October 21, 2020
Mike Jr

How to Choose the Perfect Canvas Type for Painting

Beginner painters are often surprised how much canvas type matters. As a beginner painter, you may not understand the differences between canvas types – like toothiness. However, as you become an intermediate or advanced painter, canvas type matters.

Beginner painters are often surprised how much canvas type matters. As a beginner painter, you may not understand the differences between canvas types – like toothiness.

However, as you become an intermediate or advanced painter, canvas type matters.

In fact, even as a beginner painter, it’s hard to switch back to cheaper canvases after using a higher-quality canvas.  

Today, we’re explaining how to choose the perfect canvas type for painting, including the pros and cons of different types of canvas.

Cotton Duck Canvas

Cotton duck canvas is the most common type of canvas available today. No, it’s not made from duck. However, it is a cheap type of canvas available in multiple weights and weaves.

Cotton duck canvas is classified based on the weight of its surface texture. Weave, meanwhile, refers to how tight the threads are woven.

Cheaper cotton canvases are loosely woven with lighter weights. They have shorter cotton fibers. They’re also more stretchy than linen. In fact, this is one of the main advantages of cotton canvases over linen and other canvas types: they’re easier to stretch, making them more affordable.

If you’re working with a large canvas fabric, then you need to use canvas keys or re-stretch the entire painting to accommodate for slack.


Linen is the second most popular canvas type for painting. Artists generally consider linen superior to cotton because of its strength and lack of stretch.

Linen is also stronger and more durable, making it resistant to mold and mildew. Because the fabric is not as absorbent as cotton, it doesn’t expand and contract due to moisture, which also reduces bacterial growth within the canvas.

Artists also appreciate the fact that linen retains its natural oil content, preserving the long-term flexibility of the fiber.

Because of the difference in quality, linen is more expensive. For climate reasons, most linen canvas is sourced from western Europe. That’s great for the linen – but it raises the costs compared to cotton canvases (which are often sourced from India).

In terms of smoothness, linen is available in all different levels, ranging from very smooth to very rough. Artists can customize the canvas based on their desired level.

Synthetic Canvas Types

Want linen without the high cost? Synthetic canvas may be the right choice.

Artists can save costs by switching to synthetic fiber canvases. However, many artists avoid synthetic fiber because of lack of familiarity: they haven’t been around long enough for artists to understand how they feel.

Nevertheless, opinions on synthetic linen are changing. Advances in technology have made synthetic linen a more viable option for artists. Thanks to new milling procedures, for example, synthetic linen comes in more types than ever.

Alternatively, some artists opt for synthetic cotton-poly blends. These blends contain synthetic and cotton fibers, offering the advantages of cotton (low costs) without the downsides (stretching and weak fabric). Artists get smoother portrait canvases that are much superior than traditional cotton would be on its own.

One issue with synthetic canvas types is brand selection. Some companies make great synthetic canvas types, while others offer lackluster options.

Choose How your Canvas Will Be Used

After picking a material, you need to decide how your canvas will be used. You have three main options, including:

• Stretched Canvas

• Canvas Panels

• Canvas Rolls

Stretched Canvas: Stretched canvas comes with a costlier startup cost, but it’s the most convenient of the three options. Stretched canvas arrives already stretched. Most stretched canvas is also completely primed and ready to paint immediately after unwrapping. In many cases, you can hang the canvas on a wall without a frame after painting, depending on how the canvas is stretched and stapled or tacked.

Canvas Panels: Want the benefits of stretched canvas without the cost? Canvas panels are a cheaper version of stretched canvas. Canvas panels have heavy-duty card or wooden press board panels, allowing you to easily glue the canvas or linen material to the panel after completion. Although you have to frame them after painting, canvas panels are portable and come with flexible framing options. And, because the canvas panels are thin, you can use any frame moulding or metal frame (traditional canvas requires a minimum rabbet depth to use the wood stretcher).

Canvas Rolls: For the cheapest way to get cotton or linen for painting, canvas rolls may be the right choice. Canvas rolls are cheap, but they’re also inconvenient and time consuming because you need to stretch on canvas stretcher frames or make your own panels. Ultimately, canvas rolls deliver exactly what you would expect from the name, offering endless size possibilities for custom canvas and panel sizes – plus, you can use linen or cotton canvas with virtually any weight and weave. If you don’t mind a little hard work, then you can save a lot of money with canvas rolls – and many artists get used to the process over time, reducing the time it takes.

Flex Your Skills with a Virtual Painting Class from Paint and Sip Live

Paint and Sip Live offers virtual painting classes, allowing you to flex your skills – or drink with friends and have fun while painting.

Our virtual painting classes come with live DJs and professional painting instructors. If you’re a complete beginner with zero painting supplies at home, then we’ll send you a beginner kit. If you have everything you need, then great! You can get started today and join a class nearly any night of the week. Bring friends and get ready for an unforgettable, productive, and entertaining painting experience.