For any artist, whether professional or amateur, the canvas is one of the most important pieces of equipment in their collection.
Used for oil paintings, watercolors, pencil sketches, charcoal drawings and of course, mixed medium pieces, they are a step up from just drawing or painting directly on to a pad of paper.
Made from a range of materials including cotton and plastic, canvases are custom built to allow you to create stunning works of art that can be framed or even mounted directly on to a wall if you prefer.
This guide aims to explain a little bit about what canvases are used for, the different types that are available and also which packages on the market are worth considering.
What type of canvases are there?
There is a mixture of canvases available and depending on what you will be using it for, the type you need to buy can vary.
- Cotton canvases are often favored by painters who use heavy, oil-based or acrylic paints as they are designed to “grip” this material straight away so you don’t need to wait for certain sections of your painting to dry before you move on to the next stage of your work.
- There are also plastic and mixed material canvases which can be a little cheaper than 100% pure cotton and great for craft-based projects or using specific materials.
As a rule, good quality canvases are treated with a special coating to allow the paint or other medium to be held in place, though some budget options may require a coat of something before you can use them. This is quite rare, though and the majority of canvas boards are made to be used straight out of the packet.
Canvases are available in a range of sizes, so this is something you might want to think about when you are getting ready to make a purchase. Larger canvases can be more expensive and there are generally fewer in a pack, however, if you are planning to create a larger work of art, they are an essential piece of equipment.
Here are our choices for the best canvases to use for your art:
Art Alternatives Economy Artist White Canvas 16 x 20
Get this if: you need larger canvases
If you need larger canvases for your work, Art Alternatives provide a great value 5 pack of large 16 x 20-inch canvases that can be used with mixed media, oils and acrylics. Like their smaller and standard sized canvases, each one comes primed with a special acid-free gesso so they are ready to paint or draw on straight out of the package. As the gesso is acid-free, these products are considered to be environmentally friendly so if you are concerned about pollution, you can rest easy when you buy this product.
Designed for use in classrooms, studios or other art spaces, the unbleached, 8-ounce cotton canvases are sturdy, well crafted and can be used with any wet-dry media. There are also staples in the back of the canvases which means that you don’t have to frame your work if you would prefer not to, it can be hung directly on any wall as soon as you have finished. Overall, this is a great package that offers artists a good selection of larger canvases.
- Large sized canvases
- Acid-free gesso
- Back staples
Academy Art Supply Blank Canvas Panel Boards
Get this if: you are on a budget
If value for money is a major consideration for you, as it is for many people, this budge back of canvases could be just the product for you. They come primed and ready for use straight out of the packet and conform to industry standard ASTM-D4236, even though they are a little less expensive than some of the other products on the market at the moment. For use with oils and acrylics, as well as other mediums, any budding artists will get a great deal of pleasure from using these professional but reasonably priced canvases.
Finished to a high standard and an artist quality, bright white, this pack of 8 x 10 inch, acid-free canvases provide you with everything you need to create stunning landscape paintings, portraits or any other type of art you can think of. Instructors may like to use this inexpensive package for their students as they won’t cost the earth and still provide everything you need from a good quality canvas board.
- Bright white finish
- Perfect for oils and acrylics
Darice Plastic Canvas
Get this if: you are looking for plastic canvases
If you need plastic canvases, rather than traditional cotton ones, this product is definitely for you. They can be used to create decorative craft projects such as bookmarks, boxes and other decorations and they can also be drawn or painted on directly. The canvases are clear, so you can use any color you like and still expect great results. As they are quite large at 10 -1/2 x 12 -1/2 inches, there is plenty of room for you to experiment with shapes, colors and techniques without feeling as if you are restricted by a smaller surface area.
For those who appreciate homegrown manufacturing, these products are made in the USA, so you will be supporting a local business rather than a company based overseas. Though artists who prefer a bright white canvas may like to look elsewhere on our list, for those who are interested in crafting home made gifts or perhaps have an interest in working with clear canvas for the sake of achieving a specific effect, this is a fantastic option for you.
