Canvas is a versatile and sturdy material that is suitable for both acrylics and oils. Although stretched canvas first appeared in Italy in the 14th century, the material was only rarely used by painters of the time; wood panels remained the most common painting surface. Today, of course, canvas is widely used in painting and comes in a variety of weights and weaves. Although you can buy a canvas that is already primed, it is much easier to stretch an unprimed canvas because the raw surface has a looser weave. When buying canvas, look for a material that takes gesso well and provides a good balance of strength and elasticity. To help you choose, browse our selection of the best unprimed canvas products below.
1. PRO ART Canvas Roll
This 100% natural cotton duck canvas is available in 3 and 6 yard rolls between 24 and 63 inches wide. We love its versatile 7-ounce weight, which means it’s light, handles light coats of gesso well – without soaking it up like a sponge – and is easy to stretch and remove from a frame. Its surface is a natural off-white, smooth and evenly woven from edge to edge. Roll format allows you to easily cut perfectly sized custom sections for your stretcher bars; it also helps keep the canvas wrinkle free.
2. Nasco 1100424 Fine Art Cotton Canvas Roll
If you’re looking for a canvas with a more rustic feel, consider this untreated cotton canvas. Unlike most of the other picks on this list, it’s yellowish brown rather than white, but the color is nice rather than muddy. Like our top pick, it’s a 7-ounce fabric, and it’s double-filled, meaning it’s woven more tightly for a flatter surface. This option is offered in a 6 yard roll with a width of 62 inches.
3. Mybecca Unprimed Cotton Canvas
Made using eco-friendly processes, this all-natural cotton duck fabric measures 58 inches wide and is available in 1, 5, 10, or 15 yard lengths; it is usually shipped folded to protect it from damage in transit. Useful for painting, staining, and sewing, this material is gesso-resistant and weighs 10 ounces. What really sets it apart from the competition is that its back is covered in polyurethane. This makes it water resistant and durable for the outdoors while remaining flexible and pleasant to the touch.
4. Unsized Fredrix Cotton Roll 548
This canvas is the heaviest on our list, weighing in at 12 ounces. You can prep it with two or three coats of gesso, and the surface is sturdy but evenly woven. This canvas is also ideal for stretching over large frames, able to maintain high tensile strength even when stretched over a large area. Available in a 6 meter roll measuring 72 inches wide, this material can easily be cut to suit a range of projects.
5. American Art Canvas Roll
It’s a 7-ounce textile, but it’s thinner than similar options, making it a good option for artists looking for a noticeably lightweight fabric. It is ultra malleable and can take light coats of gesso, but be careful when stretching it, especially on large frames, to avoid tearing. This canvas roll is also slightly cheaper than the others on our list, making it a good option for artists shopping on a tight budget.