How to Choose the Right Canvas for Oil or Acrylic Paintings

A canvas is a medium destined to hold a painting, which means it’s very influential in the final outcome of the artwork. They have been used by master and novice painters alike for centuries, even as painting materials have advanced and evolved with their ability to hold and cure the paint material in place. They also provide outstanding longevity and feel smooth underneath the paintbrush. However, the types of canvasses have evolved with time too, and it is important to know which are best suited for oil paints, which others work well with acrylic. Before you make your purchase, be sure to consider these factors from The Picture Factory to ensure you select the right one for your painting.

Choosing the right canvas

The main things to consider when choosing a canvas are fabric material, texture, priming and stretched frame choices:

Fabric material

Linen and cotton are the two most common materials used for canvas fabric. Cotton is often viewed as a lower quality canvas fabric as it’s not as strong as linen, nor offers the same proof of longevity. It is more economical, however, and can allow you to test the waters without investing too much. Linen has longer fibres which makes it stronger and harder to tear, so thinner pieces can be used for the same strength capabilities as cotton. Because linen is so strong, it’s harder to stretch around frames and can be prone to rippling along the edges.


The texture of a canvas varies depending on how finely the material fibres are woven together. For some acrylic paintings, a rough texture doesn’t make much of a difference, or can even add to the overall result of the painting. Not all oil paintings are used for highly detailed paintings, but when they are, a finely woven canvas with smooth surfaces is important to help the details show. Oil paintings that favour large and broad-brush strokes are better suited to rougher canvases.


Priming is a process that seals the fabric of the canvas and creates an ideal surface that prevents the paint from being absorbed into the material. This means that a well-primed canvas will allow the painting to show its true colours, as it was applied by the artist. Canvasses are either primed for acrylic or oil paintings to limit the movement of the specific paint material, so ensure you select the primed canvas appropriate to your paint. However, priming isn’t always necessary; some artists harness non-primed canvas surfaces for the textured and dull effect they produce.

Stretched vs. loose canvasses

Stretching canvasses means the material is stretched over a wooden frame and stapled, to provide tension and a firm structure. Loose canvasses are prone to damage and don’t age well because of their lack of support. You can buy stretched canvasses or stretch them on your own over a quality frame, and they’re well suited to both acrylic and oil paintings, so this is the recommended choice to protect your work.

Discover More with The Picture Factory

Canvases can be found in various sizes, shapes and forms to match the design and budget needs of artists, designers and people wanting to add their own flair to their interior design. Whether you’re buying stretch canvas or stretching your own and adding it to a stretch canvas frame, The Picture Factory can assist. Contact us today to learn more by calling (03) 9459 1777.