Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

You can send an email to [email protected] if you have questions about how to use this forum.

The arguments against linen and cotton and in favour of polyester fabric


A short and authoritative paper, from the Ottawa Symposium on Conservation of Contemporary Art National Gallery Canada) July 1980, sets out the case for Polyester fabrics.

This is about 40 years old now. Aluminium composites, PVC, Mylar and Polypropylene, copper and aluminium plate would likely change the emphasis on polyester fabric. Nonetheless it sets out some of the deficiencies in linen and cotton as a painting support.




  • Everything deteriorates - but a good read, 
  • alsart

    Tell me about it. I’m pushing seventy.


  • There is also a movement to stop using flexible supports (such as canvas) in favor of rigid supports such as wood, mdf, masonite and metal.  The reason for doing this is that flexible supports aid in, or promote cracking, and over time they get loose and sag.  A rigid support inhibits cracking.  Personally, I paint about 90% of my work on rigid supports these days.
  • Hello - a bit late to the party but glad to have seen this thread.

    Thanks for the link to the PDF Denis. I stumbled across polyester canvas a year ago and loved painting on it. The frog in my Avatar is painted on an Australian polyester canvas and it has not lost its original brightness - no sinking in of the paint (this is the canvas I am using at the moment -

    I moved onto cotton canvas and linen off cuts for art school because I felt slightly pressured. But I'm going to go back to using polyester canvas.

    As I'm still relatively new to oil painting, what is everyone's experience with it? I don't do additional priming of the Polyester canvas as it already has 4 layers on it (as per link). And I like the texture as it is (it has a very fine tooth).

    I'm about to purchase a 20 metre roll of the canvas (they don't make them in smaller sizes/lengths) and would be good to get some feedback on it before I invest/spend/splurge!

    Many thanks :-)

  • Veronica

    I don’t know of anyone here using polyester supports. Those of us, either dissatisfied with traditional canvas or just searching for something better, have moved to some form of aluminium composite panel, for example Dibond.

    When you sit back with a glass of wine and consider the spectrum of calamities caused by unstable, flexible, absorbent and fragile supports you wonder why people persist with these traditional canvases.
    I don’t think polyester is a viable substitute. May be smoother but painting on a trampoline is ridiculous.

    I spend quite a lot of time looking at the trials and tribulations of conservators and restorers. The support is the chief culprit in painting failures, aside from varnishes which are designed to be renewed periodically.


  • I paint on rigid plastic.. ;)
  • Thanks Denis - "may be smoother but painting on a trampoline is ridiculous" - gave me a chuckle!

    I tape my pieces of canvases onto a 9mm MDF Customboard, so it is quite rigid while I paint.

    Admittedly, so far I haven't gotten around to framing any of my pieces, but thinking of just gluing the canvases to a board with archival PVA etc.

    Also, noted about the varnishes - good to know. Noted!
  • Richard_P said:
    I paint on rigid plastic.. ;)
    Interesting! Haven't thought about plastic. I've seen others paint on aluminium, which I thought might be a little too slippery for me!
  • edited July 2018
    Thank you! It's taken me 38 years to finally get it about painting support. And I live here, and my father worked for the National Gallery of Canada 35 years. And the weather and environments here are quite harsh, which in turn, the factor of deteroration is very high. I finally get it! My father was a master craftsman mainly working with woods and perfecting finishes. He practised outmost integrity in everything he did and he worked closely with conservators who he respected greatly. He often mentioned to me about my support for painting on, how canvas particularly wasn't necessarily good, when these new found concepts were found back then, within too much controversy at that time to be clearly understood. Thank you @Veronica for discovering this and bringing it up once again. There was so much controversy over this at the time that, it didn't come up as topic for discussion in one of the world's most outstanding art colleges in 1984.
  • @Forgiveness

