Canvas for Painting – Types and Differences

Canvas For Painting - Types and Differences explanation from Smart Art Materials

Canvas for painting is a material and support that is perceived by many people to be the best for painting for centuries. This is not surprising because the use of the canvas has a lot of benefits, and on top of that, it simply looks great.

Generally, the canvas is a fabric, and to get a little bit more information about the structure of it, check out this article - What is Canvas Made From?

Canvases vary not only by size but also by the quality of materials and price. Which one is the best for you? In this article, I'm going to cover the most important things you need to know to make a right choice:

Stretched Canvas for Painting

Canvas For Painting - Types and Differences explanation from Smart Art MaterialsSometimes I feel so grateful that nowadays we don't need to stretch our own canvases every time we want to paint! Just select one out of huge variety ready-made pre-stretched canvases in any size and quality, which saves so much time! Stretched canvas looks neat and professional and is definitely the best and the most popular option for all pros and beginners.

Wooden frame. Canvas for painting is usually stretched over a wooden frame (stretcher). It's available in different thicknesses - deep (thicker bars) or traditional.


Canvas For Painting - Types and Differences explanation from Smart Art Materials
Raw Canvas Painting

Ready-made canvases can be primed or unprimed. "Primed" means it has been covered with a gesso (to find out everything about gesso, check out Acrylic Gesso and why you need to use it), which makes surface receptive to the paint and protects the fabric from the paint.

Even though acrylics will adhere to an unprimed support, the colors will be dull and the texture of canvas will be noticeable. You can buy pre-stretched ready-primed canvases in a variety of sizes and even colors (white or colorful) for a reasonable price. Here are some hot deals:

Canvas Rolls

Canvas For Painting - Types and Differences explanation from Smart Art MaterialsThis option is great for those of you who paint a lot, love handcrafting and want to save some money. If this sounds like you, then go ahead and use some simple tools to stretch your own canvas. This might be your next step in the development of your creative way.

Buying canvas in a roll (or yard) you can choose out of the variety of weights, textures, and cotton or linen fibers,  primed or unprimed.

It might seem to be pricey to buy the whole roll, but if you count how many canvases you are going to get out of it, you'd understand that it's price wise. Just do your research ahead of time and make sure you know what to do with it. Here is a good option for unstretched canvas, but when you order make sure to mention you want it the roll, otherwise you'll get it folded: Mybecca 10-Ounces Canvas Fabric by the Yard (Natural), 36-Inch Wide.

Canvas Panel

Canvas For Painting - Types and Differences explanation from Smart Art MaterialsWhat if you are just practicing right now and want to save $$$ without going too deep into the stretching and stuff? Check out the canvas panel! It's made by mounting primed cotton canvas onto a rigid board. It's a great option if you just starting and don't want to spend too much on your supplies.

It's a perfect solution if you want to practice your painting techniques. Canvas panels are cheap, compact, lightweight (great for outdoors) and available in a range of sizes. Unfortunately, canvas panels are not permanent and will degrade over time, so they should only be used for student practice and never for serious artwork or sale. Check out this Super Value Pack - Artlicious Canvas Panel Boards 12 Pack.

Canvas Pad

Canvas smart art materialsCanvas Pad album contains sheets of spiral-bound primed canvas. This is another great option for beginner practice and experimenting.

I recommend you to look for pads that contain real canvas sheets. To keep the sheet in place you can use a regular masking tape. Those pads can eventually be stretched or mounted, and are just great for practicing so that you can get a feel of real canvas.Here is a great option - Fredrix Canvas Pads.

Other things to consider:

  • Canvas For Painting - Types and Differences explanation from Smart Art Materials
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    Always read what it says on the package. If you're want to buy primed support, make sure this canvas is either "for acrylic painting" or "universal". Never buy one for oils or tempera (absorbent canvases).

