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Choosing the Right Canvas for your Painting

Choosing the Right Canvas for your Painting

There are so many choices in the canvas section at the art supply store and choosing the right one is the first important step to a successful art piece. Painting on poor quality canvases can be likened to building a house on mere sticks. You can construct a masterpiece on such a foundation, but it won’t take long before it crumbles – or in this case, slumps.

Considering that you will be putting in hours of work, not to mention expensive paint, the least you can do is ensure that it will be made to last.

Even though there are numerous surfaces to paint on, most painters prefer to use canvas for their work. Picking the best type of canvas for your painting is nearly as important as the painting itself. Canvases come in various weights, textures, and materials, each having its own unique attributes. Some are less or more textured, some are cheaper than others, and some are better quality.

So…how can you (as an artist) choose the right canvas to paint on? It begins with learning about the different types of canvases and ends with you deciding on what is best for your individual painting.

Types of Canvas for Painting

Canvas can be categorized by material and weight. The canvas’s weight often correlates to the canvas’s texture, but not always. Canvases are made of synthetic canvases, natural fibers, and blends.

Lightweight Canvases

Light, cheap cotton canvases are only suitable for practice paintings. They are not appropriate for masterpieces as they tend to contract and expand over time.

Heavy Canvases

The most-textured and heaviest canvases are made of cotton duck, jute twill and cotton, or flax. They are coarse and heavy; however, cotton duck is not very coarse and is regarded as a better canvas grade.

Other canvas materials include Hessian, linen, and cotton-rayon.

Hessian

Hessian is a cheap, coarse, and uncommon canvas. It is better suited for practice canvases because it usually requires a bit of priming and worsens after a while. This may be a good option if you are just doing temporary or freestyle craft painting.

Linen

Linen is regarded as the finest type of canvas to work with. It is more expensive and has a smooth texture that is mostly free of lumps and knots. It is best for paintings where you don’t want the canvas texture to affect the appearance of the painting significantly.

Cotton-Rayon

Cotton-rayon is very durable as it blends synthetic and natural fiber. This canvas type is prevalent and is usually what you have with a stretched, pre-primed canvas. It can resist chemical damages, stay flexible over time, and last longer.

Styles of Canvases

Canvases are in several styles as well.

Canvas Panels

These are made from wood or heavy-duty cardboard to which the canvas has been glued. They are cheaper than stretched canvas and are easier to store and transport. They need to be framed before hanging.

Pre-Stretched Canvas

This is possibly the commonest form of canvas. These canvases come in various weights and sizes and are usually pre-primed. The canvas is stapled on the back and wrapped around stretcher bars. This canvas type can be hung on a wall without a frame.

Canvas Rolls

Canvas in rolls helps you make custom sizes for your artwork. This is a cheap but less-convenient way to get a painting surface.

Canvas Pads

They are sheets of primed canvas. These are ideal for practicing various painting techniques, studying, or experimenting with other media. They are in different sizes and are a cheap way to improve your painting technique.

Both canvas panels and pre-stretched canvas can be purchased in different shapes such as round, oval, long, narrow rectangles, or square. You can also purchase them pre-primed with black gesso.

Canvases at Michael’s art supply store (artist loft brand)

I did a deep dive and made a video. Check it out here.

Or watch it here:

Great art begins with a great canvas. Whatever your style, Michael’s art supply store (artist loft brand) has an artist-approved canvas for every project and every skill level. Michael’s art supply store is one of the best places to buy canvases online.

Gallery Wrapped Heavy Duty Canvas, Level 3 by Artist’s Loft®

This heavy-duty canvas is made with archival-quality natural cotton. It is gesso primed, but I still recommend doing your own priming. The rough/medium texture surface is perfect for use with oil and acrylic paints. The frame is constructed professionally with medium-weight cotton duck stretched around 1.5″ profile kiln-dried stretcher bars – this means it is thicker and looks more professionally when displayed. It is held in place with a flexible spline which allows artists to paint on all four edges. The back is tucked tightly and neatly so that it can hang flush against the wall. This is the canvas for you if you are wanting to sell your work or hang it in a gallery. Because of the 1.5” thickness, you can add a wire to these easily. These are the most expensive canvases available at Michael’s.

