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Canvas Boards vs. Streatched Canvas

I guess all of us know that stretched canvas is one of the most durable supports. But I want to know if canvas boards (canvas pasted on a board) are still ok to use or not in the initial years of training.

Stretched canvas in the markets is very expensive compared to canvas boards (almost double). buying a canvas roll, getting stretchers and stretching the canvas are not easy. Whereas, framing a board at framers is easy and comparatively cheaper (including the cost of canvas).

Are these canvas boards good enough for 50-70 years at least?



  • Canvas pasted to hardboard  or wood is extremely durable. That style is often called a panel.

    If you want you can make your own panels, usually linen over hardboard.

    Board and has many advantages over stretch canvas. But when working on a large size canvas stretched is usually easier. 
  • This is really a great one @davidwwilson [email protected] ike RB Kitaj type paintings.

    My only concern is about warping of boards. If the canvas boards are made of cardboard instead of MDF boards/ harder boards then it will warp (and I will be responsible for producing warped paintings). It seems Masonite works well.

    Masonite is used in India widely for producing examination paper holders. I also thought of using the rougher back side. But wasn't sure about the longevity of the painting.
  • why use canvas? just paint on the board! I use actual hardwood panels and lacquer them. they allegedly will not warp. seriously, i prefer the board because it's smoother and harder. i don't like painting on a moving target (a canvas that gives at the touch). i have enough problems without that.
  • edited August 2016
    @Ezra Thanks. How do you lacquer the boards? I have seen David Leffel using something like this. It looks lacquerd! Same effect can be achieve on MDF or Masonites, I guess. Below is a photo of David Leffel.

    The thing is I want to minimize the time consumed and cost of the support but not the quality - cheap but stable. I have no idea about hard surfaces actually. I have been painting in oils only on cotton canvases and oil papers so far. Linen is too expensive here. It seems I have to earn my linen ;)

  • Thanks @davidwwilson for the formula. I will definitely use it. I have been told a lot of times about using carpenter's glue to seal the surface of the paper to create oil paper for students. So this definitely works.
  • @davidwwilson :) I often dream about a day when I am not worries about money to buy canvases (LINEN not cotton). I just pick it up and paint! It seems it is too late for that. :( But I can buy boards and prepare them according to my needs. Not too difficult.

    Gandhiji fought for the right to make our own clothing and not importing them. Becoming self-reliant. Movement was a big issue at that time. Fight for our clothing, fight for our salt!
  • I have tried panting on those cheap cardboard canvas baords, and would not recommend that for stability. In my experience they suck the oil out of the painting so the colors fade after a few years.

  • @Arneragnari yeah, this is something I noticed while painting on them. Painting become a little dry. I think I have to go with the options suggested by @davidwwilson and @Ezra
  • i really enjoy panels. just get your self some shellac and gesso, and sand down your gesso so it's really really smoothe. it's like buttuh
  • Tyhanks @martenvisser Can you show me a photo of the bracing? I have practically no idea about panels. So, need as many opinions and examples as possible.
  •  Painting on board is great, the ridged surface offers better control.  From an archival perspective, painting on a stretched canvas is not great. In short it warps paint more than on board.  Then again canvas can be relined easily, board cannot, the Mona Lisa has dovetails to fix the cracks. The solution is linen on board. It offers the best of both.

  • Hi @walko Thanks for the update. I have seen 50 year old saggy linen canvases at a very prestigious selling house here is Delhi. So, all the canvasses eventually become wobbly.
  • Yes. This is a good example of the process of lining.

  • what board are we talking about.
    Kaustav..from what i have seen..panels(canvas boards ) are half the price of stretched ones.If you aren't used to using stretched canvases will feel okay.I stopped using the stretched ones because of monetary issues as well(I am only a student)...
    Also..what kind of wood could be used to make panels?
  • H.M.


    Most surviving paintings from the 13th to the early 16th century are painted on wooden panels.  The wood most widely used in Italy was poplar, but in the Netherlands, France and England oak panels were most common.  Lime, beech, chestnut and cherry as well as oak were used in Germany and Austria.  Walnut and pine, and sometimes cherry and other fruit woods, were also used in Italy for panels.

