Art Canvases and Canvas Panels

Art Canvases and Canvas Panels

A canvas is a generic art term used to describe the closely woven, coarsely fibered surface material used by artists for painting. Canvases can be purchased stretched and pre-primed, or an artist can stretch and prime their own. There are generally two types of materials used for canvases: linen and cotton.

Using linen canvases are a popular choice among painters. One of the attributes of a linen canvas that make it so attractive to painters is that linen is by far the most durable fabric and offers the smoothest and stiffest surface to paint on. Linen is the traditional choice of painting surface as the weave can show through many layers paint—which is very desirable to many artists. Linen is strong and has a long-term resistance to decay. Linen accepts sizing and priming applications well and also retains its own natural oils, which maintain flexibility and helps the canvas from becoming too brittle. While linen is the higher quality material used for canvases, it is also the more expensive and more difficult to stretch and prepare on your own.

Cotton canvases (or cotton duck canvases) are also a popular choice with painters because of their affordability and because they are considerably easier to stretch and prepare. It is an especially popular choice among art students. If the cotton canvas is prepared and stretched properly, the longevity is similar to linen. Cotton canvases, however, are more suited for small and medium paintings as the cotton fibers are almost too flexible for the larger paintings.

Whichever art canvas material you prefer to work with, priming is a must. Priming is a technique artists use to prepare the canvas to receive and accept the paint. For both oil and acrylic painting, on either a linen or cotton canvas, an acrylic gesso primer is generally used. It is also advised by experienced artists to prime canvases that are already pre-primed as some manufacturers occasionally miss spots or apply the primer too thinly.