Acrylic Painting Surfaces


Stretched cotton canvas is the most common painting support for professional artists. The weave of the cloth combined with the spring of the stretched material are canvases' most popular features.

Using raw canvas: For painters wanting to stain raw canvas with strong, bright colour, acrylics are ideal for two reasons.  Firstly, acrylics appear particularly bright as a result of the binder drying clear. Secondly, acrylics don't sink like oils because the acrylic molecule is larger. As a result, you can avoid sizing or priming, staining the canvas with colour instead.

Canvas board

Canvas boards were first introduced for sketching outdoors. However, some artists prefer boards as they take up less room and are less easily damaged than stretched canvases. Finished paintings on boards can be easier and less expensive to frame than canvases.

Paper and Medium Density Fibre Board (MDF)

Paper is popular with acrylic painters for its texture and drag. It is also an economical support which can be less inhibiting than a stretched canvas.  As acrylics are not prone to sinking like oils, a wider variety of results can be more easily achieved on paper. Winsor & Newton Acrylic Paper Pads and Winsor & Newton Oil Paper Pads (shown below) is lightly embossed with a canvas texture.

Winton Canvas Paper

Good quality heavy watercolour paper can also be used, if a traditional surface is preferred. Paper can be primed, using the brushwork for extra texture. 

Arches Oil paper is a French made 300gsm (140 lb),  specially formulated for oil painting, yet it maintains the look and feel of traditional Arches papers.

By preparing your own canvas or board you can choose any dimensions or shapes you like, even circular, and many artists enjoy the preparation of their materials. Priming hardboard or MDF (masonite types) for painting is inexpensive and this in itself can encourage more painting.


Primer controls the texture, absorbency and colour of your support. Its important to use a good quality primer for good quality colours as the longevity of the painting depends on all its constituent parts. There are many acrylic primers to choose from.

Professional Acrylic Gesso Primer (Liquitex and Winsor & Newton Artists' Acrylic) has the highest covering power and is the best primer if using one coat only. Galeria Gesso Primer provides a good quality gesso at an affordable price. 

Clear Gesso Base is a unique product which provides tooth but no colour, hence using acrylic colours you can make your own coloured gesso. 

A dark priming brings the elements of the painting together and also saves time when painting.


For craft items, a white base/priming may not be required. However new wood may be absorbent and should be sealed with Acrylic Fluid Matt Medium to ensure the subsequent colour forms a secure paint film.

Unusual Surfaces

Plaster, brick, terracotta and leather are just some of the exciting surfaces on which acrylic can also be used. The acrylic projects at the back of the booklet detail their preparation.

Canvas Wedges

Pre-stretched canvases come with a small bag of wooden pieces attached to the back of the canvas stretcher. To understand what they are for and how to use them visit our canvas wedges blog post