canvas home without smudging the fresh paint.

There are a number of solutions to this problem. I will review for each of them the Pros and Cons of the different methods.

An obvious way of carrying one wet painting is to just hand carry it. It is posssible for a small painting. For a larger canvas, the grip is not comfortable because you can only hold the canvas by the outer edge and the back. Beware of windy days: the canvas will catch wind like a sail and if the wind is strong, your canvas may well end-up in the grass (generally on the wrong side).

Here are three alternative methods.

The French Easel

If you own a French easel, you can lock the painting in place on the easel and carry it back this way. It is better if the wet side of the canvas faces the lid of the easel as shown on the photograph.


  • Fully integrated to the easel. You don't need any extra equipment.
  • The painting is firmly maintained in place
  • If you your easel on your back with the painting affixed to it, you still have both hands free

Not so good:

  • If the size of the canvas is larger than the easel, the wet painting protrudes on each side and you have to be careful not to touch the wet paint.

  • This works only for one canvas.
  • Will leave a mark on the top and bottom of the canvas, where the canvas is in contact with the wood of the French easel clamp.

Metal Separator Clips

These metal clips are an ingenious variation on the bulldog clip. To use an image, they look like Siamese bulldog clips. The photograph below will give you a good idea. The clips are inserted in between the two canvases and maintain them a centimetre apart. You will need two canvases of the same size (or at least with one equal lenght).

You can use two clips for small and medium canvases, but you will need four clips (one per side) for larger paintings, otherwise the sides without the clip risk to touch each other.


  • Fairly cheap

  • Small, light and easy to carry around
  • The paintings are firmly maintained in place

  • Leave minimal marks as the surface of the canvas as the part of the metallic clip touching each canvas is only a few centimetres long.

  • The metal is easy to clean.

Not so good:

  • You have to take two canvases with you (but you don't have to paint both).
  • No handle,

  • A little bit tricky to put in place. You must be careful that, when you put the first clip in place, the opposite sides of the painting are not snapped together.

Wooden clamps with handle

This product is and hybrid solution compared to the two precedent ones.

The wooden separators have a "T" shape and the canvases are maintained in place by a screw on brackets (see photograph above). The top separator is fitted with a leather handle.


  • Easy to put in place
  • Small, light and easy to carry around. Takes slightly more space than metallic clip, but still small enough to put in your bag.
  • Could also be used for oil panels (because of the screw)

  • Handle makes it easy to carry

Not so good:

  • You have to take two canvases with you (but you don't have to paint both).

  • Will leave a ten centimetres mark on each side of the canvas

There are other products available, but I have not tested them.

One last recommendation regarding the transport of your wet paintings: If you use your car, try to store them flat, make sure nothing will fall on the wet surface and line your boot with a bin plastic bag or any type of protective plastic sheet (wet paint seems to go everywhere without any good reason).

Now, enjoy your plein-air painting sessions and keep the paint on your wet canvas.


Anonymous said...

Have you tried cardboard pizza
boxes to transport your wet oil paintings? The boxes must be kept flat, but they stack easily.
You can bundle the boxes of varying sizes with thin, breakable string; then attach a home-made handle made from a dry-cleaner hanger that has the skinny, but stiff cardboard tube meant for hanging slacks. Easy enough to cut tube to width of your hand; slip onto straight hanger wire and bend wire ends to make a large loop at each end. Leave slight openings to slip strings into loops. Very cheap.
I usually only paint two plein air paintings a day, so don't need too
many boxes -- just sizes to fit the

Anonymous said...

you love pizza boxes don't you