Skip to Content

How Pro Artists Choose the Best Canvas for Acrylic Painting

How Pro Artists Choose the Best Canvas for Acrylic Painting

Do you want to know how pro artists can choose the best canvas for acrylic painting? Canvas provides great support for painting especially if you want to create permanent artwork. Artists love to paint on canvas due to its longevity and the nice receptivity to the brush.

There are different types of canvas available for acrylic paintings, so you must choose the right one to create a successful piece of art. Getting the right tools for drawing or painting might be challenging, so this post highlights such types of canvases so you can choose the best one for acrylic painting.

Are you ready? Let’s take a start now!

canvas for acrylic painting

Types of Canvases

Beginners and professionals artists and painters have been using canvas for acrylic paintings for hundreds of years. It is a great coated, or primed painting surface usually made up of cotton fabric. It can be stretched, framed, or available in rolls, panels, stretcher bars, hence giving a 3D effect to a painting surface. You can use a canvas, no matter if you are creating a small acrylic painting or a large expansive artwork.

Canvas usually consists of polyester, linen fabric, or primed or unprimed cotton. Most artists prefer to use a primed canvas that is coated with gesso. Gesso is a great surface coating that can make your canvas ready for painting. It actually makes the paint absorb on the surface. It is usually white in color, but most artists prefer black gesso. 

Whatever the type of canvas you choose, make sure that it lasts for a long time. Why? Because if you invest several hours into making something creative, it should last for a long time. And it is possible only if you choose a permanent canvas. If you paint on a crappy canvas that may turn into a pile of dust in a short span of time, it is just like you are building a house on toothpicks!

Firstly, let’s get to know how many styles you can purchase canvas:

Stretched Canvas

canvas for acrylic painting - stretched canvas

Stretched canvas is one of the most common forms of canvas that is stretched over a stretcher bar and then stapled on the back. Gesso which is an amazing art material to make your canvas ready for painting is usually used to prime the canvas. Hence a surface is created that absorbs acrylic paint easily. This type of canvas is perfect for beginner or professional artists alike.

To make the colors of the paint appear bright, I always recommend going for a pre-stretched canvas that is already primed as it works great for all types of art projects.

Stretched canvases can be found in different sizes, weights, and shapes (including rectangle, square, round, and oval). Available at an economical price, this type of canvas can stand up to aggressive painting techniques. It must be well-made, durable, and firm so it can last for a long time.

Stretch Canvas with Gesso vs Ready-Made Canvas

Although you can stretch and prime a canvas with gesso, it is always recommended to choose a ready-made canvas, especially for beginners as you can start painting on them right away when you want. Such canvases are available in different thickness levels; for example, the traditional canvases come with thinner stretcher bars while the deep canvases have thicker stretcher bars. Traditional canvases work well if you want to frame your painting and hang it on the wall. On the other hand, deep canvases are a good option for frameless presentations.

Note: If you buy a pre-primed canvas, try to coat it with gesso so that paints can be absorbed nicely. 

To create a detailed painting or if you want a smooth surface, you can add more gesso to your canvas. There are many stretched canvases available in the market. If you are looking for the best-stretched canvas for acrylic painting, you can consider the following list of stretched canvases:

  • Masterpiece Artfix Acrylic Primed Linen Canvas
  • Fredrix Pro Series Belgian Linen Canvas
  • Masterpiece Sausalito Cotton Canvas
  • Masterpiece Elite Cotton Canvas

Canvas Panels

canvas panel

Another most common form of the canvas is canvas panel. The painting surfaces in which the primed canvas fabric is folded on a rigid board are known as the canvas panels. Made up of wood or heavy-duty cardboard, the canvas panels are the perfect option, especially if you are a beginner artist who cannot afford to purchase stretched canvas for acrylic painting. However, most canvas panels come with a layer of gesso on them which makes it perfect for professional artists.

Available in different textures and colors, the canvas panels usually come in affordable packs (they are, in fact, cheaper than stretched canvas) and are perfect for all types of art projects. You can find canvas panels in different shapes, including round, square, rectangle, oval, etc.

Canvas panels are usually thinner than the stretched canvases. Made up of cotton or linen, the canvas panels are compact and light in weight, hence suitable if you want to take them with you while traveling. Plus, they should be framed before hanging.

The only negative point of canvas panels is that they are not permanent. They can degrade with the passage of time so you cannot use the canvas panels for professional paintings. They are suitable for experimentation as well as acrylic painting practicing techniques.

Canvas Rolls

canvas rolls

Canvas rolls are available in customized sizes and are one of the inexpensive ways to get a painting surface. If you want to prepare your art materials from scratch, you can stretch your canvas. Moreover, if you want to create a large painting, stretching is also a good option at that time. But do keep in mind that this requires a lot of practice and knowledge. 

