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Does Watercolor Work on Canvas?


Did you know that watercolor paper isn’t the only painting/drawing surface where to use watercolor? So, if you’d like to explore the world of watercolor art and you’re sure interested to know the answer to the question, “Does watercolor work on canvas?” This post is for you.

We can see a lot of these questions online and in forums. The answer is YES; however, there is more to know than that because there are certain things to consider if you’re using canvas for your watercolor paintings.

In this post, we’re going to discuss what you need to know about the alternatives you can use instead of watercolor paper. After this post, we’re hoping that you’ll learn about how to use canvas with your watercolor.

Before going any further, let’s define what a watercolor canvas is. First of all, watercolor paper is a kind of absorbent paper, so it is compatible with watercolor, which is dependent on the paper where it is being used.

For instance, it’s the kind that gets partially absorbed, and then later the paint is fixed into the surface and fiber of the paper. Oppositely, the canvas is used typically on acrylics and oils.

If you want to do watercolor painting on canvas, you should remember to change the surface’s nature- and make it from non-absorbent to absorbent.

What is a watercolor canvas? It’s a kind of canvas, which is designed and prepared for accommodating watercolor paints. It has a changed surface finish that allows it to absorb the paint just like paper.

See also: Can You Use Oil Pastels on Canvas?

Watercolor Canvas: What is it and what are its advantages?

You can choose from several options if you want to paint with watercolors on canvas. A few options are ready-to-paint watercolor canvas and watercolor-ready canvasses. On the other hand, some artists also prime a regular canvas using a watercolor ground so that they can later use it for watercolor painting.

One of your options is to use a commercially-manufactured canvas, which is special for its gesso coating. It is designed to accept watercolor paints. Some of the formats available include a canvas pad, a canvas board, or a pre-stretched canvas.

Typically, they have a kind of texture to ordinary fabric canvases that have fine texture; thus, they make for a very easy surface for watercolor painting.

However, you might be a little surprised by this kind of canvas if you are unfamiliar with it. First of all, you should be able to use a slightly different technique to work comfortably on the new canvas finish. But when you become familiar, you’ll see that there are advantages to using canvas, including the paint resting on the surface longer; thus, you will have more time and opportunities to modify your paint and play with it.

The reason is that watercolor canvas is less absorbent than a typical watercolor paper is. The feel is like using hot-pressed watercolor paper, that makes it an ideal canvas for certain techniques, such as wet on wet art.

In addition, you don’t have to reserve whites unlike when you’re using conventional paper. It is because the lifting doesn’t return to white completely. But then, you can make adjustments and fix mistakes if ever.

And if you need to remove or change a section of your painting, you can just scrub it back and then get back to painting once more – without ruining your surface. This advantage can be hard to come by with ordinary watercolor paper.

However, it can be a disadvantage if you’re doing more glazing in your painting. In this case, you need to be extra careful when you’re laying down additional layers even if your first glaze is already dry.

Also, you need to apply fresh glazing immediately to prevent the underlying layer from lifting and worse combining with the new glaze you’re making. This issue is uncommon with a typical watercolor paper, so again, you should adjust your technique for a bit.

A canvas is durable for watercolor painting

One of the reasons that you might want to practice and hone your skills on watercolor painting on canvas is the durable and hard-to-tear surface. If you love sketching outlines, a canvas can also be your friend, as it is quite durable. Plus, it allows erasing of the mistakes and that is without changing the surface’s quality.

A pre-stretched canvas, on the other hand, isn’t buckling or warping when compared to watercolor paper. You can also choose from a wide range of sizes that you need for your painting. And if you need to frame your work with watercolor paper, you don’t need to do it in pre-stretched watercolor paper. But to make your art longer-lasting, you must apply some varnish for your finished painting.

A pre-stretched canvas is also acid-free and 100% cotton. These qualities are great for archival properties. Pretty much, you should also be looking for the same when you’re buying watercolor paper.

Priming standard canvas

You can also coat your standard canvas’ surface using a thin ground layer, and allow it to dry. This is a very easy way of preparing your ordinary canvas to make it compatible with watercolor painting. For the best results, you might want to let your ground dry overnight for super absorption.

Can you use watercolor on canvas?

By now, you probably know the answer, and that’s yes! You can find easy and ready-to-use watercolor canvas on the market. They’re the perfect option if you’re painting with watercolor on canvas from time to time.


Does watercolor work on canvas? Yes! Try these suggestions we’ve shared above so that you can get started and make your watercolor painting on canvas more worthwhile. You can do it with options, like using watercolor-ready canvas and priming ordinary canvas, to name some.

We do hope that you’d be able to accomplish your task of watercolor painting on canvas using the tips above. If you find this article useful, please share it with friends on social media today!

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