1. Home

How Do I Use Watercolor Canvas?


Canvas and Watercolor Ben Richardson/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Question: How Do I Use Watercolor Canvas?

"I've seen adverts for a type of canvas that's made for using with watercolors, rather than oils or acrylics. How is it different from painting with watercolor on paper?" -- Teresa.


The main differences between painting with watercolor on paper and watercolor canvas are that:

  • The paint can be lifted off very easily. You can even 'wash' the paint off the watercolor canvas completely and start again.
  • Watercolor canvas will cope with harsher treatment than paper.
  • You need to 'fix' a layer of paint with a clear acrylic medium.
  • Watercolor canvas stays wetter longer than a sheet of paper would.

Problems I've heard watercolor artists having with watercolor canvas include:

  • Difficulty moving the paint around the canvas without lifting what was already on the canvas.
  • Paint forming pools on the canvas because the canvas doesn't absorb it.
  • Paint not sticking to the canvas, even after an acrylic medium had been sprayed on it. (This seems to be the greatest problem and a lot of trial and error is necessary to get it working for you.)

Watercolor canvas enables you to hang up a watercolor painting without having to frame it or mount it under glass. What will be interesting to see is whether watercolors painted on canvas will be able to command higher prices (works on canvas traditionally selling for more than works on paper).

How is Watercolor Canvas Different to Normal Canvas?

Fredrix, who make watercolor canvas, say their watercolor canvas is coating with a specially formulated gesso to make it suitable for watercolor techniques. According to the patent application for watercolor canvas (#WO2005047020) other gessos don't have the properties that will allow for watercolor techniques: "Currently, artist canvas is almost exclusively coated with on of two types of priming material: water-based latexes or oil-based paints. ... Neither the latex-or oil-based priming materials have properties that properly allow for watercolor painting. The surfaces of latex-and oil-based priming materials tend to be hydrophobic and repel water rather than absorb it as would be necessary for watercolor techniques."

More on Painting on Watercolor Canvas

Try Watercolor Canvas for Yourself: Buy Direct

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.