Stretched Canvas

Most people nowadays choose to buy canvases already stretched on timber stretchers, pre-primed and ready for painting.

We recommend all such canvases be dusted and cleaned before use.

Some important facts:

  • Almost all supports for the canvas are timber.
  • Timber is a natural product and has some inherent instability, worsening in areas of changing temperature and humidity.
  • The thinner and longer the length of timber, the greater the likelihood of warping or bending.
  • Lighter timber used in the frame makes the canvas more affordable and lighter to handle. 
  • Almost no manufacturer guarantees against warping. (Fredrix have an expensive range called "Heavy Duty" which they guarantee).
  • Most canvases are mounted onto interlocking ("European") mitred stretchers with wedges provided for re-expanding. Some brands (not currently stocked by Art Shed) are mounted on strainers (like picture frames, not able to be re-stretched)
  • Only stainless steel, or galvanized wire staples or nails should be used for fixing the cloth to the timber.
  • Less expensive or student grade stretched canvas may have ‘cut corners' for ease of manufacture. ‘Folded corners' are considered better but slightly dearer.
  • Side stapling is fine for works intended to go into frames (staples will then be hidden). Otherwise rear stapled canvases are best. Double rows of staples are provided on some canvases. This is preferred since there is less likelihood of tearing.

Not too long ago, the purchase of a pre-stretched canvas meant considerable expense. Since most if not all major European (e.g. Winsor & Newton) and Australian companies have moved much of the production of their products to China and other developing nations, there has been a period of greater affordability for these items.

Which One?

We recommend that people choose their artist canvas with a number of factors in mind:

  • Choose the best artist canvas you can comfortably afford.
  • Dearer, heavier, acid free, unbleached, "loom state" or linen usually implies better quality.
  • "Student grade" usually means it is made for beginners or students, and that the permanence is probably less than that of items labelled "artist quality", "professional", "gallery" or "museum". It does not mean that worthwhile artworks cannot be made on these canvases.
  • If you are just beginning your journey in art, don't be afraid to use less expensive gear until you have found your way (or your way has found you).
  • Understand that the cost of your materials might inhibit your freedom to express your creativity (ever get nervous about ruining an expensive canvas? This is something you cannot afford!)
  • As a beginner, purchase the occasional "higher end" product and judge the differences for yourself. We suggest just a few at a time, so that you can really get to know the qualities of each.
  • Its better to be able to create freely on affordable gear than allow the cost of high-end materials to prohibit you from ever creating at all.
  • If you intend to sell your works at high prices or if you are labelling your works as archival, you have a responsibility to use high quality, acid free and archival materials wherever possible.
  • Be wary of experts pushing you too hard in either direction. Especially those who might profit from their advice.

At Art Shed, we are committed to spreading the fun. We love the idea that people everywhere and in all walks of life, can experience joy and wellbeing from making art. We're all hooked!

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