A good look at the many applications for artist canvas

Most people do not realise it, but there are different kinds of canvases that you can use for your art. Not every canvas is the same, and few artists and designers can ascertain the various quality of the material and how they react to certain types of paint. Some of them may absorb colour more readily while others do not. In any case, you would want to start out with the right material from the beginning as it no doubt helps with the result.

So how do you determine what type of canvas to use?

When it comes to canvas, there are three things that you would generally want to consider:

  • type of fabric used
  • the weight of the fabric
  • weave

Choosing the right fabric for your canvas

Linen and cotton are two of the most popular type of fabric used. Which material you choose ultimately depends on your requirements and are well worth considering.

Linen has a more lustrous finish thanks to its fine threads held together by shorter weaves. Hence canvas made from linen is suitable for paintings with intricate details that can otherwise be disrupted by rough textures. Cotton, on the other hand, is more affordable and comes in several grades. Budget canvas which is popular among art students often have lighter and thicker threads and protected by only a few coats of primer.

The weight of the canvas – why it matters?

Before you buy artists canvas, it is essential to consider its’ weight for one reason. The heavier the material, the sturdier it is, and while paintings are not usually subjected to abuse during creation and while on display, the edges surrounding the material are always under tension. This is an essential factor to consider especially if you are doing a large painting which means there can be a lot of pressure acting on every fibre of the material. Thus you would want to consider getting a stronger canvas for added durability.

Another factor to consider when working with stretched canvas is that there are variations on the dimensions of the stretcher bars that the material is affixed to as well as how the material wraps around the bars. If you have no plans to frame your work, then you can get one with broader edges which can make your work more appealing as well as set up dimensions that are more substantial. Still, these all boil down to personal preferences.

The weave of the fabric

Less expensive varieties of canvas often have narrow stretchers and coarser weaves.  If you must go with the latter, make sure that the canvas has been stretched correctly and that the threads are parallel with no apparent distortions. Also, check that the cloth is correctly folded around the edges and firmly attached. You would not want them falling off especially when you are in the middle of creating your masterpiece.

Check that the primer is appropriately and equally applied throughout the sheet and that you do not see any raw fibres exposed. Keep in mind that absorbency of the material depends on how well it is primed and not so much the type of material. Untreated canvas is the most absorbent and suitable when working with acrylics. Alternatively, you can also use a cloth treated with absorbent grounds that protects the material while pulling paint from the surface. Regular primers, on the other hand, protects the surface of the canvas and enables pigments to stick instead of getting soaked into the fibres.


So there you have it — a few important things to consider when deciding on the right type of canvas to use. You can start out with something cheap as long as it is neatly made. You can then branch out to thicker varieties and finer weaves if only to experiment with the differences in texture and aesthetics.

Finding the right artist canvas to use is a balance between expense and the quality of the material which is often a matter of personal preference. Most artists start with cotton canvas with a relatively firm weave but also take the time to experiment with other varieties especially when you can get them for a bargain.

Ken Isangar
Ken Isangar
An avid blogger and freelance writer to many technology related company. I have been blogging for 15+ years on various topics.
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