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Unprimed Canvas

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Unprimed canvas, or raw canvas, is mainly used by artists who are very particular on how to gesso or prepare their painting surfaces. Some artists may only need one coat of gesso and others may want to use an unprimed canvas rolls to paint on. We offer a variety of unprimed canvas fabrics in both plain weave and basket weave in weights ranging from 7 oz to 18 oz. Our unprimed canvas is made up from 100% premium A Grade cotton.

On our cotton duck canvas section, you will see many more options for unprimed canvas fabrics, but raw canvas tends to be the most popular with artists.

Unprimed Canvas vs Primed Canvas

Canvas is a lightweight, durable painting surface. To stretch cotton canvas rolls, wooden stretcher bars are used to frame the canvas. This creates a taught, absorbent surface. For example, ff the canvas is stretched into larger pieces, it will need more supports.

Unprimed canvas can be painted on, but if you want to maintain durability and color-fastness, it’s important to prime the stretched canvas in some way.

Furthermore, most experienced artists prefer to use unprimed canvas rolls for two reasons:

  1. Ease of Stretching: For artists looking to stretch their own canvas to a custom size, unprimed canvas is easier to work with. As a mattr of fact, primed canvas tends to be stiffer.
  2. Control of Coating: Primed canvas only comes in certain varieties. To ensure you treat your canvas as you need it for the specific paint and colors you’re using, priming your own canvas is ideal.

Tips for Working with Raw Canvas

If you plan to paint on canvas using oil or acrylic paints, you will need to prime the canvas yourself. If you don’t want to prime your own canvas, check out our primed canvas collection.

To prime your own canvas, many artists use gesso. Gesso is a mixture of water, glue (protein-based) and pigment. It’s not suggested for all stretched canvas (using stretcher bars), however, since it’s prone to cracking. Other alternatives are oil ground and acrylic dispersion ground. In some cases, all of these are referred to as gesso, so be sure to check the ingredients.

Therefore, for maintaining the look of raw canvas, some have suggested applying two coats of polymer medium followed by a fluid matte medium. This protects the cotton fibers, but some absorbency will be risked.

According to, you can use unprimed canvas for painting: “This process dates back to the early stain painting of Morris Louis, Ken Noland and Helen Frankenthaler. There is currently no coating or size that will completely mimic the way paint lays down on raw cotton duck, yet to achieve this aesthetic, the artist is sacrificing the benefits that a substantial size and ground will provide. Most artists have learned not to work with oil directly on raw cotton duck, yet even for artists working with acrylic, there is still concern that the unprotected cotton fibers lacking the restraint of a binder will be more easily abraded, degraded, collect dirt, and move.”

One Important Tip

As you stretch your unprimed canvas, leave it a bit loose. Once you prime it, it will tighten. If the unprimed canvas was mounted too tightly, once the primer is added, the stretcher bars can bow. This may take some testing on your part depending on the type and amount of gesso used.

For more instruction and tips on watercolor painting, please visit this site for tutorials.

For instruction and tips on oil painting, check out this instructional site.

Non-Artistic Uses for Canvas

  • Tool Bags & Totes: Tough as the nails you carry, this unprimed canvas variation will stand tough. Your tools will stay safe and well-kept with a well-made tool bag made this material.
  • Floor Mats: Floor mats help eliminate the spread of more dirt from entering your home. Therefore, using canvas ensures that your floor mats will not only support all that you leave on them but will also be easily washable too!
  • Kayak/Canoe Skins: Our unprimed canvas varieties, if treated properly, are often water resistant and sometimes mildew resistant. Therefore, it’s often used for kayak or canoe skins. The canvas is stretchable and will withstand the elements!
  • Hammocks: What’s better than getting some rest and relaxation? Undeniably, making a hammock with cotton canvas will provide certain sturdimess and reliability for all your lounging needs!

Count on Canvas ETC for Your Canvas Supply

Generally, choosing an artist canvas might be tricky, but call us at 404.514.7166 or use our contact form for assistance. As always, we will be happy to send you samples for inspection as well.

Wholesale pricing available, and custom dye lots!

Volume Discounts:

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