Choosing the Perfect Canvas

The Options are Endless!

A fresh Canvas is like a new landscape to build upon, an open road of new possibilities and a staple in any artist's creative arsenal. Some painting novices may assume that all canvas is the same and made from, well, canvas, but there are different types to choose from. Unfortunately, many of these artists just starting out might not know what kind of canvas to get. Here is a helpful guide to help out and get you the right canvas you need.

First off, the term "canvas" is kind of an umbrella term for any material that is used to support a painting. The most common type of canvas is cotton duck; then there is linen; also synthetic fiber, which is the least common. Each can be called a canvas and picking out the right one is a lot like picking out the perfect set of bed sheets. Here's why.

Cotton duck canvas is the most common and cheapest variety of canvas, but even it still comes in different weights and weaves. Weight refers to the thickness of material, while weave is a term for how tight the individual threads are woven. The cheapest of cotton canvases are those which are most loosely woven. (Similarly, the price and quality of sheets is determined by thread count.)

Linen on the other hand, is considered to be superior to cotton as the threads are narrower, or finer, and the weave is tighter. It is also a more expensive option.

For some artists, the choice halts here; many are opposed to using synthetic fiber canvases as they are not traditional and have not been around long enough for artists to really gauge their durability. The synthetic category is also much wider since essentially any material could be used provided it is strong enough to support the weight of the paint. Some of the cheapest canvases, however, are made from a blend of cotton and synthetic fiber, so realistically speaking, it may not be as easily avoided as some artists would like.

When choosing between cotton duck and linen, the needs of the artist are the most important thing to take into consideration, but experts say that ultimately, hands down, linen is the right choice in terms of strength and reliability. The tighter weave gives it a stronger surface , whereas cotton can distort a painting once it's stretched. However, cotton is generally easier to use and is available in either a smooth or more distinct texture. Linen may be more durable, but it is also pricier.

Once you've settled on a material, you've only just begun. The next phase is choosing a form. The options are stretched canvas, canvas boards, or canvas rolls. Heres where the choice is less like picking out bed sheets and more like pumping gas; your choices are regular, middle grade, or high end. 

  • Stretched Canvas is the most expensive and convenient of the three. It can easily be hung on a wall without a frame once painted. 
  • Canvas boards are cheaper versions of stretched canvas. They consist of heavy-duty card panels to which the canvas material is glued. 
  • Canvas rolls are the cheapest, also the least convenient and most time-consuming. It is exactly what it sounds like: a roll of canvas for you, the artist, to take what you want when you want. Once the canvas is cut to size, then it must be mounted on stretcher bars to hold it still and stop it from distorting your painting. 

All of the options here are great, none are necessarily better or worse than the other, its all about what you, the artist, wants. Its a matter of what suits a particular artist's tools, time and skill set. So what type of canvas do you like? Jerry's Artarama is the number one authority on artist grade professional canvases. So let us know in the comments below!

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