Glossary: How an oil painting is produced
Before you can paint a picture you must prepare the surface onto which the oil or acrylic is to be applied. The technique is the same for both substrates and gesso is the most commonly used priming material. It is very adhesive and seals all semi-absorbent surfaces such as canvas and board. These days it comes ready prepared and can be found in most art shops or via the Internet. Most gesso is white and this gives an added depth of colour to the applied paint. It is advisable to give two applications, allowing a drying period between each. A traditional primer is rabbit skin glue, which needs to be prepared and heated. The glue comes in pearl drops and when heated gives off a smell which I for one dislike intensely.
My advise would be to stick to the modern method which is fool proof and easy.