With the many paint types and brands available today, you have to make sure you choose the best paint for canvas. Art canvases are made from cotton or linen fabric, so not all the paint gets absorbed or produces the color you want. The types of paint you use for your art will also affect the color overlaying and blending.
Best Paint for Canvas - The Top Types to Consider
Many experienced and professional painters will tell you that paint will behave differently on canvas. Choosing the wrong type will put your effort, time, and money to waste. Although that is inevitable while practicing, using the right paint for the task the first time will help you improve your skills. With that in mind, the paint types that should be on top of your list when shopping for your art materials are:
- Oil Paint
- Acrylic Paint
Oil Paint - Most Recommended
Oil paint is available in two varieties, traditional and water-soluble, but both have thick and highly viscous consistency. You can use either a palette knife or a brush to apply the paint. You can also opt for oil pigment bars. The difference between the two oil paint types is that you can dilute and clean water-soluble oil paint with water.
Pros of Using Oil Paint:
The top reasons oil paint is the best paint for canvas are as follows:
- Long Drying Time - Oil paint can take days or weeks, depending on the application thickness, before it dries. This feature can seem like a disadvantage, but a longer drying time actually means you don’t have to finish your art in one sitting. You can start one section on day one and then continue the next day or days without worrying about making any edits or changes in the previous one. Plus, you will still be able to blend the colors well. It also means more flexibility in your arts. For instance, you can add luminosity by applying a thick layer of paint, letting it stay for days, and then adding thin glazes of paint.
- Smooth Blending - Using oil paint will ensure you can blend different colors without worrying about them drying quickly - ie. either before using the paint or blending colors within the painting. Your art will have a better transition, and you can use unique colors. Thus, it is the best paint for canvas for those who want to mix their own blend of colors.
- More Detail - Some paintings will have areas that require subtle shading or more depth to emphasize certain areas of the art. These details are easier to add when using oil paint since you can revisit and tweak areas without worrying about damaging the already painted surface.
Cons or Using Oil Paint:
Even if oil-based is considered by many as the best paint for canvas, it isn’t perfect. Its most notable disadvantages are as follows:
- Challenging to Create Crisp Edges - Since oil paint dries slowly, you need to wait at least 24 hours before creating edges. Otherwise, you’ll end up mixing the paint underneath and the one you’ll use for the edges.
- Yellowing - The oil present in the paint oxidizes after a while, causing yellowing. The degree will depend on the binder used. With that said, you can resolve this by making sure you place your painting in an area with sufficient light.
- Turpentine Smell - Some artists use thinned-out oil paint to sketch their projects. They usually mix the paint with turpentine, which has an unpleasant odor and is combustible. They also use it to clean their brushes and spills. Nonetheless, you can use odorless mineral spirit, walnut oil, or linseed oil as alternative solvents. Likewise, you can choose water-soluble oil paint.
Acrylic Paint - Most Popular
Like oil-based paint, acrylic paint has two varieties: fluid and heavy-body. As the thicker variety, heavy-body is the best paint for canvas among the two. Of course, you can still paint with the fluid variety, but you can have issues with dripping, especially when you paint on an easel. You would also need more paint to achieve the right shade. You can use either a palette knife or a brush to apply acrylic paint on canvas.
Pros of Using Acrylic Paint:
The reasons why acrylic is a popular choice and considered the best paint for canvas by some artists are as follows:
- Quick Drying Time - Some experienced artists prefer paint that dries quickly in order to paint on or work around a section immediately. It also helps them save time when working on smaller artworks.
- Lightfast - In contrast to the binder used in most oil-based paint products, the polymer used in many acrylic paints won’t cause yellowing. The paint’s lightfastness is also thanks to its thinner quality.
- Quickly Create Crisp Edges - With its quick drying time, acrylic paint is perfect for creating crisp edges quickly. It will also allow you to make more graphic compositions. Similarly, covering or adding more color to complex shapes and masking out sections are easier. Acrylic paint will also lay consistently and easily on a canvas medium, so you can create clearer, finer, and more well-defined details.
- Less Odorous Than Oil Paint - Acrylic is the best paint for canvas when working in a small and/or enclosed space because you won’t need chemicals to dilute it. You can use water as a solvent. Just keep in mind that some acrylic paint brands have ammonia, so you would need a working area with proper ventilation.
