What Is Canvas Made Of

Canvas is one of the most preferred materials for painters but what exactly is it? It is much rougher and thicker than paper or card. That’s because canvas isn’t a different form of paper but is instead a fabric.

Canvas is a woven material usually made from cotton. But it can also be made from linen. Canvas is most commonly used for oil painting. This is because the thickness and stiffness of the fabric provide a strong support for heavy oil paint. 

What is Canvas Made

How Canvas is Made

When we think of fabrics, we usually imagine something soft and colorful. Something that is easily malleable and can be draped. This is true of some canvas. You likely also associate canvas with reusable canvas bags. 

This is because there are different types of canvas. Canvas is made from either cotton or linen and this can drastically affect its softness. But both can still be used as bases for painting. Here is our guide to the difference between cotton and linen canvas:

Cotton Canvas

Perhaps unsurprisingly, cotton canvas is softer than linen canvas. This is because cotton is a softer material than linen. This is why it is used so commonly for clothing. It is soft to the touch and generally a very comfortable material.

But that doesn’t mean cotton canvas cannot be used for painting or crafting. Cotton canvas stretches very easily. It is also cheaper than linen canvas. (In general, cotton is a cheaper material than linen). This means that cotton canvases can be used for a wide range of arts and crafts. 

Cotton canvas can be painted on or used to create something like a tote bag. Cotton canvas has a closer and more consistent weave. This is one of the reasons it is so soft and malleable. But cotton, in general, is a very soft material as it is made from the soft, fluffy fibers of the cotton plant. 

Cotton is also more accessible. Partly because it is more affordable but also because it can be grown in more places. Cotton is mostly farmed in the Americas, Africa, and India.

Linen Canvas 

Linen canvases are much stronger and tougher than cotton canvases. If you have seen a famous oil painting, there’s a good chance that it was painted on a linen canvas.

Linen is a more expensive material than cotton but it is still favored by a lot of artists. If you’re looking for a canvas that can be used for crafting or sewing, then a cotton canvas is the best choice. 

But, if you’re looking for a more interestingly textured material for your artwork, especially if you work with oil paints, then a linen canvas is the way to go. As linen is so thick and strong, it is more durable than cotton. This means that it will last longer. 

Canvas is a great material for different arts and crafts. But it’s important to choose the right kind of canvas. So always bear in mind the differences above when choosing your materials.

Although you might think of canvas as always stretched over a wooden frame, it can also be bought rolled up so that you can stretch it yourself. So always make sure to double-check whether you’re buying linen or cotton canvas.

Canvas Project Ideas

That said, here are a few ideas for arts and crafts projects that you can do with canvas:

  • Transfer your own photos. Having photos professionally transferred to canvas is something a lot of people do. But you can actually easily do this yourself. For a black and white photo, all you will need is a photo, some clear acrylic gel, a canvas, and a spray bottle filled with water. 

Simply apply the acrylic gel to the canvas and then lay the photo ink side down on top. Then, wait for it to try and spray with water. Once the water is wet, gently scrape away the paper. Eventually, the image will appear. 

  • Create a light display. This is an especially great craft for Christmas. You can simply create an image on the canvas - a Christmas tree is an easy option. Make holes through the canvas where the tree lights would be. Then, take a string of lights and poke the bulbs through the image. (Top tip: use a battery-powered set of lights so that the image can be easily moved around).
  • Make a key hook. If you’re always losing your keys and don’t have space in your hallway for a side table and key dish, a key hook is a great idea. Simply buy some metal hooks from your local hardware store and poke them through a stretched canvas. A tough linen canvas is the best option for this. You can decorate the canvas however you like. 
  • Make your own tote bag. Canvas tote bags are becoming more and more popular. They’re a super easy way of reducing your plastic waste. We’re all trying to do our bit to help the environment, so making your own tote bag is an excellent idea.

It’s an especially eco-friendly craft if you use recycled canvas. You can find this online, in a craft store, or maybe even in your own home. If you have some canvas leftover from painting, then you can repurpose this as a bag.

Making a bag is super easy. All you need to do is cut two equally sized squares. Then, hem one edge of each square. With the seam facing inward, place the two squares over one another and sew them. Then take some strips of canvas, hem those, and sew them to the opening. 

A soft cotton canvas is the best material for this craft. But even cotton canvas is strong enough for paint, so you can decorate it however you like.


So, there you have it. Those are the main things you need to know about the different kinds of canvas and what they’re made from.

Plus a few crafting ideas to keep you busy!