    In modern times Masonite, MDF and the aluminium Dibond are popular. I like some of the tough polystyrene products laminated with PVC, but I don't have any info on the archival properties.


  • Thanks Denis... Let me go buy myself some panels!
  •  @H.M I have worked on a large number of surfaces except wooden panels. Today wooden panels/boards seem to be the logical choice to me with adequate measures being taken to preserve them. I need to do a cost analysis for this though.

    I just brought out my older canvas boards today. These are from Camlin and Faber Castell. All of them are warped except one company TeyUp's boards. Do not produce serious work on canvas boards. They are ok for practice purposes only.

    For panels, today we have masonite, chipboard, plywood, medium density fiberboard, high density fiberboard, hardboard etc. You will see a lot of discussion happened above on this. I guess that will give you some picture.
  • For those who can afford - As @walko suggested above and confirmed by an oil painting book by Ray Smith, linen over wooden panels are particularly durable.
  • Kaustav
    I think I have created my most serious work on a canvas only experience with painting on wood has been in tanjore painting,which I left a long time I am ready to experiment with oils now...
  • walkowalko -
    edited August 2016
    Look into something like.Raphael Premium Archival Oil Primed Linen Panel.

  • For anyone considering wood panels, here are my 2 cents from a cabinetmaker's perspective. If using solid wood, 1/4 sawn is the most stable cut for solid slab construction. Old paintings (like the Mona Lisa) are often painted on solid wood panels, and as you can imagine this can cause problems as far as warping, crazing, or the development of cracks if the painting is not properly stored (high fluctuations in temperature or moisture). Another solid wood option is high quality plywood. The best plywood is quite expensive, and if you look at the edges, you will not see wobbly lines, voids, or knot holes. Baltic Birch plywood is quite good, and there are a few other brands of high quality available, but beware, because there is a ton of really awful plywood out there. Sheets 3/4" thick that will badly warp due to poor wood selection, poor drying, and poor glues used in the manufacturing process (the bulk of this coming from China). I don't know if I'm a huge fan of mansonite (I find it too smooth) but it is a pretty stable and very solid surface. I like the idea of the masonite with back braces glued in place. I like panels because it's less likely that you'll ever punch a hole in one, but stretched canvases are nice, too. As long as the surface (on ANYTHING you use) is treated properly before painting, you shouldn't have any problems. Do your research. I know there are quite a lot of people who make their own linen-wrapped (or cotton-wrapped) canvas boards. If I were making my own boards, I would probably use 1/4" thick masonite or 1/4" MDF. My current stock of blank canvases are custom made stretched canvases using some old primed cotton canvas that I already had on hand, and shop made stretcher frames.
  • edited January 2017
    Does anyone have any experience with spraying a wooden board with Rust-Oleum spray as a primer? This was suggested by Stefan Baumann in the following video. The logic that he gave was convincing that a canvas never has to go through the abuse like a iron fence or a wooden chair. Also, a board which is less expandable than a canvas which may make it a stable surface with this spray for less elastic oil paint. Rust-Oleum spray is available in and It may solve a lot of expense. If anyone uses it then please let me know about it. Link is below:

    Also, here is a link for the difference between ok quality canvases vs. highest quality ones

  • edited March 2017
    @Kaustav Thank you for posting those videos. I have been watching Stefan's videos for a while now because they are easy to put on while I paint and just listen to. Because of his advice I am now considering panels over stretched canvas for smaller paintings. I want to use the best I can afford to get, and the ones he shows at the 17:30 mark of the following have me floored: 
    They are quite a bit more than I can afford, so I'm actually considering (I can't belive it) getting some birch ply and trying to replicate this but without the linen. I can't find any wood panels that are oil primed only, without the linen. 

    Would I be able to varnish the back and sides with clear varnish like that? Then size (what kind would be best? PVA? Rabbit skin glue?) the front and prime (I'm thinking W&N Oil Primer or Gamblin Oil Painting Ground)?

    If this process would work I calculate that I could make 20 9x12 inch panels for less than I could buy 10 Raphael Oil Primed Linen panels from Jerry's (which was what I was strongly considering). 

