Canvas Painting

Canvas Painting


Canvas painting is a type of painting, in which an artist paints directly onto the canvas. The colours used are either acrylic paints or oil paints.  

Difference between Canvas painting and canvas prints: 

Many people get confused between canvas painting and canvas printing. This is probably because both are similar-sounding terms and appear the same visually. The single biggest difference between the two is that canvas paintings are painted by a person straight onto the canvas, whereas canvas prints are the printed reproductions of existing photographs or paintings. 

File:The figure of a slave - Painting on canvas - February 2020 -  Belgium.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

What paints are used on canvas? 

There are several types of paints that can be used on canvas. However, the two types of paints that are most popular on canvas are oil paints and acrylic paints. There are several brands of oil and acrylic paints available in the market to choose from. The main differences between these two types of paints are as follows: 

  • While acrylic paints dry quickly and are quite easy to work, oil paints take more time to dry. 
  • The oil paints contain more pigment; hence they give the painting a richer and more vivid look. On the other hand, acrylic colours tend to become a bit dark, as they dry. As a result, the final colour may vary a bit from the original colour given while painting. 
  • Due to longer drying time, oil paints provide artists with greater flexibility due to a longer drying time. Sometimes, oil paints may take up to a year to dry. So, the artist can make changes. However, since the acrylic paints dry quickly, the artist has to be very sure of his/her strokes.  
  • This is the biggest benefit of oil paints is that blending is very easy. But, with acrylic paints, blending is not as easy due to the quick drying times. 
  • Oil paints are more difficult to clean and control as compared to acrylic paints. Oil paints can become very messy as well. 
  • The oil paints give a slightly glossy and refined look; whereas the acrylic paints provide a matte finish.

For beginners, a better way to start is with acrylic paints, as they are easier to work with. Working with oil paints can be very messy, as these paints are harder to clean.

Which canvas is best for beginners?

Earlier oil paintings were done on specially prepared wooden panels. Though they offered a great rigid surface to paint but were heavy and prone to environmental conditions. When lightweight stretched canvases came into the picture, they became quite popular.  

Canvas is a very versatile painting surface and comes in a variety of materials, sizes, and shapes to fit every need and every budget. The different types of canvasses are as follows:  

  1. Stretched canvas: In this popular type of canvas, the canvas is stretched over wooden stretcher bars. Mostly made out of cotton, this canvas is quite suitable for painting with acrylic paints.
  2. Canvas Panels: For beginners, canvas panels offer better quality and are more affordable. Commonly made from primed cotton, and mounted onto a rigid board, these panels are lightweight and hence easy to carry. Though these canvas panels offer a similar quality surface compared to stretched canvas, they don’t age as well. All these things make canvas panels suitable for beginners.
  3. Canvas Pads: Another type of canvas, which comes in the form of a spiral-bound book, is called Canvas pads. These sheets can be mounted on a panel, but they don’t last as long as stretched canvas. Canvas pads are ideal for beginners or just for practice.
  4. Canvas Rolls: For painters, who like to prepare their size of the canvas, the best option is canvas rolls made up of cotton or linen. They come in various weights, fibres, and textures. They’re usually sold in rolls measured in yards, which make it quite expensive.

How to choose a canvas? 

While choosing a canvas for painting, it is important to consider the parameters which affect the quality of canvas, and hence the quality of the painting. The three major parameters to consider are - fabric, texture, and priming. 

  • Fabric: Linen and Cotton are the two most commonly used fabrics. Though linen offers better quality and is more durable, but is more expensive. Cotton, on the other hand, offers a more affordable option with decent surface quality. 
  • Texture: Canvases are made out of natural fibres, which are woven together. The quality of the weaving determines the texture of the screen. For different types of painting, different textures are preferred. For smaller, detailed paintings, a smooth surface is preferred, while for broad brush strokes and large paintings, canvas with rough texture is a better option.  
  • Priming: To produce a painting, which shows the true colours, most canvases are treated with a mixture of plaster of Paris, glue, chalk, or pigment. This process is called priming. Priming prevents the paint from getting absorbed into the fabric of the canvas. However, for dull and textured paint, some artists prefer an unprimed canvas.  

What are the types of canvas painting? 

Various artists prefer to work with different types of paint. Each type of paint requires a specific coating. This determines the type of painting. While painting on an oil canvas is done using oil paints, painting of absorbent canvases is done using tempera. And then there are universal canvases, which are suitable for both oil paints and acrylic paints.