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A foundation layer used to prepare a support material for the application of paint. Grounds provide a smooth, uniform, and nonporous surface. They can also act as a separating and stabilizing layer to minimize environmental distortions or support deterioration due to reactions with the paint.

For artist paintings, grounds typically fall into these categories.

1. Gesso or chalk - a glue binder mixed with gypsum or chalk

2. Emulsion -a glue medium emulsified with some oil, egg, or natural resin

3. Oil ground- a drying oil, such as oil linseed oil, with white lead white or other white pigment

4. Synthetic - acrylic or alkyd based primer introduced in the late 20th century

For gilding, bole is used as a colored ground or priming layer. Bole is typically composed of a red or brown clay. Colored grounds have also been used for drawings and paintings made with gouache, pastel, charcoal, and crayon.

For printmaking, the ground layer is a dark, acid-resistant coating containing wax, tallow, asphalt, and/or resin natural resin.

Synonyms and Related Terms

primer; gesso; preparacin (Esp.); aparejo (Esp.); prparation (Fr.); fond (Fr.); camada preparatria (Port.); preparao (Port.)

Additional Information

J.Stephenson, "Ground" The Dictionary of Art, Grove's Dictionaries Inc. New York, 1996.


  • Reed Kay, Reed Kay, The Painter's Guide To Studio Methods and Materials, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1983
  • Ralph Mayer, Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)

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