How to Choose the Best Canvas Size for Your Painting
Whether you’ve had a spur of the moment idea and you’re on your way to the craft store, or if you like to keep a stockpile of varying canvas sizes for your artistic endeavours, it’s important to know what you really need.
Choosing the right canvas size can be tricky - how do you choose one that isn’t too small and isn’t too big? It’s a very subjective decision, however being aware of the different sizes that are available can help you narrow it down, and may even help you add further detail to your ideas for your next big creation. So which canvas is best?
What are the different canvas sizes?
Canvases come in many different shapes and sizes.
Rectangle canvases are by far the most common shape, and come in an infinite variation of sizes. Some of the most common ones include:
- 4” x 6”
- 5” x 7”
Square canvases are also a common shape, and are great for if you’re wanting to combine a number of different paintings to create a dramatic overall look.
- Mini sizes (under 4” x 6”)
- 8” x 8”
- 10” x 10”
- 12” x 12”
- 20” x 20”
Oblong canvases are long in one direction and then quite slender in their length, kind of like a panoramic view photo. They are a useful choice for tricky wall spaces, as they can be aligned to be either wide or tall. They’re not extremely common, however they’re often used to create paintings that are intended to be hung up side by side.
- 3” x 9”
- 12” x 36”
What to consider when choosing your canvas
The space it’s going to be hanging in
When choosing your canvas, it’s a good idea to think about the space that it’s going to be hung in. Measure the dimensions of the space and think about what kind of art would complement the area. Would a large, bold and colourful graphic piece enhance the room? Or would a smaller, finer and more detailed artwork suit it better?
As well as the size, you should also look at the shape of the wall. Tall, narrow walls work best with art that’s created in a portrait or vertical orientation, whereas horizontal wall spaces (for example, above sofas or in hallways) often work best with landscape-oriented artwork. When looking at the overall wall space dimensions, your artwork should take up two thirds to three quarters of the wall. As a general rule, it’s always better to go big, rather than choosing something that may end up being overshadowed by the other features of the room.
What fabric is the canvas made of?
It’s often thought that the word ‘canvas’ is just an overarching term for canvas that’s been stretched over a frame, however there are actually a variety of different fabrics that are used.
Cotton duck canvas is the most common and cheapest variety of canvas fabric, however it still comes in a large variety of different weights and weaves. Cotton duck is classified according to the weight of the surface texture, whereas the ‘weave’ is the term for how tight the threads are woven together. The general rule is that the more loosely woven the threads and the lighter the weight, the cheaper the canvas will be. Cotton fibres are shorter and stretchier strands than linen, however linen is a longer strand and a stronger fibre that offers less flexibility. Cotton canvases are easy to stretch over their frames, and are therefore much more affordable than linen.
Linen is however considered to be superior to cotton due to strength and lack of stretch. It’s also more resistant to mould and mildew than cotton as it’s not super absorbent, meaning it’s a good option for if you’re stockpiling canvases and plan to keep them in storage for a long period of time. The fabric also retains its natural oil content, which preserves the long-term flexibility of the fibre. It comes in a variety of weights and textures (from very smooth to extremely rough), and is the more expensive option due to the quality and longevity of the fibres.
What is the purpose of the painting?
When choosing a canvas, it’s also important to consider what the purpose of the painting is. Is it just for you to practice on, in which case a cheaper canvas option may be best? Is it for a student or classroom setting? Is it going to be subjected to changes in temperature or climate, such as being displayed outdoors? Or are you planning on selling the painting, in which case the painting’s longevity should be considered to give value to the buyer?
Most experts agree that linen is almost always the right choice in terms of hardiness, strength and reliability. The tighter weave gives it a stronger surface, making it better for larger works. However, cotton is also an affordable option with a consistent machine weave, making it great for practice works.
Choosing the right canvas for your artistic endeavours
There are a number of different things to take into consideration when choosing your canvas, whether it’s size, shape, weight, thread tightness or the overall purpose of your piece of art. But think about the bigger picture of what would fit in best with your idea, as well as where the painting is going to be displayed, and you’ve got an excellent chance of getting it right. Hopefully this article has helped you discover which canvas is best for painting or whatever your artwork!
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