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What Is the Difference Between Canvas Board and Stretched Canvas?

What Is the Difference Between Canvas Board and Stretched Canvas?

 People all around the world love beautiful paintings. In fact, they're willing to spend millions of dollars to own their favorites.

If you're looking to create your own masterpiece, there's always the question of which type of canvas to use. Does canvas board work better or do you stick to the traditional stretched canvas?

Still can't decide? Keep reading to learn all the differences between the two and get the insight you need to make the right decision for your art!


Traditional canvas stretches over a wooden frame whereas canvas board is glued to a board. This means that the stretched canvas has a certain amount of movement when you slide your brush over the surface. Canvas board doesn't move at all.

This kind of flexibility in the canvas can be a problem for those with a heavy hand. If you're not careful, you'll poke holes into the canvas and ruin the artwork before you've even finished it.

Understanding your painting habits goes a long way in choosing the right type of canvas!



The most common canvas material is made from cotton, which makes it great at remaining strong against the pigments in your paint. It's also possible to get a canvas made from linen. This offers a smoother texture and even stronger durability than its cotton counterpart.

This variety of materials is a part of the stretched canvas experience. You could even take off one type of material from a frame and replace it with a spare bit of canvas you have rolled up in your closet.

When it comes to canvas board, you don't have as much choice because it doesn't need it. Since the canvas itself is glued to a thick board, the texture and material are almost always the same throughout the spectrum.


Canvas has the ultimate variety in textures, ranging from rough to smooth and all the things between. If you love lots of texture in your paintings, you'll want to stick with stretched canvas. It gives you a beautiful starting place to build up interesting textures without much extra effort.

If you prefer smoother textures, canvas board offers this without fail. The texture is minimal due to the way the canvas adheres to the board.


Canvas board always wins the test of durability. The thick board is resistant to a lot of damage and there's no real way to poke a hole through it. You'd have to exert a lot of pressure to snap it in half.

Stretched canvas is a different matter. When stretched over a frame, the flexibility makes it easy to damage. The frame itself is also vulnerable to damage if you're not careful to treat it with a gentle hand.


Priming your canvas is an important step to ensure your paint lays on the surface the right way. Unprimed canvas is never a fun thing upon which to paint.

You'll need to prime stretched canvas yourself more often than not. However, some companies offer it pre-primed to make the creative process as easy as possible. It's a rare find because many painters prefer to prime their canvases with their favorite primer.

Canvas board, on the other hand, is almost always primed and ready when you take it out of the package.

Woman painting on stretched canvas with brush


Since painting is a pastime that's been around for thousands of years, there are many types of techniques that each give a unique effect on the canvas.

The good news is that both stretched canvas and canvas board have no problems with any traditional or modern techniques. Dry-brushing, stippling, splattering, and a palette knife all work as you'd expect on either canvas style. Both canvases are perfect outlets to explore your creativity without worrying about ruining the final result.

You'll even be able to come up with brand new techniques without any troubles!


Depending on how you buy your canvas, you may need to do some extra prep work before you're able to dive into painting. Some wooden frames come with extra pieces you'll need to attach to get the most out of your canvas. Sometimes this step is only necessary if you plan to display the canvas on a wall after you're done.

Make sure to check the back of the frame before you begin painting so that you don't miss any vital pieces that'll hinder your creative process.

The cool thing about canvas board is that it doesn't require any preparations before you're able to start painting.

Types of Paint

Regardless of which style of canvas you choose, both work well with the same types of paint. Acrylic paints and oil paints are the best choices for working with canvas.  These mediums adhere to the surface without any problems and give beautiful and vibrant results.

It's possible to use gouache on canvas, but you'll have trouble if the material is too porous. Instead of gliding on the canvas, it'll sink into the material and stain the canvas. You'll need to use it in thick quantities to get a decent result.

Watercolors are not a good choice for canvas, so it's best to look for proper watercolor paper instead!

The different types paint that can be used on stretched canvas


Although a canvas board looks sleek, it doesn't have the same finished quality as a stretched canvas. It's thinner and tends to not have the same amount of gravitas as stretched canvas.

The classic look of canvas over a wooden board evokes a sense of luxury that boards can't replicate. You're able to paint all of the outside edges of the stretched canvas, giving it a look of cohesion from every angle.

It's also easier to hang a wooden frame than a thick canvas board. This is why canvas board is often a great tool for practicing while stretched canvas is better for archival pieces!

Canvas Board and Stretched Canvas Help You Create Beautiful Works of Art

With a high-quality type of canvas as your support, it's easy to create the artwork of your dreams. It all comes down to personal preference on whether you choose canvas board or stretched canvas for a project. You may also want to read this article to help you choose your first canvas.

Don't be afraid to switch back and forth between the two depending on where your creativity takes you!

Want to try something new? Try our black canvas boards to achieve some cool effects in your next artwork!