Studio artists often have to make a choice between stretched canvas or canvas board; both are popular canvases to paint on. What’s the difference? And which is best for your project?
So, stretch canvases vs. canvas boards – what re the differences? Canvas boards are thinner and available in smaller sizes, which are suitable for small studies. Stretch canvases are bulkier and larger, and they are suitable for large paintings.
Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of each option.
A canvas board, also called a canvas panel, is a type of painting canvas made from a piece of canvas fabric glued to a cardboard backing. It provides a sturdy surface for painting and can be easily framed or hung on a wall.
You can also find canvas boards that have a wooden backing, although this type is usually more expensive than cardboard-backed canvas boards.
Canvas boards are available in a variety of sizes and are often used by amateur and professional artists alike. While they are not as expensive as traditional stretched canvases, they are not as durable and may warp or bow over time if not properly stored.
Canvas boards are ideal for smaller paintings or sketches and can be a great option for those new to painting.
A stretched canvas is a painting canvas that is stretched over a wooden frame. The frame provides support for the canvas and prevents it from sagging or wrinkling. The tension of the stretched canvas also makes it easier to paint on, as the surface is smooth and even.
One advantage of stretched canvases is that they can be displayed without a frame, as the wooden frame is already sufficient to provide structure for the painting. They can be mounted on a wall using special brackets or hangers without the need for a frame.
Canvases are available in a variety of sizes, and the frames can be made from different types of wood.
Canvas Board Vs. Stretched Canvas
Let’s take a look at how canvas boards and stretch canvases compare and which option will work better for your next project.
Canvas boards are not as thick as stretched canvases, and there’s less variety in terms of the thickness that you can choose.
This is because the thickness of canvas boards is dependent on the thickness of the cardboard that they are glued to. You will usually see canvas boards with a ⅛ in thickness.
In comparison, the thickness of stretched canvases is created by their wooden frame. The canvas itself is held taut by the frame, so there’s nothing underneath, but the frame itself creates structure and depth to the canvas.
You can usually find a variety of thicknesses when buying stretch canvases, ranging from ⅞ inch to 2.375 inches.
A thick stretch canvas is useful if you want to display your painting without a frame. Many artworks in museums are displayed this way.
Canvas boards are usually available in smaller sizes, while stretched canvases are usually sold in medium to large sizes. There are a few reasons for this.
Canvas boards are not available in large sizes because the canvas may warp over time. This is because the canvas expands and contracts when it is exposed to heat and humidity, so the canvas may cause the solid backing to warp.
Since canvas boards are usually thinner, large canvas boards are usually not very stable. They may wobble and flex, which is not something you want while you paint.
Big canvas boards usually need to be reinforced with additional wood backing if you want the structure to be stable.
On the other hand, since stretched canvases demand a thick frame, a smaller stretched canvas may look quite disproportionate. Its tension may also be off, and the canvas may be too tight or too saggy because it may be difficult to get the tension right with such a small frame.
That’s why canvas boards are usually suitable for smaller paintings, while stretched canvases are suitable for larger paintings.
If you are on a budget, you may want to know that canvas boards are usually more affordable compared to stretched canvas. This is mainly due to the cost of the main components of the canvas – cardboard is understandably cheaper than wood.
Since canvas boards are usually more affordable, they are also more suitable for the classroom. If you are a beginner or a student, you may want to start with canvas boards first.
Because of the way that they are made, the flexibility of the canvas is vastly different when comparing canvas boards and stretch canvases.
A canvas board is glued to a solid backing, so the surface is flat and stable no matter what. Painting on a canvas board is like painting on a stiff, flat surface.
In comparison, a stretched canvas lays flat thanks to the tension created by the frame structure, but there’s nothing underneath the canvas. This means when you paint, the canvas will have some give to it.
Some artists prefer this flexibility because it helps guide the brushstrokes, but there are some disadvantages when using stretched canvases.
The first is that the edges where the canvas meets the frame may show through the painting. Sometimes, you will see an outline of the frame where the flexibility ends, and the wooden frame begins, which may not look very pleasing.
The second is that the flexible canvas can expand and contract as the temperature and humidity change, which means your layers of paint may crack if you don’t keep your painting in the right conditions.
Canvas boards are thinner than stretched canvases, so they are definitely more portable. If you are an artist who sells your artwork, then this may be a big consideration.
Stretch canvas paintings are usually bulkier and more difficult to store. You usually need to wrap the stretch canvas more carefully because the canvas is more delicate due to the lack of backing.
Because of this, they are also more expensive to ship as well.
If you have a small studio space or a small storage area, then using canvas boards can also save space and allow you to experiment more with your art.
Thanks to canvas boards’ portability, they are also more suitable for painting outdoors.
But the convenience doesn’t stop there. Painting outdoors also called Plein air painting, is tricky because of the difference in lighting compared to a studio.
If you try painting outdoors using a stretched canvas, you may find that the light can easily show through the canvas, which may distort the details and colors in your painting.
That’s why solid backing is super helpful. A canvas board will provide a solid, opaque surface that allows you to see the details clearly, which makes painting outdoors easier and more pleasant.
In comparison, stretch canvases are only suitable for studio spaces because they are not very portable and demand the right lighting to work with.
Although a stretch canvas may have a more stable structure, you may find that it is not as durable as canvas boards.
Since the canvas is not backed by anything, it can easily be scraped and punctured when you try to move or hang a stretched canvas painting. If you try to hang a stretched canvas painting over a nail, there’s a high chance that you may poke through a canvas.
There’s also a problem of the canvas becoming loose over time. The fabric may expand or contract when the temperature or humidity increases, which means the fabric may sag more during the summer.
You can remove the nails from the wooden frame and try to adjust the tension of the canvas to prevent sagging, but it can be tricky to get the right tension if you don’t have professional tools.
You don’t have to worry about this problem when using a canvas board since the canvas is solidly glued to its cardboard or wooden backing. However, if the backing is not structured enough, the canvas may also warp and distort the backing, preventing it from staying flat.
A stretched canvas can be displayed without a frame. If you visit an art museum, you can see that many artists paint over the sides of the stretched canvas with the intention of displaying it without a frame.
You can install brackets and hooks in the back of the wooden frame to hang it over a wall hook. Alternatively, you can just hang the frame over a nail since the structure is enough to support it.
If you want to display a canvas board, you will usually need to frame it. There are not a lot of options for hanging a canvas board because it lacks structure, so framing is needed if you want to hang the painting.
When you frame a canvas board, make sure not to use a glass cover over the paint. The glass may touch the paint and damage the paint layer.