Artists can buy canvas (whether it is primed with gesso or unprimed) in the form of a roll known as canvas rolls. Canvas rolls come in several sizes and styles to meet all your artistic needs. Made up of linen or cotton, the canvas rolls are available in different weights, fibers, and textures – all providing a consistent painting surface. They are perfect for painting with acrylics. The whole roll of canvas can be costly. Be very careful while purchasing it.

A few best canvas rolls are available in the market from popular brands that you can choose, keeping in view your artistic skills.

Canvas Pads

canvas pad

Do you want to improve your acrylic painting techniques? Why not try canvas pads? Apart from canvas panels, the canvas pads also work great if you are a beginner and want to practice several acrylic painting techniques. They usually contain primed canvas sheets that can be mounted or stretched. However, some pads have canvas paper. The canvas paper is usually heavy but has the same level of texture as that of the canvas sheets. 

Canvas pads are less expensive, come in different sizes, and do not last for a long time. So, if you are trying to hone your artistic skills where permanency of the canvas is not important, you can go for canvas pads.

Cotton Canvas

As the name implies, the canvas that is made up of thick, strong cotton fabric is known as the cotton canvas. It is a modern form of canvas and has a parallel diagonal texture on one side and a smooth weave on the other side. 

The cotton canvas is soft, durable, firm, and has a medium weight. It is resistant to wrinkles, as well. The cotton canvas cloth can be bleached or unbleached. This type of canvas is used by a large number of artists as a painting surface.

Should You Prime Your Acrylic Paintings?

acrylic painting primer

Now the question that arises here is, do you need to prime your acrylic paintings? The answer is it depends on the canvas. To get a smooth surface of canvas or make the colors of your acrylic paints stand out, it is very important to prime your canvas.

Yeah, folks, you heard me right! Most stretched canvases are pre-primed or come with gesso (a bright white coating on the canvas), so you do not need to apply more gesso unless you want to change the texture of the canvas. However, there are some canvases that are not primed. For them, you need to prime them or apply gesso first!

After stretching the canvas, it is time to prime it. Priming a canvas is very easy; all you need to have is a high-quality acrylic gesso, canvas, water, sponge, brush, paper towel, plastic container, and stirrer.

Whether you have just entered the field of acrylic painting or you are a pro in painting, it is very important to prime your acrylic paintings. It can not only make the canvas less absorbent but may also provide support to it. Giving a smooth texture to a canvas, priming may also let the brush easily move on the surface.

Now you must be thinking about how you can get to know whether the canvas you are going to buy is primed or not. For this, you need to look at the label of the canvas. If it is written acrylic gesso primed, it means that the canvas manufacturer has already applied gesso on it, so you do not need to prime it.

Note: If you want to get a different level of smoothness or try painting on different texture surfaces, you can also apply gesso on a pre-primed canvas!

Choosing a Canvas for Acrylic Painting

There are a few points that the pro artists consider while choosing a canvas for acrylic painting. These may include texture, priming, and fabric of the canvas.

The first and foremost factor is to determine your art needs. It means that you need to know what sort of painting you are creating and for what purpose. For example, if you are creating a painting to give to someone or if you want to showcase your painting in an art gallery or show, go for a smooth yet expensive canvas. 

On the other hand, if you have just entered the field of acrylic painting and you need something to practice your skills, a cheaper canvas would work well.

Examine the coats of acrylic primer on the canvas. There must be at least two layers of priming. If there are more layers, it is better!

Always check the quality of the canvas and look for imperfections that may be difficult to cover.

As the stretcher bars are used to support the canvas, they must be strong enough to hold the canvas.

Another important factor that you must get into notice while buying a canvas for acrylic painting is its price. To determine if you are good at acrylic painting or not, never opt for an expensive canvas. However, once you have practiced your skills, you can choose an expensive yet good-quality canvas.

All the factors mentioned above greatly impact what kind of artwork you are going to create or what the quality of the canvas is.


So, these are the most common types of canvas for acrylic painting. Canvas is great support for painting and is an ideal choice for beginner and professional artists, especially for acrylic paintings. It can not only be used to create permanent artwork, but it is light in weight and hence easier to transport as well.

There are many forms in which a canvas is available, including stretched canvas, canvas rolls, canvas panels, and canvas pads. Plus, you can find it in different sizes and shapes. After reading this post, I hope that now you have a clear idea of the major forms of canvases and how pro artists select the best canvas for acrylic painting.

Canvases are available in different stores, and you can find great deals on them. So, do not wait anymore and choose a canvas that is not only good for your art but is budget-friendly as well.

Other Painting Topics That May Help