Art Canvases and Painting Surfaces

Canvases and Painting Surfaces

Choosing the right foundation for your art is an integral part of the creative process. The type of surface you choose can impact the paint's appearance, how well the paint adheres to the surface, and the longevity of your artwork. Painting surfaces come in a variety of styles, materials, and sizes suitable for different types of mediums. Here are some of the most popular options:

Stretched Canvas: Stretched canvas is art canvas that has been pre-stretched and mounted onto a wooden frame. Common materials used for stretched canvas include cotton, linen, and synthetic fibers. It often comes fully primed, providing a taut, bright white, ready-to-use surface suitable for a wide range of media. Learn more about choosing a canvas in our canvas guide or shop our most popular stretched canvas sizes below:

Canvas Blankets and Rolls: Canvas rolls allow you to cut and stretch the canvas to meet your unique needs. This is an economical option for artists who want to stretch multiple canvases or create canvas sizes that are not readily available. You can find cotton, linen, and polyester options that come primed or unprimed here at Blick. Learn how to stretch your own canvas with our Canvas Stretching Guide.

Canvas Boards and Panels: Canvas boards and canvas panels are a convenient and affordable alternative to stretched canvases. They’re made by adhering canvas fabric to a rigid backing, typically cardboard or wood. These panels and boards are ideal for practicing techniques, experimentation, smaller works, and travel.

Wood Panels: Wood panels for painting provide a smooth, rigid surface that works well with various artistic mediums and is particularly ideal for fine details and precise brushstrokes. While canvas can require re-stretching over time, wood panels are less prone to warping or sagging and require minimal upkeep.

Painting Paper: Blick offers a large selection of high-quality painting papers and pads for watercolors, oils, acrylics, and mixed media. Watercolor paper is best suited for watercolors but can also handle alternative mediums such as gouache and ink. For oil and acrylic paints, canvas-textured papers or canvas sheets bound together in a pad offer an affordable alternative to the traditional stretched canvas.

Explore our selection of Blick Brand Canvases including, stretched canvas, canvas rolls, panels, and stretcher bars.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What's the difference between cotton duck canvas and linen canvas?

    Cotton duck canvas is much less expensive than linen and has become the most popular support for oil and acrylic painting, especially for students. A properly prepared cotton canvas has longevity similar to linen, and it's more flexible and easier to stretch properly. However, cotton duck is considered too flexible for very large paintings.

    Linen canvas with an oil primer is the classic standard for oil paintings. Though more expensive and harder to stretch properly, linen canvas offers the smoothest and stiffest painting surface and has proven longevity. Strong and durable, linen holds up to a heavy painting hand and doesn't become slack as easily as cotton canvas. For many artists, linen canvas is worth the investment.

  • What are the standard methods for attaching canvas to stretcher bars?

    There are three standard methods: side stapling, back stapling, and spline finishing.

    Side Stapling is the least expensive technique for securing the canvas to the stretcher bar because it uses less canvas. Finished pieces are generally framed to hide the staples.

    Back stapling is a more expensive finishing technique and requires more canvas, but it provides more selvage for future restretching. Some artists paint on the side as well as the face, creating works that don't require framing.

    Spline finishing is the most expensive finishing technique. Though some artists feel that it's not as easy to restretch a splined canvas as it is a back-stapled canvas, many artists choose splined canvas because it has a neater appearance than other finishes, and because it's popular with their customers. Splined canvas hangs tight to the wall.

  • How do I frame a canvas?

    Depending on the canvas, you may opt to hang your work without a frame. If you do choose to frame your canvas painting, canvas frames and open back frames are commonly used for stretched canvas or panels. These frames are meant to hang on the wall and don't have any glass or glazing material covering the work. Another option is a floating frame for canvas, which creates the illusion that your artwork is "floating" within the frame.

  • How are cross braces sized?

    When stretching your own large canvas, you may choose to add cross braces to your frame for extra stability. For the correct fit, order the cross brace in the same size as the stretcher bar to which it is parallel. The actual measurement of the cross brace will be shorter, but it will be sized to fit inside the assembled frame.