    I've read a bunch of threads on this topic in the past few days, but my head is spinning with all the information I've taken in.  :/ 
  • edited March 2017
    @Erika_wakirestudio Stefan is a commercially successful artist. He will paint only on the best surfaces that are available. I showed these videos so that everyone can know what are the things available. 
    What you can do is to prepare the surfaces that are stable. Acrylic gesso and ply are the cheapest things available. I haven't found any data against using acrylic gesso on panel. It is just a baseless opinion against acrylic gesso that it will have an impact on painting. If you can then you can prepare a lead white ground on panel or buy oil ground from gamblin, Williamsburg or winsor and newton. 
    We have a huge discussion going on here on surfaces, different ways of priming etc. Read it. It is mostly about Do it Yourself
  • edited March 2017
    @JC_Pitre I have experience with masonite, must be careful to purchase and use the "untreated" rather than the "treated" masonite because the chemicals in the finish eventually makes everything added on the surface to become yellow (unavoidable!).
  • @Kaustav ;Thanks for the link, I read that thread as well, and wasn't sure which to post my comment to. I have some Golden acrylic gesso which I really don't care for so I'm trying to get away from using it. I'll post some questions on that DIY thread you linked. Thanks again!
  • I think a lot of illustrators preferred painting on boards as opposed to canvas especially when doing detail work because obviously the board does not give like canvas does.
  • As far as warping of canvas board, I think someone told me one time they resolve this by gluing some strips of wood to the back.  I have never tried it but I would think it would work.
  • edited May 2017
    My question may seem a little odd but does it always have to be a wood panel for surface? If I am painting on a plein air panel, isn't it better to paste my canvas on to a hard plastic examination board with glue? I can make the plastic sheet a little rough by sanding the surface, cut to fit the size. They are cheap, lightweight but I don't think they are going to warp. Only thing to worry about is that if they are hard enough. Is this a good idea?
  • BOB73BOB73 -
    edited May 2017
    @Kaustav I don't think it matters for practice studies, classes or experiments but for a selling point for FINE ART I don't think buyers would like to have plastic even if it is sturdier and isn't seen. It just seems cheap and would rather have something more traditional. I also think that if a buyer would pay for a painting on metal, he may also buy a plastic backed canvas.
  • @BOB73 thanks Bob, You are right. Well, I have to say that I prefer canvas panels over simply primed panel or stretched canvases. The texture of canvas and hardness of panels are present. The canvas can be removed from the panel if there is any problem. I will go for stretched canvas for anything from 18X24. I asked about plastic to reduce cost and weight and you are right about that issue.

    There are two issues with plastic
    1. Adhesion of canvas to a plastic surface
    2. Buyer's preference
    I am dumping the idea of plastic and will buy Masonite panels (ordered a hacksaw online), seal the surface with wood glue (something is better than nothing), then paste rolled primed canvas on top of it. I may skip this for smaller panels (8X10 and below) as canvas texture becomes more prominent.
  • Folks

    Let's just review what we are doing here and what we are attempting to achieve.

    We seem in every support preparation to be engaged in a fight between rough and smooth. Detailed realism preaches; the smoother the better. So why o why do we use canvas, cotton or linen, with a coarse texture? 

    Priming forms a barrier between the canvas and the oil in the paint. -to seal from moisture and oil. But the back is left untreated?

    The next battle is sanding the gesso - four coats to get rid of the canvas texture that we have paid a lot of money for.

    Then toning to get rid of the whiteness of the gesso - why not used toned gesso?

    Another of our fears is the moisture resistance and permeability of the whole chemical / mineral / organic sandwich

    A battle ensues over the slipperiness or gripperiness of the paint on the gesso'd canvas. At every step there is a worry about wrinkling and cracking. (I've been doing this for decades).

    We are gripped by the iron law of fat over lean.(Again no fear, I have been doing this for years by overeating)

    A sinking feeling consumes the artist. As the thirsty gesso has its wicked way and pulls the gloss and life out of the painting.

    We then oil out and wait six months for the paint to cure and slap on several coats of varnish with some more sanding if we dare. How rough (matt) or how smooth (glossy)? How will the light strike my brush strokes?

    If this turns out OK I'll put the painting under the bed with all the others.

    Now. What did I do with that can of primer?

