There is always a choice when it comes to artistic expression, and the products we use can really define our work. Now, there are many different surfaces and products that are used to paint on. Among these are paper, cardboard, wood, glass, metal, and even silk. Canvas, (generally referred to as a fabric that’s being painted on) however, is one of the most common things to paint on — and for good reason. It is usually made with cotton or linen. With cotton, there are benefits of its affordability and ability to stretch well. Cotton canvases last a long time and are generally the most popular kind of canvas to work with. Linen canvases are also used; they are strong and durable to work with, but a little less easy on the wallet.
Working With Canvas
Canvas is well liked for painting because it absorbs well, has a durable and nice texture, and is lightweight and easy to transport. Since there are so many different types of canvas to work on, consider which will work best for you and your particular project.
When working with canvas, or any art project, you’ll want to figure what you need to get started and how to set yourself up. You will need your canvas, of course, paint brushes that are longer and have generally thicker bristles, some containers or jars for water, and whatever you use to hold your paint. You can use anything from a actual palette made for paint to hold each color separately, or even a piece of newspaper. The canvases come in a variety of sizes, and are commonly pre-stretched over and fastened to a wooden frame. This makes them very convenient to work with, not to mention affordable.
Once you have your things and are ready to set up your space, think about what angle you will be the most comfortable working from. This could be upright, or in an angle, or even flat; this will also depend on what type of canvas you are using. After setting up the canvas, you can figure out where to best place your paint, brushes, and water. To make it easiest, plan to use a couple of separate jars or containers for water so you can clean dip and clean the brush into a water jar that is of a similar color.
For example, you might want a jar for your lighter colors and another for your darker colors. After dipping brushes in the water to clean the paint off, it can be helpful to keep a paper towel or rag of some sort nearby to gently blot the brushes dry. They don’t need to be perfectly dry, but doing this will absorb some of the excess moisture (and recently used color). Don’t forget to thoroughly clean the brushes in some warm water when you are finished working with them. Depending on how long you were painting for, the brush might require a work through with your fingers to eliminate any excess paint. Laying the brushes flat to dry may also help them to dry better. This way, the bristles can dry with a more even distribution. You don’t want them to clump together!
As you set your paints out, consider the distance or proximity of the paints to your canvas. Having the placement of the paints at an appropriate distance to and level from the canvas will enable greater ease as you navigate your space (and could give a break to your arm!). However you choose to set out your paint, if you are using acrylic paint (common for a canvas), just put out a smaller amount of paint to being with. Acrylic paints tend to dry pretty quickly, so this way you don’t want the unused paint to dry if it’s out for too long – and, you can throw away less paint if you take what you need as you go along!
As mentioned, canvas comes in varying styles. One thing to consider when working with canvas is whether or not it has been primed. Whether or not a canvas has been primed can affect the integrity and life of the fabric. The colors may come through differently. If you have a canvas that has been pre-stretched (sort of like pre-made), it may already have been primed, meaning it is ready to be painted on. If the canvas you are using has not been primed, you can do so by coating the canvas with gesso, which is a ready-made product you can buy. It is basically an acrylic paint that has already been thinned. Typically it’s white, but there are other colors to choose from as well. This way, you can tailor it to the needs of your unique project.
Priming the canvas is much like adding primer before painting a wall. Adding a coat of primer to the canvas will prevent the paint from absorbing (oils or acrylics) too much into the canvas. Artist Thaneeya states that you can put the gesso on any surface and paint with acrylic over it!
Another thing that you can do with your canvas is add a coating of your color of choice to the entire canvas to start with, setting a background for it. Since the canvas might come with a certain color or texture, you can add this color of paint to the entire canvas so the canvas is more closely matched with what you want to do with it. Using acrylic paint on canvas, for one, it is very easy to add many different layers on top of each other — this provides a different depth and texture, too. Fortunately, they generally dry pretty quickly too.
Wrapping Up Your Project
We’ve learned that if you’re using a canvas with acrylic paints, that the paint dries pretty quickly. This is something to keep in mind for what surface you will paint on in the first place, and regarding clean up. If you paint over a newspaper or paper of some sort, you’ll want to very carefully lift the painting from the newspaper, as it can stick to the paper and ruin any paint that may have been touching the paper itself. Don’t forget to clean your surface and your brushes once you are done! Keeping the brushes well maintained makes a big difference in their quality, and the way they will work for you the next time you’re ready to use them. With some of these tips in mind, you can figure out which canvas is the right one for you!