Just a few facts regarding surfaces for oil painting:
1: There is the classic material canvas that is stretched over a wooden frame. These canvases can be purchased already for use in most art stores and come in many sizes. I don’t care for this type because as you paint the canvas “Gives” or moves with pressure from the brush when painting.
TIP: place a piece of cardboard or foam board to fit in the backside of of the canvas; this will help with the movement of the canvas.
This particular type of canvas usually have been treated with a gesso type surface, so you can gesso again if you wish.
Gesso Medium is an acrylic base, a white primer that seals the surface and provides a tooth for the painting to stick too. Also does come in black.
2: Masonite board. Board the is wood composite material and brown in color. You can find in any Home Improvement store. In the picture below you can see the color; one side is bumpy and the other smooth. Either side can be used; all depends what style of art you are painting. The other picture is of a gesso-ed board. It is hard to tell in the picture but you want the surface to be semi-smooth. I usually prepare with two coats of gesso medium; one in opposite directions. Sand lightly with sand paper once dry. You want the surface to have some tooth. It is possible to prepare the surface like glass; smooth. If a smooth surface is your goal use a putty knife or cake icing tool.
I like this surface to work on for the simple reason it doesn’t “Give” or move when painting. Easier to frame as well.
3: If you paint on plain wood, gesso it because of the acid in the wood itself. Gesso will protect the paints over time and the painting won’t turn yellow and or crack.
4: Rabbit skin glue is the best! Pain in the butt to make, but is the best. Gesso is the mofern day Rabbit skin glue.