Canvas Supports for Art
Fabric supports for painting have been used in one form or another for centuries. They are lightweight, convenient, and easily transportable. They also easily enable the creation of large scale works.
“Canvas” is a catch-all description that covers cloth woven from many possible materials and fibres. Most common for artistic use are cotton, linen, polyester, and sometimes, jute. A canvas can also be a blend of more than one fibre.
The strength and longevity of a canvas support is determined by the type and quality of the material, the thickness of the thread, and the tightness of the weave. Generally speaking, the longer and stronger the fibre, the stronger and more durable the canvas. A strong fabric resistant to changes in relative humidity is desirable as a constantly moving support can have an undesirable effect on films of paint.
- Cotton – by far the most common fabric support for artistic use in modern times. Characterised by a creamy colour with black flecks, if the cotton is too uniform in colour (cream all over with no black flecks), or is bright white it has probably been dyed, bleached, or both, which will reduce its strength. The use of cotton was rare before the late 19th century as other fibres far surpass it in length and strength. Cotton became popular due to its low cost compared to other fibres such as linen. The fibre is flat and lends itself to finer weaves. The average cotton fibre length is roughly 2-3cm.
- Linen – longer and much stronger fibre than cotton, typically 25-75cm in length. Normally a grey/brown colour but can vary. Fibres are round, which imparts what is generally considered a better aesthetic to the woven fabric.
- Polyester – woven polyester is very strong and dimensionally stable. It is affected much less by changes in relative humidity than natural fibres. There are fewer problems related to expansion and contraction (sagging and deformation).
- Blended materials – generally best avoided. Fabrics with warp threads of a different material than the weft (one cotton and one polyester is most common). Warp and weft made from different materials react differently to changes in relative humidity creating an unstable support and extra strain on the paint film.
Canvas, especially those made from natural fibres, should be stretched taut over a stretcher frame or adhered to a rigid panel before use.
At Artsupplies.co.nz we have access to a very wide range of canvas products. For advice on the right one for you please enquire at email@example.com.