  • There are different ways to wrap canvas around the frame. So if you decide to buy stretched canvas, get the one called “gallery-wrap” or “museum-wrap”. This means it is wrapped all the way around to the back and stapled there — so the staples are invisible on the sides. This way you can paint the sides and hang it without framing, and staples are not going to ruin the entire look of the artwork.
  • Do not try too hard to save on canvas, you might regret it because the appearance of brush stroke depends on its quality. Also, the cheap canvas may be short-lived. However, do not waste too much money on it, the most expensive does not always mean the best.

Canvas for painting is deservedly one of the best support (check out other supports here) for acrylic paint. Experiment with it, enjoy the benefits and develop your skills. As always, leave me a comment if you have any questions. Good Luck!



8 thoughts on “Canvas for Painting – Types and Differences

  1. Daniella says:

    Hi Olga,

    Great article!

    My husband draws portraits of people in black and white, and now he wants to learn how to paint with colors on canvas. I am so happy I’ve read your article because I discovered that canvas comes in different types, which is fantastic! We have canvas panel at home, but for my husband, it is too bulky. He finds all his inspiration in cafe shops. He sits there and watch people and draw them:). So I will definitely choose the canvas pad because it can be carried everywhere. I will show your article to my husband; I am sure he will love the idea! Is the Canvas Pad comes in other colors or just in white?

    Thank you for this excellent post!

    • Olga says:

      Hi Daniella, you are so welcome! I know that shift from paper for drawing to canvas for painting could be confusing, so I’m glad I could help! 

      What about color, as far as I know, pads are only available in white, because they are primed with white gesso. But this is a very easy fix – just get a colored gesso, or mix white gesso with any color and go over the pad. You can read more about it here

  2. Furkan says:

    I really need to save some money since I am on a tight budget on these days.
    I did not know that Canvas rolls help me save some money, I hope I really can.
    What type of weight do you recommend for beginners? and do you have a recommendation for the texture?

    • Olga says:

      Hi Furkan! Those are some very good questions, thank you! 

      Getting canvas in rolls is definitely cheaper that buying a ready-made stretched products. Although you have to invest your time into that 🙂 The weight and texture depend on your technique and medium you work with. The weight is pretty much equal to the quality/grade of canvas – the higher the better. Higher weight is recommended if you prefer to work with a lot of texture. For beginners, I recommend getting a canvas with the weight no less than 8-10 oz. 
      A rough texture is preferred by painters who like larger paintings and bold brushstrokes. A finely woven canvas is smooth and best suited to small, finely detailed works (“portrait-grade”). So it’s your choice 😉

      Best of luck,


  3. Santi says:

    Reading your post really increase my knowledge about canvas. I usually paint with watercolor on special watercolor paper, but want to give acrylic paint a try. It’s really interesting to know the types and differences of canvas. I think pre-stretched canvases are great option for beginner, as I have no idea how to stretch canvas. Thank you your informative post. Looking forward for your other post about art materials.


    • Olga says:

      Hi Santi,

      You are welcome! The transition from watercolor to acrylics is fun, just make sure to use proper art materials :))) I’m glad my article about canvases was helpful, and If you feel more comfortable working with paper, check out this Canvas Paper post.

  4. Lawrence says:

    Hi Olga.
    I am a photographer and have always wanted to lear to paint. I am leaning towards canvas as my preferred medium.
    The idea being that painting would be a great way to meditate almost (at least that is what I hope) but am finding it quite stressful to find the right materials and methods without having to spend a fortune.
    Coming across your site and this post has been rather fortunate. Thank-you I now know a lot more than I did 15 minutes ago and feel quite confident that one of the less expensive and more convenient options is the way to go until my art has at least improved a little bit.

    • Olga says:

      Hi Lawrence, thanks for checking out my website. For me, art is also a type of dynamic meditation, and I this is the way it should be. I know that finding the right art materials is super challenging at the beginning and I’m here to help! Let me know if you are going to have any more questions 🙂

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