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The Best Painting Canvas

Last updated on March 15, 2024

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Our Picks For The Top Painting Canvases

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Product Overview
Key Takeaway
 Best Overall

Zenacolor Pre-Coated Recycled Painting Canvas Set

Don't Waste Your Money Seal of Approval


Pre-Coated Recycled Painting Canvas Set

Not only are these painting canvas panels made from all-natural cotton, but their core is also constructed from recycled paper. The set works for a variety of projects, as it includes 28 panels in four different sizes. Thanks to the acid-free titanium gesso coating, you can be sure your paintings will last for years to come.

Overall Take

Eco-Friendly OptionThis painting canvas set is just as good for classroom use as it is personal use.

 Best Value

Horizon Group USA Primed Beginner Painting Canvas Set

Horizon Group USA

Primed Beginner Painting Canvas Set

Whether you're a student or someone who wants to dabble in the arts, this painting canvas set is an excellent buy. It includes a total of 12 canvas boards, each of which measures 8 inches by 10 inches. The boards are primed and ready for use with either acrylic or oil paints.

Overall Take

Affordable ChoiceYou'll find this painting canvas set has a budget-friendly price tag.

 We Also Like

PHOENIX Studio Pinewood Framed Painting Canvas, 8×10-Inch


Studio Pinewood Framed Painting Canvas, 8x10-Inch

This painting canvas set comes with ten canvases at a great value. This set is great for hosting painting parties where you want to have a small enough canvas to finish in one night.

Overall Take

Professional PickThis painting canvas is a great value for the number of canvases you get.

 Also Consider

Academy Art Supply Acrylic Painting Canvas, 8×10-Inch

Academy Art Supply

Acrylic Painting Canvas, 8x10-Inch

This painting canvas set is ready to paint on right out of the box. The ten canvases will be great for practicing your art or for handing out to students learning how to paint.

Overall Take

Pre-Primed PickThis painting canvas set is a good kit for supplying art students with a primed canvas.

Buying Guide

You’ve figured out what type of paint to try and the necessary brushes to go with it, now you’re narrowing down the last few items you need to begin your career as an aspiring painter and you realize there are a lot of canvases to choose from. The canvas you paint on can have a dramatic effect on the overall look and feel of your art, so you want to be sure to understand the differences in how the canvas works with your paints and technique.

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Painting canvases can be broken down into roughly three categories. There is a canvas that is stretched over a frame that is generally made from wood. This canvas will have edges that can also be painted or not painted, depending on the artist’s choice. Stretched canvases are good for most types of paints due to their construction. A majority of the fabric is free from obstruction with some canvases, which only have small portions of the edge of the canvas touching the wooden frame directly. This construction can be great for watercolors, as a solid panel will absorb the water and potentially warp as it dries. A piece of paper from an artist’s sketchbook will warp even worse as it curls up due to the moisture of the watercolors.

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These stretched blank canvases are lightweight and come in almost any size you could want. They are commonly purchased in their completed form, but there are plenty of resourceful artists out there who stretch their own canvases, according to Amy Markham, artist, art teacher and the creator of Starling, a podcast dedicated to helping artists develop depth in their creative practice.

“If you are buying [canvas] in rolls you are probably an experienced artist who likes to make your own frames or mount the canvas to panels yourself,” says Markham.

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Another popular canvas style is panel canvases. Panel canvases are formed around a rigid piece of wood or industrial paneling that creates a solid backing for the canvas itself. The result is a canvas that is maybe a quarter of an inch thick, which is much less space-consuming than stretched canvases. Panel canvases are easier to store before use due to their thin stature. For example, a set of 28 panels will consume the same amount of space as maybe four or five stretched canvas panels. This space-saving does come at a small cost, though, as they are constructed in a way that makes their longevity questionable.

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“If you are choosing a panel canvas, know that these are often less archival than a stretched canvas. This is due to the adhesive used to attach the canvas to whatever surface, the canvas is mounted to,” Markham said. “Whether the backing is wood, foam board or cardboard, canvas panels can break down over time. However, some artists will prefer the rigidity of a panel over the give or bounce of a stretched canvas and there are high-end panels available that use the most archival adhesives and methods available.”

The last of the popular canvases is not really a canvas, but rather a piece of thick paper as found in many artist sketchbooks. These are typically bound in a book by hefty metal rings and can be a great product to begin working with.

“Using a spiral-bound canvas sketchbook is great for students and can be mounted after the work is complete,” says Markam.

An added benefit of the sketchbook is that each page comes at a fairly low cost, so repetitious practice sessions won’t be too much of a drain on your art-supply budget. When looking at sketchbooks, the thickness of the paper is very important. Whether you plan to work with acrylics, oils or watercolors, you should read the ratings that are posted on the front of each sketchbook. A thin page will not stand up to watercolor paints and might even warp with heavy applications of acrylics, so save yourself the future headache and make sure you purchase the appropriate page for your paint.

Canvases and panels often come primed and ready to use. A set of canvases like the Academy Art Supply 8×10 Stretched Canvas is great for a beginner who wants to get to the fun part of the painting and not wait for a primer coat to dry first. If you do find canvases that are not primed already, you will want to apply a proper primer to them or they will soak up your paints in a way that can easily ruin your attempt at art.

The last major decision you might consider before purchasing any canvases is how big they should be. It’s quicker and often easier to paint on a small canvas since you can start and finish an entire painting in one session. A larger canvas will usually take more time and turn into a bigger project that could take a few different sessions to complete. Luckily there are products like PHOENIX Pre Stretched Canvas that offer more than a dozen sizing options for standard stretched canvases, so you can be sure to find the appropriate size for your project.

Our Expert Consultant

Amy Markham  
Artist and art educator

Artist and educator Amy Markham is the creator of Starling, a podcast dedicated to helping artists develop depth in their creative practice. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Amy has been an art educator since 2001. Today, she teaches middle school art at a school outside of Memphis, Tennessee. Her personal artwork explores myth-making and symbolic understandings. Through her brand, Starling Creative Living, she leads others to explore art production as a method for enriching their life experience.

What to Look For

  • Wooden shims are commonly included in sets of stretched canvases. These shims actually have a brilliant application in that they can be driven into the corners of the wooden frame to stretch a canvas.

“Some stretched canvases will come with small wood shims, called canvas keys, and many people do not know what these are for,” says Markham. “They are meant to be placed in the corners of the frame into slots if there is any sagging in the canvas or to tighten up the frame.”

  • If you’re looking to dabble in the trend of Plein air painting, panel canvases are the perfect product to start with. They are thin enough to slide into your Plein air kit without taking up all the interior space and they are lightweight and firm so handling them is a breeze when you’re outdoors soaking in nature’s beauty while loading up that canvas with paint.
  • Use a canvas that is already primed and you can save yourself the entire step of having to prime your new canvas before painting it. If you are hosting a painting party, the last thing you want is for all your guests to wait on standby because the canvases weren’t primed when they got there.

More to Explore

Cotton is the most common material used in canvases today, but this is a relatively modern development.

“Classically, hemp and linen were used to make canvases for paintings,” says Markham. “And while there are artists that use these materials today, most of the canvases you will find at your local art supply store will be cotton.”

Cotton is strong and economical, so it makes sense that we would use this over the more expensive and less durable predecessors. Think of all the cotton-based things that you could paint!

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