    What are you painting on? You have me curious!
  • edited July 2018
    At this moment working on canvas, and tried wood panel and Masonite for nearly 1 1/2 years, and many years painting acrylic on masonite even before coming to this forum. I'm going to work out switching to aluminum panels, it's expensive to purchase where I live, but when it comes down to it, ultimately I would feel more secure and feel happy about this and for my clients for years to come. I will simply have to learn new skills to handle this new product with care, as I understand that one of the greatest vulnerabilities are the corners of these aluminum panels and possible dents accidently inflicted on the surface. And I understand that a primer named "Rust-O-Leum" is used in preparing the panel for painting. This is tough stuff for a starving artist like me and accept it and I will try.
  • edited July 2018
    Just to add, I will probably use my leftover roll of canvas for oil sketches, studies and practise, and not worry over it too much. "Acrylic" plexiglass (specifically) seems a good alternative, I've never seen it turn yellow with age.
  • SummerSummer -
    edited July 2018
    @Veronica ; Thanks for resurrecting this thread.  After painting on these, the following, over the years: canvas, card stock, fabric, glass, human body, metal, paper, plaster, scratch board, vellum, walls, wood, etc., I'm specializing solely in aluminum composite panels now--even building floater frames for each one to protect their edges.  I'm experimenting now with automotive primers and sandpaper, 600 grit, surface preps to paint on.  I just finished a painting on aluminum where a fine linen was already attached.  I only had to put a Geneva foundation stain on it before painting.  I loved it!  Artefex is the brand I have been most happy with so far.  If you want to have your 'children' have a greater chance for survival after they leave home, this is the preparedness I'd recommend for them.  Summer 
  • Thanks everyone for your feedback.

    As I'm still fairly new to painting, I find that I need a surface with some texture for the paint to "grab". Having said that, I will buy an aluminium composite panel just to give it a go. I don't do well with slippery bases! :-)
  • @dencal Thanks Denis - will check it all out! 
  • dencal said:

    Tell me about it. I’m pushing seventy ...

     Your brain is not deteriorating, they say you’re as old as you feel;  today I feel about 75, heat wave here in Ireland at the moment ( anything over 65/70 F ) can’t sleep..  going to investigate this post more later ! 
  • @Veronica @dencal, I would like to attach Yupo to board, for Alcohol ink work . Would archival PVD do the job, any other glue. Not sure if I can buy it here.
  • marieb

    Yep. PVA is fine. YUPO is impervious to everything.


  • edited July 2018
    I'd like to try aluminium but, like @Veronica, I worry about it not having enough "tooth". And I like the texture created by the weave of the  canvas and the firm but still springy feel of the brush on stretched canvas. I guess I could paste canvas onto aluminium panels but, then, why not just continue stretching canvas. I know there are archival problems but paintings on canvas have lasted centuries and most of the problems have been because the canvas was not well primed or the fat over lean rule was not followed. I like texture but, if you wanted a dead smooth surface and no visible brushstrokes, then aluminium with Geneva paint would work well. Maybe I've just become used to stretched canvas and like what I know. Still, I will try aluminium one day when I want a really smooth finish.
    Thanks. Interesting thread.  :)
  • PaulBPaulB mod
    @tassieguy, the only way to get a really smooth finish on aluminum is when painting a sky, which is a large area painted in one sitting, then smoothed with a blending brush.

    Any other time the result is textured and lumpy.
  • edited July 2018
    Oh, ok. Thanks, @Paul_B. Do you use aluminium?   :)
  • @tassieguy   @MikeDerby had a solution for adding tooth;  "@bob73 I have been winging it but for this 22x24 panel I used a little more than a tablespoon of Geneva stain, which is a new product offered by Geneva fine art.  It is an oil based stain and no mixing is required.  To that i added a little less than a teaspoon of fine marble dust from Natural Pigments."
    I haven't tried it yet myself but Mike did some experimenting with the Marble Dust  and has a few posts about it.

  • PaulBPaulB mod
    tassieguy said:
    Oh, ok. Thanks, @Paul_B. Do you use aluminium?   :)
    Yes, it's all I want to use now.
Sign In or Register to comment.