    What reasonable person with a rational brain would ever engage in such a circus?

    Two supports seem to escape this arcane and medieval set of shibboleths

    The Ampersand Gessobord


    A sheet of polypropylene (YUPO) that is stable, archival, impervious, receptive to any medium, inexpensive and can be glued with anything to anything.


  • edited May 2017
    @Kaustav ,that will work better for you. And you have a choice here; if appropriate you can just use gessoed masonite panels as well, depends what surface you need or what your preference is.
  • @Forgiveness @decal thanks. If you'd ask me, I did not quite like feel of the gessoed board. I am going back to canvas panels permanently. I like the surface of canvas pasted over board. 
  • @dencal is right we need to quit being shibboleths about this! What's a shibboleth?
  • BOB73

    1. a custom, principle, or belief distinguishing a particular class or group of people, especially a long-standing one regarded as outmoded or no longer important.
      "liberal shibboleths about education"

  • A friend made me a tiny gesso over board on which I painted a neat cat picture. He gesso'd the board, then sanded, then repeated until he was satisfied.  

    I found the very smooth texture a little disconcerting, but may try something bigger. Unfortunately, the gesso is not cheap....

  • @Weatherford that's what I did since Feb 2017. I bought acrylic gesso. Gradually I made my boards in such a way so that they get a surface somewhere between smooth and textured (like canvas). I don't sand by the way, I use water to make it smooth. It worked and I did a painting a few days ago. I liked the surface very much. But acrylic gesso may not a good thing for oil paintings after all due to de-lamination issues.
  • Interesting, Kaustav , and I will pass the info on to my friend who makes these!!
  • SummerSummer -
    edited July 2017

    Some of these small thin canvas covered boards hold up better if you coat the back with a sealer, add one layer of gesso to the front and your painting style is thin like alla prima and not layered.    

    I recently discovered a company that coats the back with melamine and puts a high quality linen on the front. Just something to consider if your painting style is thin and you like painting on small boards.

  • @Dencal, Re: Shibboleth;  I can't believe I missed this for 2 months. Thanks I looked it up but found nothing I think I must have been misspelling it in the search. Also is there YUPO type product by another name that is available in the U.S.? All I find is waterproof paper.

  • @BOB73 guys from the US are very lucky. You have all the things that you need.
    1.Masterpiece acrylic or oil primed canvases.
    2. Classcens canvases (Mark uses these, not sure about the spelling)
    3. Wind river arts products
    4. Ray mar. Again not sure about spelling.
    5. Williamsburg, gambling, W&N oil ground
    6. Gessobord
    7. Rabbit skin glue, Miracle Muck
    8. Tons of small companies producing these
    9. Shellac
    10. Rust-oleum products (if you are brave enough)
    11. PVA things and acrylic products
    12. Mark says cheap linen canvas (not sure what he means by cheap, perhaps in US)
    13. Numerous engineered and none engineered wooden supports

    I have only acrylic gesso, cotton canvas, mdf and ply. Rest all are expensive. Linen sheet costs similar to a sports bike. Masterpiece canvas here costs a fortune. Rust-oleum? Not sure. I am sure you'll find yupo. 

  • Yes Kaustav I'm very lucky to be an American. Another reason I love this forum is I'm reminded every day how blessed I am. With all my recent misfortunes I am still most fortunate to be where I am. I'm appalled by all of my countrymen who don't think they are lucky to be here.
  • Do you have any relatives in europe who visit and can bring supplies?
  • SummerSummer -
    edited July 2017
    BOB73 said:
    Yes Kaustav I'm very lucky to be an American. Another reason I love this forum is I'm reminded every day how blessed I am. With all my recent misfortunes I am still most fortunate to be where I am. I'm appalled by all of my countrymen who don't think they are lucky to be here.
    I think if the US is good enough for Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Bezos, two of them soon to be trillionaires, it's good enough for me--haha.  Still, I notice they spend a lot of time in other parts of the world, and not just the US.  And, I also think of how they are and will be impacting the art world as collectors, contributors, and hobbyists themselves in later years.  Even if only in a small way, most of the world will take notice, and therefore their impact will be huge.  This may result in more artists supplies being available in more parts of the world.  We can only hope.  Summer
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