Types of canvas for painting

The majority of contemporary oil and acrylic paintings are made on canvas. Stretching canvas over wooden bars allowed for bigger paintings that could be transported since they were lighter and could be rolled, and canvas supplanted wood panels for painting during the Renaissance because it was a more solid surface with less warping and breaking than a wooden panel.

The term “canvas” comes from cannabis (hemp), and the earliest artist canvases were constructed of beautiful Venetian hemp sailcloth. Canvas made of linen was utilized back then, although cotton is a more modern material.

What sort of canvas do professionals use?

Artists like linen for their paintings because it is robust and long-lasting. Linen canvases are not only of the highest quality but also quite reliable. Linoleum canvas remains stable when stretched, unlike cotton canvas, which becomes unstable.

How do I choose a painting canvas?

  • Consider your requirements for a minute.
  • Maintain an eye on the priming layers.
  • Check that the stretcher bars are in good shape.
  • When purchasing a canvas panel, ensure the canvas is correctly bonded to the board to minimise warping or uneven cutting.

What is canvas type?

Although hemp was formerly used to make canvas, cotton, linen, and, occasionally, polyvinyl chloride is currently the most often utilised material (PVC). Canvas has a plain weave rather than a twill weave, distinguishing it from other heavy cotton textiles like denim. The two most common forms of the canvas are plain weave and duck weave.


using water colors on canvas effectively

Canvas imitation fabric

Canvas fabric may be made by blending cotton, hemp, linen, acrylic, and synthetic fibres to create a tightly woven, long-lasting fabric. Canvas fabrics have been utilised for a variety of applications throughout history. Clothing, sails, travel equipment, and painting canvas were among them.

Is linen or cotton canvas better?

Many artists utilise linen as a surface material because it is resilient and long-lasting. The inherent oils in linen make it the perfect material for a canvas because of its flexibility and lack of brittleness. One of its allegedly more incredible attributes is a more “natural” weave finish.


Linen is more costly than cotton canvas because the cotton canvas is far more widely accessible and has many more non-artistic applications.

As a consequence, the lower price is a function of the market. There is also a better grade artist cotton canvas, but it is more costly since it is in lesser demand.

Linen costs more than cotton because it requires more procedures to prepare the flax fibres and is more difficult to weave into fabric.

In addition to its longevity and superb painting surface, linen is popular with art buyers. Thus, artists often include their materials list that they painted on linen. Furthermore, painting using linseed oil-based oils on linen canvas, both produced from the flax plant, has a romantic appeal.

Fine-linen-with-4-coatings canvas


Cotton is less costly than linen, but it is not as sturdy and has not been around as long as the linen used by the great masters. Cotton stretches well and keeps its form when stretched over stretcher bars. The linen is stronger and less prone to tear at the staple line or the outer corner of the stretcher bar since it is composed of flax and has long fibres.

It also means lighter and more delicate linen may be utilised to acquire the same strength as heavier cotton. Stretching linen is more difficult owing to its rigidity, and you must be cautious about maintaining uniform tension across the canvas, or it may ripple around the edges later.

Because linen is more challenging to stretch than cotton, some painters purchase ready-made linen canvases. We have some primed Italian cotton with a reverse treatment that makes it darker. Because it has not been bleached, unprimed cotton is often a white tone, whereas unprimed linen is typically a brown shade.

What Makes A Great Canvas?

A canvas’s fabric, texture, and priming are just a few things to consider while choosing one. It is essential to consider these aspects while selecting a canvas and the sort of paint to use on it.


Cotton and linen are the most common materials used to make canvases. Linen is considered the greatest, but it is also the most costly, owing to its excellent surface and durability. Cotton is less expensive than other materials and provides a long-lasting surface.


Canvas is made by weaving natural fibres together, and the degree of weaving results in a wide range of textures. Various painting styles necessitate different textures. Smooth surfaces of the finely woven canvas are suitable for more minor, more intricate work, but rougher weaves are better suited for bigger, more expansive paintings.

Prime or No Prime

When painting with acrylics, most canvases are pre-primed with a layer of gesso (pronounced “jesso”) to protect the canvas from the paint’s ability to seep into the fabric. Some painters prefer to work on unprimed canvases because of the flat, gritty colour they provide, while most canvases are primed.

Types of Canvases

Depending on your goals and budget, canvas canvases come in several sizes and forms. The most common options are stretched canvas, canvas panels, canvas pads, and canvas rolls.

Stretched Canvas

One of the most widely used varieties of canvas for acrylic painting is stretched canvas, which is a canvas that has been stretched over a wooden frame known as stretcher bars. The canvas most frequently composed of cotton is prepped with gesso to provide an excellent painting surface. Make sure you choose the correct canvas since they are prepared for either oil or acrylic painting.

The terms “deep” (thicker) and “traditional” relate to the various sizes and thicknesses of frames (thinner). The choice of the structure often depends on how the painting will be presented; if it will be framed, a standard thickness is preferable, while deep frames work best for paintings that won’t be framed or if you want to add complexity to the canvas’ sides.

Canvas Panels

Canvas panels provide a high-quality, more cost-effective alternative to stretched canvas, which may be a bit pricey, especially for novices. These practice panels are often constructed from primed cotton canvas fastened to a solid board. They are light and portable, making them ideal for students. Although canvas panels provide a surface with about the same quality as stretched canvas, they don’t age as well and are thus mainly used for practice.

