Should I Paint On Canvas Or Paper?

When choosing a suitable surface to paint, there are a few options to consider. Both canvas and paper have their strengths and weaknesses, so it can be tricky to decide which one is right for you. In this post, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of both paint surfaces so that you can make an informed decision about what’s best for your artwork.


Paper is often a popular choice for artists when it comes to painting. Paper is also the perfect choice for beginners, as it is relatively inexpensive and easy to work with. Additionally, paper is available in various textures and weights, which gives artists some flexibility for their final product.

Paper is made of plant fibres, such as cotton or wood, and other fibres, such as rice, flax, straw, and hemp. These plant fibres are combined with water, mashed together, and then spread out onto a screen to dry. The resulting sheet of paper is then cut down to size and packed for sale.

There are downsides to painting on paper: it can be susceptible to damage from moisture or humidity, which can cause the paper to become brittle. Moreover, the natural fibres used in creating the paper are prone to discolouration and degradation over time.

These are some factors that the artist must consider when deciding to paint on paper.

On the other hand, other paper types are known to withstand more wear and tear, such as alpha-cellulose, cotton rag, and lignin-free. These papers are usually more expensive than the standard paper options, but they offer a longer lifespan for your artwork.

Alpha cellulose is a type of paper made from purified wood pulp. The resulting paper is less likely to yellow or degrade over time, making it a popular choice for artists who want their artwork to last.

Cotton rag is made from 100% cotton fibres and does not contain synthetic materials. This makes the paper stronger and more resistant to moisture and other environmental factors.

Lignin-free or acid-free paper is another option for artists looking for a longer-lasting surface to paint. This type of paper does not contain lignin or the substance in the wood pulp that react s with other materials, which causes the paper to turn yellow over time. Thus, using this paper can help preserve your artwork for years to come.


Canvas is often the go-to surface for creating their artwork for traditional painters. Canvas is a sturdy fabric that can be stretched over a wooden frame to create a painting surface.

Canvas is made from cotton or linen and used as a painting surface since the 15th century. Cotton canvas is the most popular type of canvas for acrylic and oil paints, as it is absorbent and allows the paint to be applied in thin layers. On the other hand, Linen canvas is made from flax fibres and is stronger than cotton canvas. It is more expensive, but it is the choice of most professional artists because it provides a smoother surface for painting and has proven to be durable over time.

The main benefit of painting on canvas is its very durable surface. The paint will not easily chip or peel away, and the fabric can withstand many years of use without any significant degradation. Additionally, canvas does not warp or become brittle like paper can, making it a better choice for outdoor paintings or pieces exposed to moisture or humidity.

However, one downside of the canvas is that it can be more expensive than paper. Additionally, the canvas can be challenging to novice painters, as it requires more skill and experience to produce a quality painting.

Types of Painting

When choosing between these two materials, the most important thing is to consider what type of painting you want to create. Each surface has its strengths and weaknesses, so it is important to choose the one that will work best for your artwork.

Oil Painting

If you are interested in creating an oil painting, the canvas is the obvious choice. Oil paints require a porous surface to allow the paint to adhere to the canvas and create a lasting bond. Canvas provides this surface, whereas paper doesn’t always.

Moreover, oil paints are known for creating a rich, textured surface. This is difficult to achieve on paper and can often result in the paint cracking or peeling over time. By using canvas, the paint can dry slowly and evenly, allowing the artist to create a more detailed and nuanced painting with excellent colour saturation.

Acrylic Painting

If you want to create an acrylic painting, the canvas is your best option. Acrylic paints are water-based and require a surface that will allow the paint to spread easily. Canvas is perfect for this, as the fabric can absorb the moisture from the paint and create a smooth finish.

Paper is not a good choice for acrylic paintings, as the paint will often bead up on the surface and create an uneven finish. Additionally, acrylic paints can be very thick and heavy, which can cause the paper to buckle or tear. Using canvas can avoid these problems and create a beautiful painting that will last for years.

Watercolour Painting

If you are interested in watercolour painting, paper is the better option. Watercolours are a delicate medium and can be challenging to work with on a canvas. Paper is more absorbent than canvas, so it will better hold the paint and prevent it from spreading too much. This prevents your artwork from becoming muddy and creates a more delicate finished product.

Additionally, watercolours are transparent paints and will not look the same on both surfaces. On paper, they will often have a more luminous quality as light can pass through the paint film and reflect off of the paper surface. By using canvas, you lose this effect, and your painting will appear much darker and duller.

Gouache Painting

Gouache is a type of paint similar to watercolour but contains an opaque white pigment. This makes it perfect for mixed media artwork and layering techniques. Like watercolour, gouache paintings should be created on paper to ensure the best results.

Canvas is not a good surface for gouache paintings, as white pigment often overwhelms the colours and creates a jarring effect. Additionally, because canvas does not absorb moisture as paper does, the paint can dry very quickly and cause the colours to become dull and lifeless.


The bottom line is that there are benefits and drawbacks to both canvas and paper. Ultimately, the decision of which material to use will come down to the artist’s specific needs. If you need a sturdy surface that can withstand vigorous painting techniques, the canvas is a good option. However, if you are looking for a delicate and luminous painting, paper is the best choice.

Whichever medium you choose, always remember to experiment and practice often to create the best possible artwork. Happy painting!