Artists use canvas for various mediums such as acrylics, oils, and mixed media. It provides the perfect surface for painting. But in respect of art, what is canvas and how is it made?
Canvas is typically made from cotton, linen, or synthetic fibres. Cotton and linen are the favourites for traditional canvases. Cotton canvas is less expensive, while linen canvas is more expensive, but it is more durable and has a smoother surface that some artists prefer. Synthetic fibres like polyester, are a cheaper and more lightweight option.
For natural fibres like cotton or linen, the fibres are harvested from the plant and processed to remove impurities. The fibres are then spun into threads or yarns. The threads are woven together to create the canvas fabric and there are different weaving patterns, including plain weave (most common) and twill weave, which result in varying textures and properties of the canvas. The raw canvas is then usually coated with a primer to prepare it for painting. The primer fills in the tiny gaps between the threads, creating a smooth and stable surface for paint to adhere to.
The primed canvas is then stretched over a wooden frame, creating a taut and even surface. The canvas is attached to the frame using staples or tacks, and the excess fabric is often folded over the edges or trimmed off. Some artists prefer to add additional layers of primer or gesso to achieve specific effects or enhance the canvas’s properties.
For more information on stretching canvases, take a look at our article How to stretch a canvas like a professional