If you are new to painting, getting set up for creating your masterpiece can be slightly daunting. Choosing a canvas is no exception to this, especially when you unknowingly assume that all canvases are the same. Well, they all look the same, but there are definite advantages and disadvantages to using one type over the other. Here's a primer on choosing the right canvas for your needs.
Ready to Paint Canvas vs. Making Your Own
''New painters and amateurs'' will almost always choose to buy a pre-stretched, primed canvas. This makes things very simple. You just buy the canvas, unwrap the plastic, and immediately you are ready to paint. There is no construction, no stretching, no priming, and best of all -- no waiting. There is also no technical know-how required. Just know that when buying pre-primed canvas, you will want it to be either primed for acrylics or oil paints.
* Acrylic primed canvas is good for ALL mediums except watercolors or gouache.
* Oil primed canvas is ONLY good for use with oil paints (traditional or water soluble).
''Intermediate painters'' who already have some basic experience and know their way around the canvas shop may also choose to get a stretched canvas. However, they will often choose a canvas that has not been primed yet.
* Primer or gesso is used as the first layer(s) on the canvas to create a smoother surface on which to paint.
* The more layers, the smoother the surface will become.
* Priming a canvas yourself, offers the most versatility.
''Professionals and serious enthusiasts'' who have very specific needs or desires will often want to create their own canvas from scratch. This gives the painter the optimum versatility for sizing and styling the canvas (especially for abstract art).
* Keep in mind that this requires building a frame, stretching raw canvas over the frame, and securing it. Some things you'll need:
** Unprimed Roll Canvas (cotton or linen)
** Stretcher Bars
** Canvas Tacks
** Stapler Gun
** Canvas Pliers
* When stretching a canvas you must maintain constant pressure across the frame to get even tension and no wrinkles or sagging. This is not as easy as it sounds and it does take some time to master. So, if you are a beginner considering this option, you should seriously understand the technique involved with stretching before diving in head first. Get a friend who is an artist to give you a lesson if you can, or simply check out this article at RexArt.
Canvases come in either duck cotton, linen, or a blend. Cotton is extremely popular and moderately priced. Linen, the most luxurious of all the fabrics, is durable and nicely textured. However, it is the most expensive. For beginners and budget shoppers, a synthetic blend is the way to go if you are just using the canvas for practice. Keep in mind the texture (thread count) of the fabric on the canvas you choose. Some are more texturized while others are smoother.