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Another Newbie Question: What are some ideal sized canvas for starting out?

If I were to get a handful of sizes of canvas, what sizes should I get? 

Is it better to start out big or small? Is 8x10 standard? Or 10x12? I already have some 6x8 so nothing too small. I have a portrait in mind to start. Thanks for your help.


  • mhqoil

    At the outset most choose sizes less than 8x10 to reduce anxiety and expense.
    I found larger canvases above 8x10 easier to plan compositions and much easier to achieve painting techniques by using larger brushes.

    An experienced artist draws and paints from the shoulder, only reverting to a finger/wrist action for small details. This physical approach is not possible on small canvases.


  • A lot depends on your teacher, that in today's world could be Mark's videos on painting realism, or something else. It really helps to get a teaching/exercise source that is balanced to how you want to paint, so covers the kind of painting you want to do, with materials you can afford and get.  The internet does offer a huge mix and match opportunity, so that one can morph together styles, but that can get confusing, if you end up essentially mis-instructed in an attempt to morph together all these different suggestions that gets sorted through on some basis, like cost, that might be distorting itself.

    So if you want to do Mark's method, one of the things he promises is that if you actually follow letter for letter his method, your first piece can be a recognizable portrait or landscape you would happily hang in your home.  And if that is the case then you will possibly want to make something of a 66%-100% full size head, but not larger, as why put all that effort into something that is unimpressive in size.  Also, you will have detail issues if you work in a miniaturist format, it might require more expensive brushes.  Look at Mark's materials list, it actually is low cost.

    My main point is just figure out what you want to start with and come at it consistently.  What works for me, might not work for you.  And scanning the forums for unrelated suggestions on every piece of equipment will get you a jumble.  For instance if you want to use Mark's method (just for instance), Mark's process is built around a dead vertical easel placement, with some other stuff crowded around the easel.  You might get all kinds of great suggestions on easels, but will they fit with Mark's method?  You could mount any canvas or surface to a wall or post, with screws on the edges through to tape, and be further ahead than if you had a 2000 dollar easel lent to you that is based on European art school standards.

    If you have no idea what you want and where to start, I would suggest maybe black and white oil portraits on a smallish scale.  You can get some confidence and spend very little, but get reasonable quality products.
  • If you buy canvas on the roll, or if you can saw up masonite, you can make your canvases whatever size you want.

    I might try this if I lived in the states:

    Just tape it to a board, and you can frame pieces if you get that far.

    Boards and working from taped canvas is a lot more compact to store.

  • From my experience, I would suggest a 16" by 20 " canvas to do a portrait on.  Smaller will make it more difficult.  Trying to get detail work on something smaller will be tedious.  Also, would suggest drawing the portrait on paper so you can make corrections and then transfer to your canvas with graphite paper.
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