Canvas vs. Vinyl Tarps

Selecting the right tarp is not as easy as it may seem. There are many different options to choose from, which makes finding the right one much more challenging. It’s best to narrow down your options by choosing the tarp material first. Two of the most popular tarp materials are canvas and vinyl. Canvas is a natural material made out of 100% cotton, whereas vinyl is a synthetic plastic. Which is the right material for your needs? Take a look at these pros and cons of each material before making this decision:

The Look and Feel

The most obvious difference between canvas and vinyl tarps is the look and feel of each material. Canvas is known as a more rugged and natural material, so it has a coarse texture and matte appearance. On the other hand, the surface of vinyl is slightly glossy, so it has a bit of shine. Vinyl has a rubber-like texture, making it much smoother than canvas.

The Durability

Another important factor to consider when choosing a tarp is the material’s durability. Both canvas and tarp are heavy duty, durable materials that are designed to withstand wear and tear. However, the durability of canvas cannot compare to the unparalleled durability of vinyl. Vinyl tarps tend to last longer than other tarps because they are difficult to damage, so keep this in mind when making your decision.

Resistance to Environmental Elements

Tarps may be exposed to a number of environmental elements, including heat, water, and wind. For this reason, it is important to know how well the tarp will hold up when exposed to these elements.

All vinyl is waterproof whereas treated canvas tarps are water resistant. These two terms may seem similar, but they are actually very different. Waterproof means that the material is not affected or damaged in any way when exposed to water. This means there’s no need to panic if a vinyl tarp is accidentally exposed to water. However, the term water resistant means that the material can prevent the penetration of water to some degree. A little bit of rainwater or a splash of water may not damage a canvas tarp, however if water is left on top of the tarp, it will eventually seep through and cause damage. Therefore, it is best to choose a vinyl tarp if it will be exposed to water.

Vinyl is also more resistant to mold and mildew growth than canvas. Mold and mildew grow in warm, damp environments. It can be very difficult to get rid of mold and mildew once it starts to grow, so it’s best to prevent the growth altogether. But, prevention is hard when you are working with a canvas tarp. This is true regardless of whether or not the canvas tarp is treated to slow down or prevent the growth of mold and mildew. For this reason, a vinyl tarp is the best choice for people who plan on working in environments where mold or mildew growth is a real possibility.

Canvas is a breathable fabric, whereas vinyl is not. As a result, a canvas tarp will not trap as much heat from the sun as a vinyl tarp will. However, vinyl tarps are typically treated with a solution that protects the material from damaging UV rays. Heat should not negatively affect either one of these tarps, but if you want extra protection from UV rays, vinyl is the best choice. Vinyl can also withstand extremely cold temperatures, making it ideal for all environments.

Vinyl tarps are often used as truck and trailer covers because of their high resistance to wind. This material is flame retardant as well, so it is highly resistant to fire. These are two more examples of the many environmental elements that will not severely damage vinyl tarps.

The Price

Price is another factor to take into consideration when choosing between a vinyl and canvas tarp. Prices can vary depending on the size and quality of the tarp, but in general, vinyl is more expensive per foot than canvas. Vinyl is actually one of the most expensive tarp materials. However, it’s important to think about the price in relation to the lifespan of the material. Many people are willing to pay extra for vinyl because of its durability and resistance to environmental elements.

The Impact on the Environment

Living a green lifestyle is important to a lot of people, so many customers are eager to find out which material has a lesser impact on the environment. Canvas is much more environmentally friendly than vinyl. A lot of pollution is released into the atmosphere during the creation of vinyl, but the same cannot be said for the production of canvas.

Vinyl is recyclable, but many recycling facilities will not accept this material because they do not have the equipment to process it. Finding a facility that processes vinyl is challenging, so this material often ends up in landfills. However, canvas is a cotton material that is easy to recycle and widely accepted at recycling centers across the country. Plus, cotton is a natural fiber that is completely biodegradable, so it will break down naturally even if it is accidentally sent to a landfill instead of a recycling center. If you’re concerned about choosing an eco-friendly tarp material, canvas is the clear winner in this category.

Are you ready to choose the perfect canvas or vinyl tarp? Chicago Canvas & Supply is your leading source for textiles, theatre fabrics, tarps, dropcloths, and more. Tell us what you’re looking for so we can help you choose the right products for your needs. For more information, or to request free material samples, contact us today by calling 1-866-389-2218 or emailing email@chicagocanvas.com.

DIY – How to Prepare a Canvas

Whether you’re trying out a new hobby or are looking to delve into professional artistry, you should know how to prepare a canvas. See all the tips you’ll need below.

Canvas Prep

Is it important to prime a canvas before painting acrylics?

Even if you buy primed canvas vs. unprimed canvas, most artists still like to prime their surface with gesso before applying any type of paint.

What is gesso?

Pronounced as “jess-o”, this primer is painted over canvas before actual paint is applied.

Why do you put gesso on a canvas?

The most common type of gesso looks just like white paint (but can also come in clear, black and other colors); it has a binding agent in it that protects the canvas and makes paint application smoother. Without it, your initial paint layer will bleed into the weave of the canvas, meaning you’ll use up a lot of paint making layer over layer until your lines are clean and colors are vibrant. Canvas can also deteriorate over time when certain mediums, like oil paints, are applied; gesso helps prevent that from happening.

How do you apply gesso to a canvas?

There are different kinds of gesso that are best suited for various types of acrylic and oil paints. No matter what type of gesso you use, you will apply it evenly with a large brush or sponge, let it dry, and then repeat 2-3 times. In case your gesso doesn’t dry smooth (and that’s the intended texture you’re going for), carefully sand it down to the desired level bit by bit, while being careful not to over-sand and damage the canvas.