Canvas pads

Canvas pads, which are primed canvas sheets spiral-bound in a book, are one of the more typical types of the material. It is possible to stretch or mount the sheets used in various pads, although they don’t last as long as stretched canvas, similar to canvas panels. Canvas pads are great for beginners, students, or practise.

A roll of canvas

Canvas rolls are available if you’re an experienced painter who prefers to prepare and stretch your canvas or if you’d like to make huge paintings. These canvas rolls are primed or unprimed in various weights, textures, and fibres and are composed of cotton or linen. They are often sold by the yard or in rolls, which may be highly costly.

Consider all of your alternatives before making a canvas purchase to choose the one that best suits your requirements and budget.

unprimed-cotton-duck-rolls-deluxe-canvas for painting


The type of ground influences numerous aspects of the painting. The number of teeth determines how well the paint stays and how much brush drag you encounter when painting. if you are interested in primer drying time then read about it more in this post.

The absorbency affects the glossiness and brightness of oil because the ground absorbs the oil, and the colour is diminished if the pigment is also sucked in. An oil foundation that is less absorbent and smooth is usually used to achieve a smooth painting experience in which the colours are bright and dazzling.

Using a ground, you may create a surface on which paint can be put and which has the teeth or “key” essential for the paint to adhere after the canvas has been suitably sized.

When you prime your canvas, make the following coats as smooth or textured as you desire and massage the initial layer into the weave to produce an effective barrier against oil paint penetration. Brush marks will likely remain if you don’t sand the cured primer to a smooth finish.

Acrylic primer

Acrylic primer frequently works as both a size and a primer. Holding the canvas up to the light will help you determine if you need more acrylic primer to seal it when using an acrylic primer as a barrier between oil paint and canvas. An additional primer is necessary if the light is seen through pinholes in the primer.

Acrylic primer suitable with acrylic and oil paint is indicated when a canvas is labelled as containing Universal Primer. If the product is branded as acrylic “gesso,” it may be more absorbent than acrylic “primer”; however, this varies significantly from maker to manufacturer.

Use a palette knife or water to thin it and push it into the weave to get the best results. Gradually increase the thickness of subsequent applications. If primer is applied too heavily, it may break when the paint dries, owing to considerable shrinkage.

As a result, rather than using a single thick layer, it is recommended to apply numerous thin ones to the surface. A batch may be finished in a single day since a light coat frequently dries sufficiently in 30 minutes to allow for the second application. Many painters sand between layers to create the smoothest possible finish.

Oil primer

Only oil paints will adhere when an oil primer is placed on a canvas. Even if oil paint is put on an acrylic gesso primer, acrylic paint will ultimately flake off an oil-primmed canvas. Since oil primer includes oil paint, a barrier must be applied first. In addition, the surface must cure for a while before painting.

Genuine gesso

Due to its highly absorbent surface, a real gesso is required for painting with egg tempera or encaustic. Because it contains RSG, it must be made in a lab and applied using heat equipment. It should only be used on rigid surfaces, frequently wood panels, as it would break if applied to flexible surfaces. Now available is an Italian linen canvas with a “gesso hand-primed” finish that has a delicate dry surface, is highly absorbent, and is resistant to ripping.


Surface texture

Certain painters enjoy the look of the weave showing through; therefore, they apply a few coats of priming to preserve the canvas and offer a white background. The ultra-smooth surface preferred by Renaissance artists was achieved using numerous coats of priming and sanding between each layer.

Clear primer

Some artists apply a translucent primer to include the canvas’s colour and texture. If you prefer the colour of the canvas and don’t want a white backdrop, you may prime the canvas with a liquid acrylic medium, such as Matt Medium or “clear acrylic gesso,” to soak into the fibres and fill the weave gaps. The majority of the time, several coats are needed.


There are several canvas materials to select, either stretching your canvas or purchasing stretched canvas or canvas boards. Your choice of surface will be determined by the characteristics you want. The weight of the cloth, the material it is composed of, and the surface preparation all have varied effects on the painting and the final look of your work.

checkout my canvas canvas painting tips for expert and novice in this post to make great painting every time.


  • What kinds of the canvas are there?

For each canvas, there are several unique kinds. A canvas for oil painting only has one purpose: to hold oil paint. Using tempera on a canvas creates a porous surface ideal for absorption. Oil painting and acrylic painting may be done on universal canvases.

  • For a painter, what is the best canvas to work with?

Canvas is often made from one of two materials: linen or cotton. Cotton, on the other hand, provides an excellent surface at a reduced cost, although linen is undoubtedly superior in quality and durability. On the other hand, cotton delivers a higher-quality surface at a lower cost, as well as a long lifespan.

  • What is the best canvas to use when painting with acrylics?

To paint with acrylics, linen is the most luxurious and expensive canvas material available. Linen is the only option if you want a canvas that will age well and are ready to spend money. Budget-conscious buyers might also opt for heavy-duty 12- to 15-ounce cotton duck canvas.

  • What are the two most common painting styles, and how do they differ?

Water and solvent paints are the two most common types on the market today. Pigment and binder are the two most essential components of paint. Latex and Acrylic paints use water as a binder, whereas solvent-based paints use mineral spirit as a binder. Thinners may be used as binders in paints designed for use as speciality paints.

  • What are the different types of canvas?

The most common types of canvas are stretched canvas, canvas panels, canvas pads, and canvas rolls.

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