- Made in the USA
- Perfect for craft projects
- Clear, large plastic canvases
Mont Marte Canvas Panel
Get this if: you will be working outdoors
These 12 x 12 canvases are suitable for practically any medium and have been created as an inexpensive but high quality resource for artists of all levels and disciplines.
Perfect for working in outdoor environments, this type of canvas can be great for landscape painters, whether they like to create representations of industrial city skylines or tranquil, rolling hills. The sturdy construction and high-density cotton weave make this product feel like great value for money without being cheap or of an inferior quality. The manufacturers have taken great care to protect against problems such as denting or warping, which can seriously affect the finished look of your work if it does happen. This provides peace of mind for those who want their paintings to look as good on the wall or as they did the day they were finished.
Though this particular type of canvas is not suitable for watercolor or poster paint, the acid-free composition and panel design make them perfect for oils and acrylic. Unlike stretched canvases, panel-based canvases are quite resilient and won’t rip or scratch easily. This means they can be used by children or beginners in a classroom or art class setting as well as by professionals in a home studio.
- Sturdy construction
- Ideal for oils and acrylic
- Warp and damage resistant
Art Alternatives Economy Artist White Canvas
Get this if: you are a beginner
Though these canvases are marketed as economy products, they are actually of a very good quality indeed. They are primed with a specially designed acrylic gesso which means that you can paint in literally any medium without having to worry about colors fading, running or smudging unexpectedly. Unlike some canvases on the market, this pack of 10 can even be used with watercolor paints, rather than just oils and acrylics; a definite plus point for those who like to experiment with a range of different mediums. Made to be used straight out of the packet and constructed in a sturdy and durable fashion that means even children or those who may not have perfect muscle control will be able to use these products without fear of damaging them.
Those who are interested in framing their work will be able to do so very easily as these canvases are a standard size. They also have turned edges that are attached to the back of the canvas and covered with a smooth paper. This means you can cover the whole thing with color without having to concern yourself with gaps or white spaces around the edge of your work. Ideal for anybody with an interest in art, whether beginner or professional, this pack of simple but very well constructed canvases offers you a good balance of quality and value.
- Great Value
- Treated with acrylic gesso
- Standard size
US Art Supply 8 X 10 inch Professional Artist Quality Acid-Free Canvas Panel Boards
Get this if: you are a serious artist
This pack of 12 high-quality single canvas board panels is absolutely perfect for an artist needed a good supply of blank pieces on which they can create their work. You could buy this pack as a set of spares or perhaps for occasional use if you are an amateur painter. They are made from 100% pure cotton and mounted on to an acid-free, heavy board so they look and feel extremely professional and well constructed. The finished weight of each canvas is 8 ounces and they come with turned edges so you can use every inch of the blank space if you need to.
The manufacturers have created these acid-free canvases to comply with archival quality and say they can be used with all types of media, so if whether you prefer to work in watercolors, acrylics, charcoal, pastels or pencil, you will be able to get a great deal of use out of these products. Each canvas is specially primed with acrylic gesso to ensure there will be no seepage or fading, so you don’t need to treat them with anything before you use heavy oils or acrylics. This is definitely a bonus for those who want to get started with their painting straight away. Overall, this is is an excellent quality collection of well-made canvases that will be a great addition to any home studio, classroom or workspace.
- Fully turned edges
- Pure cotton
What to consider when buying canvases?
The primary thing to consider before you decide to part with your hard earned money is how and where the canvases are likely to be used.
If you are an art teacher or private instructor who delivers courses on life drawing or painting, having an inexpensive supply of decent quality canvases will be a good investment, especially if your students are unlikely to bring their own materials to class.
If the canvases are going to be used in a professional environment such as a gallery or working studio, you may want to spend a little more to ensure that you have industry standard quality.
The other thing to consider is what type of medium you will be using to mark your canvas. Cotton-based canvases are generally considered the best option for heavy acrylics and oil paints as they hold the color better than other materials whereas plastic canvases can be used for craft projects or other, less conventional types of artwork.