Before you shop for canvas, you need to consider what’s available. There are a lot of choices to be made so think about what it is you are using the canvas for, where will you be painting, what will be practical and what will help you achieve the results you are looking for.
Acrylic colour can be painted on to all sorts of surfaces, from canvas to sanded metal, and below you can browse through the traditional fine art surfaces we offer for acrylic painting. Canvas Panels and boards are made by gluing primed cotton on to a rigid board, so that you get the texture of a cotton surface, but not the 'spring' you would get from painting on to stretched canvas. Our ready made stretched canvases take away time consuming stretching and priming processes, and are available in a range of weights, grains and sizes. If you prefer to make your own canvas we also have all the materials you need to make your own, including our very easy to use stretcher bars, available in 6 depths, 2 of which are made of aluminium re-enforced wood for maximum durability and strength.
Finally, canvas sheets pads and boards are a mixture of specially prepared acrylic painting papers and primed cotton sheets that are relatively lightweight and excellent for taking outdoors, travelling, or for experimenting with techniques.
What is stretched canvas? Pre-prepared supports for artists who want to paint straight away
Conventionally, canvases are tightly stretched on to a frame, which creates a spring in the fabric when pressure is applied, i.e. when a paint brush applies paint to it. It is generally considered that the more tightly stretched a canvas, the more enjoyable it is to paint on, as the tension in the surface has an element of vibrancy. The tightness of a canvas must be the same across the whole frame so that the grain of the fabric is square to the edges, with no skewing. Readymade or pre stretched canvases most commonly have a universally primed canvas stretched on to a wooden frame with bevelled edges (so that the edge of the frame does not leave an imprint when the canvas is painted on). This means that the canvas is coated with a white acrylic primer, which sufficiently coats the fabric for both oil and acrylic painting. Most ready-made canvases are triple primed (coated 3 times), and some have even more layers of primer. Lots of thin layers of primer is preferable to one thick layer as it is a more stable priming, which is less susceptible to cracking over time, and will be much more likely to be even across the whole surface. Canvas is fixed to the frame with either tacks on the sides, or staples on the back, or both. Ready made canvases are available in a range of depths, and if this is of importance to you it is vital to check the dimensions. Standard depth canvases are generally considered to look more traditional and are easier to frame, whereas deeper canvases tend to be associated with contemporary or more modern art techniques, although the trends are always changing. This choice is one of pure aesthetic; a standard depth canvas does not perform better or worse than a deep edge or chunky canvas, although thin bars may need to be reinforced with the use of a cross bar for larger sized canvases. Daler Rowney have a range of canvases ideal for landscape painting, due to their long thin dimensions (but of course they are not exclusive to painting landscapes, just as good for abstract or figurative painting too!). Bella Arti, our ‘professional’ grade pre-stretched canvases are made to gallery standard and are also available in extra fine grain linen, medium grain linen, clear primed linen (an extra coat of acrylic medium is required for oil painting) as well as deep edge cotton. Again, all these choices give you the artist the opportunity to select the right surface for the idea you have in mind for your work. Our own brand Jackson’s canvases are available in deep and standard depth cotton universal primed canvas, and we also do canvases by Winsor and Newton, Daler Rowney, Loxley and Pebeo. Take advantage of extra discount by looking out for the permanent special bulk buy art canvas offers we have for canvases by Winsor & Newton, Jackson’s Art Supplies and Bella Arti (trade discounts also available for wholesale customers), as well as occasional limited time period canvas sales we hold; surprisingly cheap canvases of exceptional value and quality for all artists - from beginner to professional.
In addition to readymade canvases, we at Jackson’s Art Supplies offer a variety of other canvas supports. Canvas panels are sheets of compressed card on to which universally primed cotton canvas has been glued. These are ideal for quick sketches, but can also be easily framed as finished paintings, and we sell ranges by both Winsor and Newton and Jackson’s. Artist’s canvas boards by Bella Arti are made of acrylic primed cotton duck glued on to MDF with shear edges – slightly sturdier and heavier, and a great rigid support with the grain of a canvas. Daler Board, an entirely unique product range by Daler Rowney, is an affordable and rigid oil primed support ideal for taking out of doors.
