Watercolors On Canvas – A New Way To Paint

If you’re a watercolorist, you probably have an array of papers you’ve been using, and you’re also probably always looking for the perfect paper.

If you paint loose and free, you may use Cold Press or Rough Press. If you do very realistic, detail-filled work, you probably prefer Hot Press.

However, if you’re ready to give something new a try, you might want to experiment with a new product that’s become available: watercolor canvas.

What Are The Advantages?

If you’re really rough on your paper, you’ll love the durability of canvas. It won’t tear, and repeated scrubbings won’t damage the surface.

You can easily remove paint. This is great for adding highlights or to remove mistakes. You can even clean off the entire surface and start over again!

Your paint dries more slowly than it does on paper, allowing you to have more time for ‘fiddling’ with an area.

You can hang your finished masterpiece immediately! No need for a mat, glass and frame. Once it’s been protected by a fixative, it’s ready for display.

What Are The Disadvantages?

If you’re a ‘juicy’ painter, you may find that your paint pools. You need to learn to use less water when painting on canvas.

If you’re a great believer in glazing, you may run into problems. Since the paint doesn’t really absorb into the ground, applying a second layer of paint over a first can lift or disturb the original layer.

Can I Use A Standard Canvas?

Nope. The gesso used on canvases used for acrylic and oil painting is impervious to moisture, so the paint adheres to the surface. By nature, watercolor is absorbed into the surface of its support, and since there’s no absorption, the watercolor pigment won’t stick.

What Is A Watercolor Canvas Ground?


Several manufacturers make watercolor grounds, and these can be used not only on canvas, but they can also be applied to other supports like wood, glass or metal.

This ground has enough stability to make the canvas semi-rigid, but it can absorb the water of your paint to ensure the pigment sets well on the surface.

If you want to retain the woven appearance of the canvas, be sure to use very thin coats of the ground, allowing each layer to dry before applying the next.

If you prefer the more-familiar texture of paper, you may find that a light sanding between coats will give you the consistent grain you’re after.

Ready-To-Paint Watercolor Canvas


If you’re not the type for DIY canvas-making, or just want to try out this new substrate, there are lots of ready-made canvas supports.

You can purchase pre-stretched canvases, canvas boards or canvas pads, as well as rolls of watercolor canvas. The canvas is 100 percent cotton and is prepared with a watercolor ground, so the paint adheres to the surface. You can easily lift color from the canvas for adding highlights or removing mistakes.

Protecting Your Work


It’s crucial to protect your painting when it’s completed. Unlike oils or acrylic, your paint does not permanently adhere to this surface. It can be damaged through moisture, and over time a build-up of dust or soil may require the need for cleaning the painting. Any attempt at removing dirt or dust could lead to damaging your painting.

Use a clear, spray fixative to protect your masterpiece. Don’t use a brush-on type, as the act of applying the product could smear the paint and ruin your work.

If you’re ready to get out of your painting rut and try something new, give watercolor canvas a try – who knows, you may find the perfect paint surface for your style of painting!


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