How to choose your canvas - understanding the difference between types of canvas

Author: Dana McGorlick-Appelman  Date Posted:11 November 2020 

Our beginner friendly guide to choosing and looking after your canvas, so you can start creating your very own masterpiece. With an extensive range of shapes, sizes and styles, it can be difficult to decide which Canvas is best for you. Keep reading for our beginner friendly guide to choosing and looking after your canvas, so you can start creating your very own masterpiece.

Canvas is a durable and stable surface to paint on that has been used by artists for Centuries, after becoming popularised during the Renaissance period. Many iconic artists have brought their vision to life on canvas, creating incredible, magnetic pieces.

From acrylic painting, oil painting, pigments and acrylic inks, to exploring and experimenting with impasto techniques, collage and expressionist works, a canvas offers the perfect base to create to your heart's content!

Only in recent years have stretched canvases become readily available, with many artists prior to its accessibility using cardboard, timber or Masonite as a support, which lack the quality and flexibility of canvas. 

With an extensive range of shapes, sizes and styles, it can be difficult to decide which Canvas is best for you. Keep reading for our beginner friendly guide to choosing and looking after your canvas, so you can start creating your very own masterpiece.

 

  Studio Vs Professional Canvas 

Mont Marte makes fantastic canvases that come in a Signature/Studio range and the Premium/Professional range. The Signature/studio range is perfect for students and beginners, or those after a budget friendly option. The Premium/Professional range is a great option for artists or those after a higher quality canvas. Both the studio and professional range comes in a Single or Double Thick profile which will determine how far the canvas sticks out from the wall when hung. The single thick will sit more flush/ closer to the wall, while the double thick has a far more distinct and bold presence and appears to “jump out” from the environment with its thicker sides. 

The major difference between the Signature/Studio and the Premium/Professional range is in the Canvas itself. Measured in ‘Grams per Square Meter,’ the thicker the canvas, the stronger and more durable it will be, allowing for heavy technique applications. The thicker canvas also reduces the likelihood of sagging of the canvas. The Signature/Studio range has a 280gsm Cotton Duck Canvas, whereas the Premium/Professional range has 380gsm Cotton Duck Canvas (Think of it like choosing new bedsheets- the higher the density of the weave, the better).

 

Frame 

The wood used for the frame of the canvas (or “stretcher bars”) has a stronger, denser consistency in the Premium/Professional range when compared to the Signature/Studio range. Generally, stretcher bars are made using timber such as pine which is dried out multiple times in large kilns to reduce the likelihood of the timber bowing. This stronger and denser wood adds some weight to the canvas, and it also means that it is less likely to warp if exposed to moisture, sunlight, or temperature fluctuations. Warping is ultimately inevitable when working with wooden stretcher bars- this is a natural characteristic of wood, but having a thicker frame, means less chance of this happening within your lifetime! Smaller scale canvases are also less likely to warp, so for larger canvases of 60cm and over, we recommend choosing a double thick canvas to reduce the chances of warping and maximise the longevity of your artwork.

Another key feature of the Mont Marte Canvas frames is the finger joints that are used to piece together the wood frame. Rather than using one long piece of wood to construct a frame, Mont Marte pieces together strips of wood to reduce bowing and warping and create a more stable frame.

 

Staples

Another main difference between the Signature/Studio range and the Premium/Professional range canvases lies in the staples. The Signature range is single stapled, while the Premium range is double stapled for extra strength, meaning the canvas remains tight and sturdy. 

Cotton Vs Linen

When it comes to choosing a cotton vs a linen canvas, there are a number of factors to take into consideration. 

Cotton is a rather absorbent, cheaper alternative to linen, and has a rougher texture. Linen is by comparison, a more traditional surface, that is flexible, less absorbent, has a lovely fine texture, and is often used by Professional Artists. These textural differences definitely show when applying paint to canvas. Cotton will absorb a decent amount of paint with the first few layers, while linen offers a smooth surface from the get go, allowing paint to glide beautifully and seamlessly. To achieve a smooth linen like surface when using a cotton canvas, a layer or two of gesso on cotton before applying your paint will help reduce the canvas’s absorption. The same can be said when working with the Mont Marte Signature/Studio Range. A few initial coats of gesso will help create a similar surface to a Premium/Professional Range canvas.