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Canvas Board vs Stretched Canvas

If you are a beginner at painting and you are wondering which is better, canvas board vs stretched canvas, this article will help you decide. These two painting surfaces may look similar from afar, but you will notice the differences once you observe them more closely.

Is it better to use a canvas board, or is stretched canvas still the way to go? If you are a beginner at painting and are wondering which one to choose, this article will guide you through the intricacies of the different kinds of canvases and which one you should choose.

Should you spend a couple of extra bucks for stretched canvas, or are canvas boards more than enough?

Canvas Board vs. Stretched Canvas – Which is Better?

Before we delve into the advantages of canvas board vs. stretched canvas that will assist you in distinguishing or differentiating one from the other, let us discuss the details of these painting surfaces. Here are their short descriptions.

What is Stretched Canvas?

what makes stretched canvas better

A stretched canvas is just a piece of canvas cloth stretched and stapled over a wooden frame. Professional artists use stretched canvases because they look better and lighter. However, because the canvas is stretched tightly over a wooden frame, the painting surface is quite fragile and easily damaged.

What Makes Stretched Canvas Better?

So what are the differentiating features of the stretched canvas that make it better than the canvas board? The following are some clear answers:

Springy Painting Surface

Stretched canvases provide a nice spring-like painting surface, which is great for when you are using brushes. This will allow you to get better effects when you bend the brushes.

Larger Painting Surfaces

Stretched canvases, thanks to their wooden frames, can be as large as 60” x 120”. They will still be quite heavy the bigger they get, but the frame will also be stronger so the canvas will still have ample support.

Easier Shipping

If you ever need to ship your finished painting, you can unmount the canvas from the frame and put it in a protective tube. You can then just remount the canvas on a new frame. This is not possible with canvas boards. You cannot roll up or fold canvas boards, so shipping them as is will be quite expensive.

What is a Canvas Board?

canvas board vs stretched canvas

Canvas boards/panels, just like stretched canvases, also use canvas cloth. However, instead of getting stretched over a wooden frame, the fabric has a thick cardboard backing. This is ideal for small paintings. However, as the paintings get bigger, the canvas board gets heavier as well.

What Makes Canvas Boards Better?

The following are some of the distinctive and unique benefits of canvas boards that make them better than the stretched canvas:

Does not Loosen

One of the biggest issues of stretched canvases is that they tend to loosen over time and will need to be re-stretched. This also usually happens when the season changes, like from summer to fall, or when you move the painting somewhere where the weather is significantly colder.

This is a common problem that artists have when they need to transport their artworks from one art gallery to another. It does not happen to canvas boards as the fabric comes firmly glued onto the backing board, thereby providing a guarantee that it will not loosen.

Easier to Mount

If you will be creating your own stretched canvases or remounting old paintings, you should use a bit of elbow grease. This gets even more difficult the larger the painting. On the other hand, it is easier to make canvas panels as you will only need to affix the fabric onto the backing cardboard.

No need for Stretcher Bars

Since you will not be mounting the canvas fabric onto a wooden frame, it is not advisable to install stretcher bars for canvas panels. Stretcher bars are required for stretched canvas frames because the frame can’t hold its shape otherwise.

Also, for bigger stretched canvases, you have to add supporting crossbars for more rigidity.

Minimal Surface Movement

The surface of stretched canvas tends to move when it experiences sudden changes in ambient temperature and vibrations. Over time, these slight movements will disturb the paint layers and cause them to crack eventually.

This is not an issue with canvas panels because the fabric comes securely fixed on the backing board. There is no amount of vibration and temperature changes that will move the canvas.


Canvas panels are more suitable for small paintings, making them ideal for outdoor painting. Also, since light cannot shine through the backing board of canvas panels, it is easier to judge the colors.

You can also prop up canvas boards on anything – a park bench, against a tree, and anywhere else. Meanwhile, stretched canvas needs to be placed on an easel.


As its name suggests, the canvas fabric comes stretched tightly over a frame in a stretched canvas. This makes the painted surface easy to damage. Moreover, if for instance, you were not able to patch up a punctured stretch canvas painting, the hole will get larger.

On the other hand, even though canvas panels are still at risk of damage, they will not be near the same extent as stretched canvas.

Ease of Cropping

If ever you need to crop a canvas board, you can do so immediately without that much preparation. For stretched canvas paintings, you have to remove the canvas from the frame. Construct a new frame for the cropped canvas and then stretch the canvas over it again.

Easier to Store

In terms of size, canvas boards are more compact than stretched canvases. You can store several canvas boards in the space provided for just one stretch canvas painting. Also, as mentioned earlier, since canvas boards are more durable, you do not have to worry about damaging them while in storage.

Based on these details, you can probably tell that canvas boards are the more convenient choice. Stretched canvases have their benefits though, but they are more for experienced artists.

Can You Frame a Canvas Board?

Yes, you can frame a canvas board. However, it is not usually in the same way as you would a stretched canvas painting. In fact, you cannot frame a canvas board under glass as it can touch the surface of the canvas. You should apply a sealant or varnish over the artwork and leave out the glass panel altogether.


When it comes to canvas board vs stretched canvas, the better choice for most people would be the canvas board. Canvas boards are more affordable, convenient to use, and durable. In addition, if you are a beginner at painting, a canvas board is a better choice because it is more forgiving.

This does not mean that stretched canvases are no good. Once you gain a bit more experience with painting on canvas, you can then start using stretched canvas. There is just something about the stretched canvas that makes it look more professional.

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