A simple guide to an artist’s canvas

Artist stretched canvas and canvas boards

As an artist, your creative vision - be that in oils or acrylics - needs a backdrop on which to be showcased. Coming in a wide range of sizes and surface characteristics, a stretched artist canvas or canvas board is your starting point and quintessential artist’s support. And whether you are shopping for art materials online or in-store, you are faced with a wide range of ready-to-paint canvas options.

The Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch - known for The Scream (his iconic modern art surrealist composition) - observed that “The colours live a remarkable life of their own after they have been applied to the canvas. 

An artist’s blank canvas - historically

In the past - particularly during the Renaissance - wooden panels were a painter’s support - their ‘blank canvas’ - but were at the mercy of environmental influences which caused cracking and warping. Wood was also not only bulky and impractical to transport but large wooden panels were difficult to hang. These gave way to the more practical and lightweight canvas roll, stretched canvas and canvas board/panel. Originally made from Venetian hemp sailcloth, modern-day canvases come in linen and cotton. 

  • A linen canvas - made from flax plant fibres - is strong and durable with natural oils which helps keep the surface from becoming brittle and cracking making it a more archival but also a more expensive option. 

  • A cotton canvas stretches easily, is affordable and is the most popular surface for oil and acrylic artists.

  • A canvas roll is preferred by artists who love the DIY hands-on approach and like to stretch their own canvases. They can also create their own bespoke sizes at a more affordable cost. 

An artist’s blank canvas - practically

A canvas panel or a stretched artist canvas is the most popular and practical art supply for acrylic, oil and mixed media artists. 

Most artist canvases come pre-primed, either with acrylic primer or an oil primer, depending on your chosen paint medium. An acrylic gesso-primed canvas has a bit more ‘tooth’ or friction for more brush control, whereas an oil-primed canvas is less textured and more  ‘slippery.’ 

(Always make sure you select the correctly primed canvas for your paint medium). 

Browse our acrylic-primed canvas collection at Artistik. 

Artist stretched canvas & canvas boards

Priming a canvas results in the colours in the painting being a little brighter. An unprimed canvas tends to either soak up more paint or clot on the surface. 

Canvas panels or boards are a great option for practice studies and art school projects. They come ready primed in a variety of sizes and are suitable for oil and acrylic colours.

If you are looking to hang your artwork, are doing a commission or are hoping to sell your work, then a quality stretched canvas is the smart choice. The little wooden wedges (or keys) that come with a stretched canvas are designed to be inserted into the four corners of the wooden stretch bars at the back to create extra surface tension. The extra tautness helps you control your brushstrokes. 

An artist’s blank canvas - literally

Once you have purchased your stretched canvas or canvas board from a reputable online supplier, you are ready to give expression to your inner artist. Few artists have a final picture in their mind’s eye. A painting is dynamic; it evolves and takes on a life of its own as the colours hit the surface. The creative possibilities are endless and it all starts with one single brushstroke. 

“I never know what I'm going to put on the canvas. The canvas paints itself. I'm just the middleman.” -Peter Max, the German-American, known for his psychedelic and pop artworks.

Acrylic-primed stretched canvases & canvas panels

An artist’s blank canvas - @ Artistik

No matter what your artist style may be, or your medium of choice, Artistik is your online space where quality art materials are ready to inspire and get you started on your next work of art. It’s as simple as selecting a canvas, adding some brushes and paint and perhaps heading over to our blog section for further tips and inspiration. 

Add to your stash by browsing all our art materials collections and get 20% off on new products.

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