Cons of Using Acrylic Paint:
Some of the features of acrylic paint that you need to make a note of before using it are:
- Can be Costly for Beginners - Although the quick-drying feature is beneficial for some artists, it might be a disadvantage for beginners. You need to use a new canvas when you make big mistakes because you can’t correct them once they dry out. Hence, you might need to spend more on materials while practicing or perfecting your craft.
- Less Depth - Contrary to oil paint, acrylic will produce lesser depth because it’s thinner and most of it gets absorbed by the canvas.
- Color Can Appear Darker When Dried - Most acrylic paint binders or polymers are white, and they become clear once they dry. That’s why the paint color becomes lighter when it dries. Nevertheless, multiple practices can help you build good judgment on how much one color shifts when it dries.
Best Paint for Canvas - Artist Sets to Consider
We understand that the many oil and acrylic paint brands you’ll find in the market today can make choosing a daunting task. So, we’ve done the hard work for you by listing some of the best options.
Oil-Based Paint Sets
If you want the best paint for canvas, the three oil-based sets that you can start with are as follows:
- Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors Introductory Set
- Jack Richeson Artist Oil Colors Set
- Winsor & Newton Winton Oil Colour Paint Starter Set
Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors Introductory Set
Gamblin is a USA-based company offering multiple products for painters. This oil color set comes with nine 1.25-fl.oz. or 37-ml bottles of paint in different colors: Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Yellow Light, Ivory Black, Titanium White, Ultramarine Blue, Viridian, and Yellow Ochre.
Jack Richeson Artist Oil Colors Set
As another established, USA-based manufacturer, Jack Richesonnot also has a selection of multiple painting products. This particular paint set is an excellent choice if you want more color choices, a total of 12, but the same volume per tube as the Gamblin’s. The manufacturer also used safflower and linseed oil to prevent yellowing.
Winsor & Newton Winton Oil Colour Paint Starter Set
Containing ten 1.25-fl.oz. tubes, the Winsor & Newton Winton Set boasts a high pigmentation level for better tint strength and covering power. The London-based company designed the set for amateurs and students, but experienced artists will also enjoy using it.
Acrylic-Based Paint Sets
When searching for the best paint for canvas that is acrylic-based, the three options that you can choose from are:
- Golden Artist Color Heavy Body Acrylic Introductory Set
- Liquitex BASICS Acrylic Paint Set
- Daler-Rowney System 3 Acrylic Paint Set
Golden Artist Color Heavy Body Acrylic Introductory Set
Made in the USA, this set contains six 0.74-fl.oz. tubes of paint packed in a reusable plastic case. The colors included are Hansa Yellow Medium, Mars Black, Naphthol Red Light, Permanent Green Light, Titanium White, and Ultramarine Blue. The paint also doesn’t contain dyes, extenders, fillers, opacifiers, and toners.
Liquitex BASICS Acrylic Paint Set
This 36-tube set by Liquitex is a perfect choice for those looking for paint made from high-quality pigment. You can also easily adjust the tint, undertone, and shade of each color so that beginners can work with it conveniently. Lastly, each tube has an approximate volume of 0.74 fluid ounces or 22 milliliters.
Daler-Rowney System 3 Acrylic Paint Set
One of the popular options for schools and colleges is the Daler-Rowney System 3 Acrylic Paint Set. It contains ten 22-ml tubes of paint, and the colors are Burnt Umber, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, Crimson, Emerald, Lemon Yellow, Mars Black, Titanium White, Ultramarine, and Yellow Ochre.
Best Paint for Canvas - The Alternatives
If you don’t want to practice using any of the best paint for canvas discussed above, you have two options:
This paint combines the quality of watercolor and acrylic. Gouache is heavier and more opaque than watercolor but not as opaque as acrylic, thanks to its binding agent. Just keep in mind that you need to use minimal water to create a fairly thick paint layer. However, canvas easily and quickly absorbs this paint, so it’s only feasible for small projects.
As an inexpensive option for canvas painting, tempera has a water-soluble binder, so it has similar thinness as fluid acrylic paint. Thus, it’s not the best paint for canvas when painting with an easel. The resulting project also won’t last long.
Best Paint for Canvas - In Conclusion
The best paint for canvas really boils down to your preference and specific needs as an artist. That said, acrylic and oil paint products should be your top choices. Consider each of their pros and cons to decide better.