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Canvas Art Supplies - How to Select a Canvas When Buying Art Supplies

stretched linen artists cotton

Artists have a choice of materials upon which to create their paintings. Just about any flat surface can be used as the surface for a painting. Some of those materials might include wood, hardboard and different types of paper. By far, the preferred choice of most artists is canvas.

Canvas comes in two basic types. There is canvas made of linen and canvas made of cotton. Each has advantages and each is widely available at any art supply store. Artists can either buy a pre-stretched canvas that comes in various sizes or they can buy a roll of canvas and stretch it themselves.

Linen Canvas
This would likely be the first choice for most experienced artists if price were no object. Linen is very expensive, so, many artists can not afford to use it on a regular basis. However, if you are able to afford to paint on a linen canvas, you will be able to take advantage of the following qualities. Linen is stronger than cotton. It is very durable and holds up well over time. The linen canvas is less susceptible to expansion and contraction issues due to moisture. Natural oils help preserve the integrity of the material, giving it protection against future deterioration. A weave that is not quite as predictable as cotton makes for a more interesting texture that can bring out subtle brush strokes. Linen canvas comes in smooth to rough textures and in light to heavy weights.

Cotton Canvas
The majority of artists use a cotton canvas. While it can’t match up to the finest linen, cotton is a very good surface for creating paintings in all types of mediums. It is suitable for oils, acrylics, watercolor and most other types of paints. Being far less expensive than a linen canvas, there is less “pressure” to create the perfect painting. If you make a mistake and ruin the canvas, you can just toss it away (you might want to jesso over and paint something else on it or at least save the stretcher bars).

Pre-stretched Versus Rolled Canvas
Buying pre-stretched canvas is a convenient way to get a good, prepared surface for your work. You can choose from a wide variety of standard sizes and there are different quality levels of the canvas and stretcher bars. The basic limitation is that it is very difficult to find a very large pre-stretched canvas or one that has a quirky, non-standard size. With rolled canvas, you can cut and stretch a canvas to any size you need. It is more economical to buy a roll of canvas and the stretcher bars than buying an equal quality pre-stretched canvas. You will however need to take extra time to stretch the canvas (which is a skill unto its own).

Stretched Canvas Comes in Many Varieties
Depending on your needs, there is a right type of stretched canvas for you. Students or beginning artists can buy a stretched canvas that is of good quality and not too expensive. Starting at just a few dollars for a small 8″ × 10″ canvas with a 1/2 to 3/4 inch profile, and going up gradually as the size increases, these are a good option for the budget conscious artist. Another type of canvas that is quite popular with artists is called Gallery Wrap. This canvas is distinguished from other types of canvas by its high profile and by being stapled on the back. With this design, an artist can paint both the front and sides of the canvas, making a modern look and also eliminating the need for a frame. Different quality linen and cotton, primed or unprimed and even oval shaped, stretched canvas appeals to a wide group of artists.

Buying Canvas
There are many outlets for buying canvas. Most retail arts and craft stores like Michaels or A.C. Moore have a decent supply of stretched canvas in popular sizes. You can often find certain sizes or certain brands on sale.
If you want access to a much broader supply, the way to go is to shop online. Several of the big online art supply stores include DickBlick.com, Jerrysartarama.com and Utrecht.com. All of these outlets have many excellent brands of stretched canvas and are also a good source for large rolls of unstretched canvas.

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