Developed as an alternative to traditional surfaces such as wood panels, stretched canvases became popular due to their portability, cost and the consideration of weight when hanging a piece of art work.
Although some artists prepare and stretch their own canvases many people like the convenience offered by stretched canvases that are sized and primed and available in a large choice of sizes making them the preferred choice.
Canvases are available in a wide range of prices and qualities with Artist’s quality canvases using better quality, heavier fabrics that are primed in several layers of acrylic primer allowing for a multitude of media, primarily Oils & Acrylics and have wooden stretcher bars (and support bars for larger sizes) that have been made from the most suitable wood and kiln dried to minimise warping.
Stretched canvases are mostly available made in either Cotton or Linen.
A natural fabric with a regular weave is popular choice as it is affordable and is easily stretched to a high level of tightness, more so than linen, without putting strain onto the wooden frame. For larger canvases the heavier the weight of the cotton used the better.
Linen, more expensive than Cotton, has been the traditional choice for Artist’s canvases for centuries being strong and durable, but that extra investment gets you a material which will last longer and will hold up better to heavy handed painting, with Linen not becoming as slack as easily as a Cotton canvas could.
Also as Linen retains its natural oils which help to preserve the flexibility of the fibres, stopping the canvas from becoming brittle. In addition the threads that make up linen (the warp and weft threads) have the same weight meaning they are less prone to expansion or contraction due to moisture.