Artist canvas will most likely be your painting surface. Whether it is one of the various canvases or a canvas panel. When we think of oil painting on canvas, our  thoughts generally turn to stretched canvas. However, the canvas panel is also a legitimate painting surface. Panels are most useful for plein-air painting. They are so easy to use and convienient for painting outdoors.

Panels and Hardboard

Canvas panels are a convienient sourse of painting surface. With the canvas panel, the canvas is adhered to a paperboard base. I suggest you use panels in the smaller sizes; usually 6×8, 10×8 or 9×12. I do not recommend panels larger than 12×16′ because of their tendency to warp. There is also available a panel whereby the canvas is adhered to hardboard. This woul be ok for the larger sizes.

You can also paint on masonite but, if you use the tempered masonite you must prime with two to three coats of a good oil base primer. Because of the oil in the tempered masonite, do not prime with an acrylic gesso. If you choose to paint with acrylics, you will need to use the untempered masonite and then prime with an acrylic gesso.

It has been said that the oil in the tempered masonite will leach through and cause the painting to yellow. I have not found this to be a problem, possibly because I apply the two to three coats of a good primer. Another possiblity is to allow the primer a good long drying time.

Some masonite has a smooth side and a rought side. I would not suggest painting on the rough side, unless you intend to paint in a heavy impasto manner. Painting on the smooth side is much easier. You will want to lightly sand this side, to take off the glaze and make it more receptive to the primer.

Wood panel is another surface to consider. It can be found in most art supply houses. You never want to use regular plywood because of it’s pronounced grain.


There is a myriad of canvases available to artists today. Most are either some form of cotton canvas or of Belgium Linen. You can purchase these mounted on a frame or in rolls that you can stretch and mount yourself. Stretching your own canvases can be rewarding in three ways. One, it is generally more economical. Two, you can deviate from the standard sizes that are available. And three, the sense of accomplishment that you have done something for yourself.

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