Summary:

  • White
  • 1.5″ (3.8 cm) depth
  • Professional level 3
  • Available in multiple sizes
  • Cotton duck
  • Acid-free and archival
  • For use with oil and acrylic paints

Level 2 Gallery Wrapped Traditional Canvas by Artist’s Loft®

This canvas is made with archival-quality, 100% cotton. Similar to the gallery-wrapped heavy-duty canvas, it is also gesso primed. The smooth/medium texture surface is ideal for use with oil and acrylic paints. The frame is professionally constructed, and the medium-weight cotton duck is stretched around 3/4″ profile kiln-dried stretcher bars. It is held in place with a flexible spline which allows artists to paint on all four edges. This is a great canvas if you are not a true beginner but just getting into painting more often. You can easily frame these canvases because of the .75” thickness. The canvas is still pulled fairly tight.

Summary:

  • White
  • Medium weight
  • Available in multiple sizes
  • 0.75″ (1.9 cm) wood frame profile
  • Artist level 2
  • 100% cotton duck
  • For use with acrylic and oil paints
  • Archival quality
  • Conforms to ASTM D-4236

Level 1 Back Stapled Canvas by Artist’s Loft®

Novice artists and students reach for this prepped back-stapled canvas when they are ready to paint on traditional canvas. This top-quality canvas is perfect for use with oil and acrylic paints. It features 100% cotton duck and has an acid-free, titanium acrylic gesso primer. The canvas is stretched over a solid wood professional frame made with beveled, kiln-dried stretcher bars, which allow artists to create beautiful artworks lasting a lifetime. These are great quality canvases but probably best for students, kids and beginner artists. The canvas is not pulled as tightly as level 2 and 3. It is a rougher texture and because of the stapled back, it doesn’t hang flush to the wall. There’s also very little room to hang a wire.

Summary:

  • Available in multiple sizes
  • Acid-free and archival
  • 7oz unprimed/10 oz finished 100% cotton duck
  • For use with oil and acrylic paints
  • Academic level 1

4 Pack 6″ x 6″ Deco Canvas, Level 1 by Artist’s Loft®

With a 1.5″ profile, these small back-stapled canvases have all the benefits of traditional canvases in a more attractive size. Each canvas has cotton canvas primed with an acid-free and archival quality titanium acrylic gesso primer. The medium tooth surface is perfect for oil and acrylic paints. They are ideal for a creative series, polyptych paintings, or dimensional projects.

Similar to this Canvas is the

9 Pack 4″ x 4″ Deco Canvas, Level 1 by Artist’s Loft® and the 3 Pack 4″ x 12″ Deco Canvas, Level 1 by Artist’s Loft®.

Summary:

  • White
  • 6″ x 6″, 4″ x 4″, 4″ x 12″
  • 1.5″ (3.5 cm) wood frame profile
  • 4, 9, and 3 canvases
  • Academic level 1
  • Cotton Acid-free, archival quality

For use with acrylic and oil paints

Choosing the Right Canvas for your Painting

Choosing a canvas for your painting can be relatively easy if you know what you are putting onto the canvas. If you are just practicing brush strokes, or for fun, choose a cheap canvas. You should try out different textures to see which one you like the most. Look at how the finished painting looks and makes you feel, and the difference the texture makes. When painting, texture plays a big part in conveying feelings. To sum everything up, here are a few points to remember when choosing a canvas.

  • Consider your needs. Are you just learning to paint? Then a cheap, lightweight canvas is okay. Are you painting something special for someone? Then a little costlier and smoother canvas would do the job. Are you painting a piece for a gallery or an art show? Then buy the best affordable canvas to showcase your work.
  • Inspect the quality. Check for faults in the canvas that will be difficult to cover. Look for dents, discolored, or sagging. Check if the canvas is stapled on the back and wraps around the sides.
  • Check the priming layers. The canvas should have a minimum of two coats of acrylic primer; more is good.
  • Check the stretcher bars’ quality. Stretcher bars should not be too thin and should be made of strong wood.
  • Consider your wallet. The canvas cost is often the primary factor for a newbie artist. You don’t want to spend so much on a canvas only to discover that painting is not for you.

In Conclusion

Selecting the right canvas for your painting is a vital task. Some canvases work best with certain kinds of artwork. Canvas materials differ in their level of quality, texture, and weights. The essential things you should consider when choosing a canvas are the desired appearance, the purpose of the work, and how long you want the painting to last.

Purchasing pre-primed, pre-stretched canvas is fine but ensure that you buy the needed texture and quality. Also, it is fine to stretch your canvas, but ensure you know how to stretch the canvas correctly.

Ultimately, you don’t want to make a large, complex masterpiece painting on the wrong canvas. So, choose the right canvas to ensure that your effort and time are rewarded, and the masterpiece painting you create will last long.

Do you need help choosing paints? If so, check out my guide to acrylics here.

Need help with brushes? Check out this guide.

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