How to Stretch Canvas

For professional painters or artists who paint often, it’s more affordable to buy materials in bulk and stretch it to size by hand, instead of purchasing pre-stretched canvases. Note that it’s difficult to stretch primed canvas, so it’s recommended to use unprimed canvas then coat with gesso before using.

To stretch your own artist canvas, you’ll need:

  • A large, clean surface to cut your canvas to rough size
  • Unprimed canvas
  • 4 stretcher bars (2 pairs of equal length; You can make your own stretchers  or buy them from a craft store)
  • Fabric scissors to cut canvas to size
  • Staple gun with stapes
  • Canvas pliers
  • Tape measure
  • T-square

To see each step, check out the excellent video tutorial by John Peters on the right-hand side of the page. →

Have any expert tips to add? Leave your comments below! Let’s learn and grow our skills together.

Get Canvas in Multiple Colors and Sizes

GG Knows – A Dictionary of Textile Terms

Meet GG, one of the beloved founders of Chicago Canvas & Supply. Although she’s no longer with us, her vast knowledge of industry terminology lives on in this textile dictionary! Each month, we’ll pull from GG’s personal collection of terms—don’t miss out by subscribing to our blog over on the right-hand side of this webpage.

Ready to learn something new? Let’s get started!
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How to Choose Your Portrait Background

When we think of good photographs, we usually defer to the lighting, shadows, the emotion it evokes, and so on. But the background of your photo is what pulls everything together, with the ability to enhance or detract from some of your photos best qualities. To find out which fabrics to consider for portrait backgrounds, keep reading.

What to Consider Before Choosing a Photography Backdrop

The background of your portrait or studio photo helps draw attention to the subject. That being said, a backdrop can really make or break a photo. When it comes to choosing the best portrait background for your shoot, here are a few things to consider:

  • Fabric size and weight: Something that’s too heavy or bulky isn’t ideal. What’s going to be easy to carry around?
  • Location: Your fabric size and weight must accommodate your location. Will you be inside or outside? How much room will you have? Will it be windy? Will there be humidity? All of this may have an effect on your fabric.
  • Your subject: Are you shooting a person, or an object? Product photography requires clean backgrounds. You can get more creative with texture if your subject is a person. When shooting people, your background works to add emotion and context to what you’re trying to convey.
  • Color and texture: Remember to emphasize, not draw attention away from, the subject. Your fabric’s color and texture will help create the look and feel you want for your photo shoot.
  • Lighting: Your lighting technique will vary between dark and light backgrounds. Understand your fabric’s light reflecting qualities beforehand!
  • Budget: Are you looking for a short-term fix or a long-term reusable solution?

 

Muslin Backdrop

Muslin is a finely-woven cotton fabric with multiple uses. Used heavily within photography and set design, muslin is a favorite among creatives for its versatility, light weight and flat, “clothy” effect and feel. The durability of the fabric helps too (it won’t rip like vinyl or paper).  Muslin can be hung as a solid backdrop, or easily draped over chairs or other items.

 Why Muslin?

  • Non-reflective cotton absorbs light
  • Light weight; portable and compact
  • Durable and reusable
  • Washable; can be steamed and ironed
  • Versatile; different styles and colors
  • Less expensive than canvas

Canvas Backdrop

Some photographers want a heavier background, in which case canvas would be a good choice. Canvas backdrops provide a high-quality look for clients. However, if your project has tight budget or weight/portability restrictions, we would recommend muslin, vinyl or paper instead.

Why Canvas?

  • Professional look
  • Compact
  • Durable and reusable
  • Doesn’t wrinkle like muslin
  • Versatile; different styles and colors

Two Backdrops for the Price of One

Tips on Creating a Stage Flat

Stage and set design is an art form. Whether it’s for a professional Broadway show, or your local high school production, it’s the job of the set design team to find a way to transport you from the stage to another land. The tricky part is creating scenery that captures your imagination and can also be moved easily and quickly—this is where stage flats (or theatre flat) comes into play. Read more

Understanding Cotton Duck Classifications

What is Cotton Duck?

Cotton duck is a handy and versatile woven cotton canvas fabric. Also known as duck cloth, duck canvas, or natural canvas, cotton duck is known for its durability and has historically been used for a diverse range of heavy-duty applications, including boat sails and work clothing.  With a variety of types available, it can be confusing to determine which type of cotton duck canvas to use. Read more

FR vs. IFR for Stage Curtain Fabric

What Is The Difference Between Flame Retardant And Inherently Flame Retardant Theatre Fabric?

Fabrics are an important element in theatre and arts. However, determining the proper type of fabric can sometimes be challenging, especially when it comes to differentiating between Flame Retardant and Inherently Flame Retardant.  While they only differ by a few letters, there is a definite difference between the two.

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Comparing Fabrics for Theater Curtains

Guide to Selecting the Ideal Fabric Type for your Theater Curtains

Let me set the stage for you. Big production coming up and your job is to buy the fabric to make theater curtains. You are clicking from site to site, trying to figure out which fabric is going to be best-suited.  So many choices! There is also a budget to stay within. Isn’t it also always the case that these were needed yesterday?  Ya’ know… just to keep it interesting.  Let us save you some time with a simple chart comparing theater fabrics so the next time you are in need of fabrics for your stage curtains, you will know exactly what to order.

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How to Evaluate Drop Cloth Quality

Finally giving up on old sheets and newspapers for protecting surfaces while painting?

Whether you are a professional contractor or a weekend warrior, choosing the correct canvas drop cloth quality can make the difference between success and failure. Most canvas drop cloths are fabricated from Cotton Duckcloth. This has nothing to do with a duck or animal skins.  Duck refers to an even flat weave type of canvas.
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