Quality of canvas for artists

by Apr 7, 2021Art Supplies

The quality of canvas available

Jane said “We sell many stretched canvases for people to paint on, including making bespoke sizes. We also sell canvas from a roll by the metre and a selection of canvas boards.

So I thought this week I’d look at the quality of canvas available.”

What makes a good quality canvas?

Modern canvas is usually made of cotton or linen, although historically it was made from hemp. It differs from other heavy cotton fabrics, such as denim, in being plain weave rather than twill weave.

The fabric

The raw material used in most artists canvases is either linen or cotton. Of these two, linen is considered the best due to the quality of the surface and its durability. But linen canvases are very expensive. Cotton is a more affordable option that provides an excellent surface of suitably durable quality.

The surface

Choose carefully what surface your canvas should have. Before you spend the money on canvas you need to consider the surface as it can make a huge difference in what you are planning to paint.

The surface of a fine canvas has minimal texture and can be almost smooth. While a rough canvas has a very pronounced weave.

The choice of no grain, extra-fine, fine, medium, rough and extra-rough texture in canvas affects the feel of the painting and the final appearance.

Two basic types of canvas

Canvas comes in two basic types; plain and duck.

Duck canvas (nothing to do with the bird) is more tightly woven than plain canvas. Duck fabric is woven with two yarns together in the warp and a single yarn in the weft.

In addition to its use for painting canvas, cotton duck is used in a wide range of applications from sneakers to tents and sandbags. There is also linen duck, which is used less often.

Does the canvas need priming?

“Once I’ve decided what canvas I need do I need to prime the surface first?”

The answer to this is, it’s depends on the canvas that you buy. Most canvases that you buy are already primed. If they are bright white it’s all ready for you start painting. You can buy unprimed canvas and prime it yourself if you prefer.

Ready made canvases

You can buy ready made canvases on different thickness frames. These are usually referred to as deep or standard/ traditional. Deep canvases have thick stretcher bars, while standard/traditional canvases have thinner stretcher bars.

Canvases with the deep edges can be painted around the edges to add depth to your image. These can be hung straight on to a wall (no frame needed) and look amazing. Alternatively, if you don’t paint the sides they can be framed and look different, but equally as good.

Canvas boards

Canvas boards are made of canvas stretched over and glued to a cardboard backing, and sealed on the backside. The canvas is typically linen and primed and ready for use, I’ve used many of these myself as I like the surface and they take acrylic really well.

Sizes available

These are some standard sizes available for ready made canvases. Other sizes are available.

  • 18”x 24”
  • 20”x24”
  • 24”x 36”
  • 30”x 40”
  • 36”x48”

Need more information?

I’ve only touched the surface on this subject. This was just an insight in to the available surfaces canvas comes in and how you can buy it.

If you haven’t used canvas or canvas boards before it may be worth having a go, see what suits you. This picture is one I painted using acrylics on canvas board.

If you need more information or want to discuss your requirements either come in to the shop or give us a call.

acrylic painting on canvas

Jane is a member of the Gadsby’s team. She has a wide knowledge of the arts & crafts products and materials sold by Gadsby’s both from the perspective of an advisor in the shop and, for many of the products, from personal use too.

Please note that this is not a service that Gadsbys offer to clients – just an example of the private work done by one of the highly skilled and knowledgable Gadsby’s team shown for your interest.


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