Have you ever wondered what is canvas made from? Nowadays, there are many types of canvas, but I want to talk specifically about Canvas for Painting. So, it's a fabric made from natural cotton or linen fibers that are woven together and usually stretched across a wooden frame called a stretcher, or glued to a panel.
Cotton is a soft, fluffy fiber, and it's more affordable than linen. The cotton fiber stretches easily, and properly prepared cotton canvas will last a long time. When it comes to tightness, cotton also wins. It is possible to stretch cotton much tighter than linen without straining the wooden support around the canvas.
Heavy-grade cotton (which should weigh between 12-15 oz.) can make up for its lack of strength and weight. Important point: cotton is considered too flexible for very large paintings. The most canvases on the market are made from cotton.
Linen is a strong, durable surface, it's long lasting and less prone to expansion or contraction due to moisture, but it is expensive. Natural oils in linen help to preserve the fiber’s flexibility and stop the canvas from going brittle.
It is also known for having a more ‘natural’ weaved finish than cotton – a variety of textures and weights are available in both rough and smooth finishes. Thanks to its strength, linen holds up to a heavy painting hand and does not become slack as easily as cotton canvas. If you want your painting to last then a linen canvas is a sound investment.
Each fiber is also classified according to its surface texture and weight:
- The texture depends on the weave and can be rough and fine. 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”).
- The weight (thickness) depends on the thread density and is measured in ounces per yard. The higher the weight, the better the quality. Try to avoid canvases with weights lower than 8-10 oz.
Overall, I recommend you to stick with cotton canvas for a start. To find out more about canvases or about other types of the painting surface, check out Canvas for Painting and The Best Surface for Acrylic Painting articles. Please, let me know if you have any comments or question,