Canvas on the Cheap

Q. After pricing artists canvas through mail-order services, I found some heavy cotton duck at a much lower price in the fabric department of our local discount store. Is there any reason this fabric wouldn’t work just as well as the canvas sold for painting?
Susan Williams
Ripley, TN

A. Unfortunately, there’s enough variety in discount-store fabric that the answer to your question depends on the piece you have in hand, but ordinarily I’d say that it’s not a good replacement for artists canvas. However, I’d change that opinion if the material meets a few requirements. The cotton duck should weigh at least 10-12 ounces per square yard, and it should have a weave tight enough so that you can’t easily see light through it when you hold it up to a bright light source. Moreover, the threads in the warp and weft (the threads running lengthwise and crosswise, respectively) should be equal in thickness and weight.

If the fabric store material passes these simple tests, it should be all right to use. Before you prime it, though, I suggest you wash it to remove any factory-applied sizing. If it’s a big piece of fabric, don’t risk damaging your home washing machine; take it to your local laundry and use a heavy-duty washer.

Sandra Carpenter is editor for Artist’s Sketchbook and The Artist’s Magazine.

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