Painting on Linen Canvas

Cheryl Johnson prefers painting on Belgium Linen Canvas. 

I prefer to paint on Linen Canvas as the quality and finish is superior to me. 

For Consignment work my first choice is Linen. 

I normally paint on stretched or un-stretched linen. The advantages of not being stretched as the cost to roll and ship is greatly reduced.

7 oz (Fine Portrait Texture) Unprimed Belgian Linen Canvas - Available in 57" width.

8 oz (Smooth Texture) Unprimed Belgian Linen Canvas - Available in 86" width.

10.5 oz (Medium Texture) Unprimed Belgian Linen Canvas - Available in 54.5", 72", 96" widths.

7 oz (Fine Portrait Texture) Unprimed Belgian Linen Canvas - Available in 57" width.

Stable, durable, strong, yet supple!

Linen, while more expensive than cotton, is the traditional choice for professional artists. Linen canvas is the most durable fabric to put paint on and, due to its strength, is ideal for large paintings. Its warp and weft threads are equal in weight, making them less susceptible to expanding or contracting problems created by moisture. Linen is very receptive to sizing and priming applications and it retains its natural oils which preserve the fibres’ flexibility and keeps the canvas from becoming brittle. Linen canvas has a more “natural” weaved finish than cotton and is available in a variety of weights and textures, providing a smooth or rough finish. Because of its strength, linen canvas holds up to a heavy painting hand and does not become slack as easily as cotton canvas. 


Most artists agree that a linen canvas, especially produced in Belgium, is the foremost in quality. The tedious manufacturing process required to make flax plants into linen is an expensive operation, directly contributing to the high cost of the material. Harvesting of the temperamental plants is mostly done by hand, as the end result would be less profitable if done by a machine. If a piece of equipment were to cut the stalks above ground, the root would be wasted and the fibers would be shorter–thus resulting in lesser quantities of usable product. Extracting the plant fibers from the stalks is also done by hand; Sometimes, a cotton machine is used to process the flax fibers, but the final product is of a lower caliber. In some instances, linen will be mixed with other plant fibers to cut down on the cost of the final textile. The downside to a blend is that different materials have different absorption rates, which could potentially cause an uneven painting. Even so, this risk is lessened if the plant fibers are blended within the thread rather than the vertical and horizontal threads that make up the weave.

A linen canvas has a painting surface that is smoother and more robust. The fiber’s natural tensile strength is double that of cotton, contributing to a fabric that will not stretch easily when moistened. For this reason, linen is the better option for larger pieces of work. The cloth will still hold its overall shape and tautness in most circumstances and environments.


Another factor to consider is the desired longevity of the painting. If the piece is to be used as a temporary wall decoration, a cotton canvas would be the more cost-effective and economical choice. The reasoning behind this is relative to the rate at which cotton decays. The fibers are significantly weaker in structure than linen fibers, especially when wet. However, a heavier weight cotton canvas can combat the effects of excessive moisture. The fibers in an untreated cotton canvas are, in essence, unprotected cellulose–easily broken down by ultraviolet light and the acidity found in polluted air. For a painting that will stay true to the test of time, choose linen. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties, both of which help to preserve the integrity of the material.


Ultimately, the choice between cotton and linen canvases is determined by what is to be gained from the piece. A casual artist should not feel obligated to use the more “traditional” methods if it is not financially feasible, nor should a professional feel that any type of canvas is beneath their ability.