Perfect for experimentation and easy to cut to size are the wide range of canvas pads that we sell. Belle Arti and Fredrix offer canvas pads made of sheets of universally acrylic primed canvas, glue bound on one edge, so that you can paint on sheets while they are still in the pad, or you can fix to a board with glue or masking tape for more stability. Oil and acrylic blocks by Clairefontaine and Hahnemuhle as well as pads from the Daler Rowney System 3 and Georgian ranges are made of specially treated papers designed for use with either oil or acrylic paint (please note the acrylic papers are not suitable for use with oils) and all varieties have a fine art linen effect texture. Oil/acrylic blocks are glued on all 4 sides and sheets need to be sliced with a palette knife after the work is complete and dry – this prevents any warping in the sheet during the drying process. Pads are only glue bound on one side, and in all cases, can be presented to gallery standard by reinforcing on to a backing board and framing. Conversely they are also a cheaper option for those buying art supplies for a school or art society that need to be creative within a budget.
Can’t Find What You’re Looking For?
If you can’t find the right length, width, depth, canvas grain or priming all wrapped up in one desirable canvas, then you might want to consider ordering one of our bespoke canvases using the ‘Bespoke Canvas Builder’. You may have been commissioned to paint a portrait or landscape that requires very specific dimensions. We are able to construct canvases using our professional grade aluminium reinforced bars from NB Frames as well as our traditional wooden stretcher frames, with a wide variety of different French and Italian cottons and linens.
Do It Yourself
Many artists would prefer to make their own canvases to their own specifications, and we sell all the tools and accessories an artist would require to make their own canvas. But before you start, time to make some decisions…
What stretchers bars should I use?
First you need to decide your canvas depth i.e. how far it sticks out from the wall. If you’d prefer to have a thinner canvas, but your work is going to be over a metre long or wide, remember to order cross bars to reinforce the structure. Deep edge canvases do not really need cross bars (and aluminium reinforced bars certainly don’t!) but they can be useful for carrying purposes (remember however that they can also add to the weight of the canvas). All the art stretcher bars are already mitre cut at the ends for assembly and have slots for centre bars as well as bevelled edges, but the assembly of the aluminium bars differs from that of the professional wooden stretcher bars so be sure to read the information on their appropriate pages before purchasing.
Cotton duck or Linen?
Cotton duck is a lot cheaper because it is made of shorter threads that have been woven together. The result is that it is weaker than linen (yet still sufficiently durable with the right treatment), and the grain looks different. Cotton tends to be lighter in colour. It is available off the roll primed and unprimed, in a range of grains and weights, and we recommend a heavier weight canvas for larger paintings. The rest of the decision making process is down to you and your aesthetic preferences. Our linens are available in grains ranging from extra fine to rough, as well as varying weights. The French linens have a slightly more irregular grain due to the differing manufacturing process, but this can add a character that may be desirable to how you want your work to appear. To make your own canvas as quickly as possible, purchase a ready primed canvas and you can start painting as soon as it is fixed to the frame – however the downside is that it is much more difficult to get good tension in the fabric in comparison to stretching untreated canvas, and then sizing and priming it. Ultimately the decision is likely to depend on how much time you have and how important the tension in the canvas is to you. If you make canvases regularly you may wish to consider purchasing one of our 10-metre linen rolls to keep you in good supply.
How to Stretch
Canvas pliers are vital for achieving a good amount of tension when stretching your canvas. Place your canvas frame in the middle of your piece of canvas and make sure you have enough canvas to wrap around to the back of the frame. Use the pliers to grab enough of the material between the teeth of the pliers, and then use the ridge on the underside of the pliers to gain leverage over the edge of the frame and stretch around to the back of the frame. Always stretch canvas from the middle of the bars moving outwards, and always insert staples opposite the ones you have just put in. A staple gun is the easiest to use and small tacks is the traditional method. Finished pictures or artwork that have been made on un-stretched canvas can be fixed to a frame once dry, and do not need as much tension when being stapled – just make sure they are fixed square to the frame and that you do not lose too much of the image when wrapping the work around to the back.
Staples and Tacks
Tacks can be gently hammered in the edge of the canvas frame before a staple secures the canvas to the back – this does help a little with achieving a good amount of tension, and also adds a traditional look to the finished support. The pressure that a staple gun provides makes it easy to punch in staples to secure the canvas to the back of the canvas frame. Remember to leave enough room at the corners to fold your canvas neatly before punching in the final staples.
Your canvas is now ready to use, but you may wish to prime it in order to create a less absorbent surface that it white and therefore enhances the luminosity of your colours.