What are canvases?

Canvases are supports that are traditionally used by painters. The term ‘canvas’ is generally used to refer to the fabric that paint is applied to. Canvases have been used for many centuries by top painters and remain just as popular today. They’re light, easy to transport and last a long while. One of the best things about canvases is that they can be used to create very large paintings. To make canvases, fibres are woven together and then either glued to a panel or stretched over a frame. There are lots of different types of canvas and each type has different properties.

cotton vs linen

Cotton canvases

Cotton is usually the cheaper of the two. It’s able to be stretched very easily, though it’s seen as too flexible to cope with larger paintings. Many students and beginner painters choose to go for cotton as it’s easier to get used to and it’s less costly. Cotton can actually be stretched tighter than linen, though it doesn’t tend to have as much permanence as linen; it also doesn’t tend to be as strong or as heavy as linen. Cotton canvases are usually primed with an acrylic-based gesso, making it a better option for acrylic and watercolour paintings. However, cotton canvases are also very popular for oil paintings.

Linen canvases

Linen is usually more expensive than cotton because the material it’s made of is of a higher quality. It’s also more expensive because it tends to be more durable and stronger, providing painters with a painting surface that will have permanence and will therefore last. The reason why linen is longer-lasting is because the threads it’s made of weigh the same, so the chance of them expanding and contrasting because of moisture is very slim. This also means that linen is very tough and will not become slack as quickly as cotton does. One of the reasons why artists use linen so much is because there are lots of varieties of it: you can get lots of different textures and weights of this type of canvas available in both smooth and rough finishes. Linen canvases are usually primed with an oil-based gesso, making it a better option for oil paintings.

Which one should I go for?

Both types of canvas have their advantages, so really it’s all about budget. If you can afford to pay a bit more for your canvas, you should go for linen, as it will offer you a very good investment. However, if your budget isn’t that high, cotton will still serve you very well.

Joanne Perkins is a Berkshire-based artist with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art. She specialises in painting Berkshire landscapes and loves capturing the natural beauty of her local countryside. She is happy to accept all queries and questions. For more information about Joanne, her work and her current projects visit: http://joannesberkshirescenes.com/default.aspx Joanne can be found on Facebook

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