Oil Painting Supports
This page contains details of the oil painting supports that I use or have used.
An oil painting support is any surface that you can apply oil paint to or at least prepared it for. Choosing the right support is one of the most important decisions you can make for your oil paintings, in the end it's what you are going to be working on and the base for your painting.

As with most things, there are a number of different types of oil painting support on the market and each has different qualities, which may or may not suit your style or planned painting technique. I would therefore encourage anyone to at least look at them all and see which support you like the best and/or which may suit your painting style and budget.
Cotton duck canvas :
Cotton Duck canvas is a type of textile derived from cotton plant and cotton duck canvas is the most popular and also the least expensive on the market. It comes in a variety of surface textures and weights from 9 oz up to 18 oz with 12 oz being the classic weight.  You can buy it pre-stretched, made to order, in rolls, primed and un-primed. For both oil and acrylic painting, an acrylic gesso primer is generally used.

Many beginners buy ready to use pre-stretched canvas, which comes in a variety of sizes although usually to set ones like 8" x 10" or 12" x 16". There are very convenient being just unwrap and begin painting.

Pre-stretched canvas usually comes in two styles - regular style and gallery wrap. This refers to the depth of the bars (frame) supporting the canvas.

Regular style canvas is wrapped around thinner stretcher bars and due to the method of attaching the canvas, nails or staples these usually require a frame to hide this before hanging.

Gallery wrap, this type of canvas offers crisp, deep and clean edges and can be hung framed or unframed as the usual method is to attach the canvas at the back and not on the side. Due to the thicker wooden bars these more expensive than the regular.

Lots of companies make ready made canvas from 4" x 4" to 48" x 60", just check what canvas weight and texture is being used before ordering or have them made to order.
Linen canvas:
Linen is a textile derived from a flax plant and labour intensive to manufacture. Linen (Begium, French or Italian) is better quality due to its strength and resistance to decay over time. This results in a more expensive product but it's more durable, more natural weave and doesn't slack like cotton etc.

Just like cotton canvas, linen canvas comes pre-stretched, in rolls, primed or un-primed. It also comes in variety of textures, weights and smooth or rough finish.

For the DIY fan, there is however a downside to using a pre-primed canvas is that it is much more difficult to get good tension in the fabric in comparison to stretching untreated canvas, and then sizing and priming it. Needless to say the correct tools are required whichever route is taken.

If doing your own priming, Acrylic primer is the less expensive option and can be used for both oil or acrylic painting.

Oil primer is the standard classic method (use only for oil painting) but needs more methods to prepare and therefore costs more plus time. Linen is both difficult to prime and stretch and if an oil primer is to be used the linen canvas must first be sized with PVA or rabbit skin glue, which serves to seal the fabric and act as a barrier.

Like cotton canvas, Linen canvas is available from a number of companies and comes in different weights, surface texture etc.

For my larger canvas requirements I use Russell & Chapple and their custom made or made to order. The beauty of this is that you can select the size required (not conform, if so required, to the standard ready made sizes), plus you can select from a range of canvas (cotton or linen) and finally the stretchers with different profiles and depth.

See the Russell & Chapple
website for more details and prices. Other companies like Jackson's Art produce hand made canvas to your requirements.
Canvas Covered Panels or Boards, Oil Pads and Blocks:
Canvas Covered Panels or Boards:
Canvas boards/panels have traditionally been used for sketching outdoors. Basically they are made from primed canvas stretched and adhered to a rigid cardboard backing . Boards take up less room and are less easily damaged than stretched canvases. These usually have a medium grain, which isn't always the best surface texture if you are after one for fine detail but ideal for beginner or those wanting to experiment with different techniques.

In the past I've only used the Artists' Canvas Boards from
Winsor & Newton. Most of my work in now on Gesso panels (see below).

Like other things, there are other ranges and quality of Canvas Mounted Boards from different companies should you wish to experiment.

Belle Arti
Cotton Art Boards or Gesso Panels

Daler Rowney
Oil Primed Board - being oil primed only use with oil paint

Natural Linen Canvas Board

Jackson's Art produce a range of Canvas or Handmade Linen Boards with a variety of linens to choice from depending on the surface texture required.
Pads and Blocks:
Following the same lines as a watercolour block or pad there's also a range of products aimed at the oil painter.

Arches Oil:
is a French made 300 gsm (140 lb) paper specially formulated for oil painting but has the look and feel of traditional Arches papers. In sheets or as a roll.

Canson Figueras Canvas Paper

Fredrix Canvas Pad:
sheets of acrylic primed cotton duck in range of sizes

Hahnemühle Oil and Acrylic Block

Finished paintings on boards are very easy to frame. Either using tape, a conservation type really should be used or held in with framers points.

I prefer to add a backing board (conservation grade), also held in with framers points and then use brown gum tape to cover the rear of the moulding (frame) and pins so it looks neat and tidy. but it does add to the time required to finish the framing and therefore an additional cost.
Gesso covered Hardboard - sometimes know as Masonite - smooth srface on one side rough on the other
Most of my smaller work is now done on Gesso covered hardboard. By varying the application of the Gesso different surface textures can be used but use with a degree of caution as the texture can fight with the painting. The opposite is to sand it smooth therefore making itideal for detailed work. Most of mine have a slight texture resulting form the application of the gesso with a brush. Hardboard/Masonite is a manufactured product made from wood.  Wood chips are blasted with steam into long fibres and formed into boards, which are then pressed and heated to form a finished product.  For oil painting hardboard/masonite can be primed with acrylic gesso or canvas can be glued on top of it. One thing to keep in mind however is that large boards have tendency to bend and therefore for larger paintings extra backing support would be well advised as well as painting the back of the board.

The Untempered variety is used widely by artists and thought safer, than Tempered, for archival painting although it is less durable at the edges as it has a looser fibre content. By preparing your own surfaces (canvas or hardboard) you can choose any dimensions or shapes you like and many artists do prepare of their own.

Primers really control the texture, absorbency of the support, while colour can also be considered. Priming hardboard for oil painting is inexpensive when compared to other supports, the boards can be purchased quite cheaply, although these will need a number of coats of acrylic gesso (3 to 5 coats) before painting (on the smooth side which has been lightly sanded), so takes more time but I usually do them in batches of 20 to 40 at a time, one coat at the end of the day over a number of days.

As an alternative to making you own, a number of companies make ready made versions.
Making Gesso covered boards:
I purchase full sheets of hardboard or masonite (depending on location and supplier) and then cut to the required sizes. Depending on the size needed - a division of the width and/or length results in little or no waste.

After cutting, sand the smooth surface and edges.

I use Winsor & Newton Artists Acrylic White Gesso. There is also a clear version.

Each board will have five coats applied to them with a large household paint brush - used only for gesso. It's better to use one with long hair as the gesso does dry quickly. Therefore it's best to keep the gesso away from the ferrule and wash the brush as soon as you have finished. Allow each coat to dry before adding the next. Larger boards can warp, if this happens' paint the back with a coat and if very big a support frame will be needed.

If you want a smooth surface, sand the surface between each coat.

For slight uneven texture, use straight from the pot and retain some of the brush marks. Vary brush pattern for each layer.

For a fine canvas like texture, brush horizontal for one coat, then vertical for the next, repeat horizontal then vertical until all layers have been applied.

For more texture, add some texture paste to second or third layer but beware that the texture itself doesn't compete with the brush work of the finished painting.