The good old stretched canvas. Everyone knows it is the go-to surface for a painting. They have been using it for centuries. But is canvas really the best? Or could there be an even better surface to paint on?


Actually the problem with canvas are many. Not only is it not the best, it might easily be one of the worst painting surfaces. Canvas is often bobbly because of the texture. Not that nice. The canvas is stretched, but just like the tire of a bicycle which you have to pump now and then, that stretch won't remain over the years. And then you have to find someone who can re-stretch the thing. Costly.


Then if you take it to an exhibit, and you or another person is not extremely careful you can easily have a hole in it. Trust me, that happened to me and will also happen to you at some point. There goes all your hard work... Also a canvas is just pretty big. You need a lot of storage space, even for say thirty paintings. These are just 12 tiny ones. A good durable canvas is also seriously expensive. Cheap ones will bend and have filmsy material.


Another option is paper. Now even if you get high quality paper specifically made and grounded for paints, it is still only paper. It can easily tear. That will also happen to everyone at some point. It is a big nightmare right there, especially if you have spent several hours or weeks on that painting. And let's be honest, you cannot really repair a tear. You will always see it. Paper also tends to wrinkle and expand / contract when it is in contact with water. Once it is bobbly it will never get completely straight again. However, paper is excellent for studies.


So what are some actually good options then? For works that need to survive the decades.


One of the best options is MDF wood. This is a kind of glued wood that is most excellent for both oil and acrylic paintings. Much better than normal wood, because it expands and contracts only a tiny bit and evenly. However it needs to be primed well - back and front! - but that is the same for any surface. The first problem is that it is quite heavy.


A second problem happens if you want a different size. Then you have to get your handsaw out, and sawing MDF is not easy! And thirdly it also takes up considerable space. Also if you use a lot of water on it, it bends and you never ever get it straight again.


Now for the actual best option! You are maybe gonna be surprised...



The actual best option in my opinion - both for oil and acrylic paint - is a good thick cardboard that has been primed correctly front and back. It doesn't take as much space. You can much more easily get it to the right size (by cutting it with a sharp knife and a ruler). It is much less heavy. If it bends you can get it decently straight again.


And if the cardboard has a good thickness it will also not tear like paper. Last but not least, it is relatively inexpensive! You can buy it at your local artist materials, or arts and crafts hobby shop.



Written by Christiaan, 2022-05-28