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.


Differences in Canvas Materials

To get an understanding of what type will work best for your needs, you’ll need to know how these fabrics are classified. Less dense canvases have a single-filled weave and are categorized by their weight in ounces. Cotton duck, however, has a smooth double-filled tight weave, making it heavy and strong. The various types are called out by a universal number classification system–the lower the classification number, the higher the ounces per square yard. Numbered duck starts with #12 (the lightest variety) and ends with #1 (the heaviest available). Grades 7, 9, and 11 are no longer used. All classifications are 100% cotton, resistant to tips and tears and are naturally finished (meaning it is unprimed and not bleached).


Choosing the Best Cotton Duck Material for Your Application

The type of cotton duck you need is dependent on your project. Artists choose their cotton duck based on their paint or material application (light- to heavy-duty). Cotton duck is also ideal for harsh outdoor or industrial work environments. When using as workwear fabrics (here, canvas duck is comparable to leather), choose a weight that can stand up to your particular environment. You can also use for upholstery, to DIY helpful household items, such as bags, covers and hammocks, and to create outdoor tools like tents, tarps and awnings.

Here’s a look at what some main cotton duck classifications can be used for, starting with the lightest-weight option. Please note the number duck and ounces associated with these classifications are per square yard.

Cotton Duck # Ounces Popular Uses
#12 11.5 ·       Stretched artist canvas

·       Acrylic and oil-based paint

·       Furniture slip covers

·       Light clothes

#10 14.75 ·       Artist canvas

·       Murals

·       Painted floor cloths

·       Work clothes

·       Bags

·       Hammocks

·       Shower curtains

#8 18 ·       Painted floor cloths

·       Heavy bags

·       Backpacks

·       Heavy-duty work clothes

·       Director chairs

·       Tents

·       Tarps

·       Awnings

#6 21 ·       Utility bags

·       Place mats

·       Belting

#4 24 ·       Industrial strength bags

·       Heavy-duty work clothes

·       Hammocks

·       Sand bags

·       Director chairs

·       Place mats

·       Belting

#1 30 ·       Floor and wall covering

·       Sound absorption

·       Equipment covers

·       Heavy bags

·       Horse packs

·       Storage bins

For additional information on the origination of Cotton Duck Classifications, please check out this technical paper produced by the Department of Commerce in the 1920’s: Development of the Standard Numbered Cotton Duck Specification

Need some assistance in determining what canvas you should order? Our fabric specialists are more than happy to help: (773) 478-5700.

3 thoughts on “Understanding Cotton Duck Classifications

  1. PKathleen Lovell says:

    As I begin a project, am trying to grasp cotton duck classification. Would you help me understand the difference in your classification #/OZ. versus that posted on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotton_duck e.g. your #12 is 11.5 oz. whereas Wikipedia shows #12 as 7 oz.

    Thanks very much.

    • Chicago Canvas & Supply says:

      Thanks for your comment, Kathleen. It looks like there was some misinformation that was published to Wikipedia. We are going to be submitting a request for revision on that directly to Wikipedia. Check out this document from the 1920s that explains. Refer to the last page: http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/nbstechnologic/nbstechnologicpaperT264.pdf

      In the interim, we are 100% sure that the classifications we have listed are correct. Do you need any assistance on selecting a cotton duck fabric for your project?

    • Candice Gilliatt says:

      After diving into the article in more detail, there are 2 ways number duck can be classified: per linear yard 22″ wide and per square yard. Wikipedia has been updated to notate this. We have listed the classifications per square yard in this post.

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