The short answer is “yes.” But it’s a little more complicated than that. There are a few things to consider when utilizing canvas as a base for watercolor paintings.

I had been wondering about utilizing canvas and thought this would be an excellent occasion to experiment with this alternative to regular watercolor paper.

Below, I’ll share all I’ve learned and everything you need to know about utilizing canvas with watercolor! (Van Laerhoven, T., Liesenborgs, J. and Van Reeth, F., 2004)

What is a watercolor canvas?

Watercolors are traditionally painted on watercolor paper.

Watercolor paper is a good absorbent medium. Watercolor paints rely on the paper to partially absorb and adhere the paint to the surface and the underlying paper fibers.

On the other hand, Canvas is typically used for oil or acrylic paintings.

These paints are often put on a non-absorbent substrate so that all of the paint remains on the surface. (Bousseau, A., Kaplan, M., Thollot, J. and Sillion, F.X., 2006)

What’s the bottom line?

To put it simply, if you wish to utilize canvas for watercolor painting, you must transform the surface’s nature from non-absorbent to absorbant.

A “watercolor canvas” is merely a canvas that has been specifically prepared to absorb the colors’ watery character. Watercolor canvas has a modified surface texture that absorbs paint similarly to paper.

The characteristics of watercolor canvas

The first thing you’ll notice is that the paint stays on the surface for considerably longer, allowing you more opportunity to experiment with it. This is due to the fact that watercolor canvas is not as absorbent as watercolor paper.

It’s almost as though you’re working with hot-pressed watercolor paper.

This makes watercolor canvas ideal for wet-on-wet methods.

The way canvas allows you to lift dry watercolor paint is the second most visible difference. Watercolor canvas has significantly greater lifting potential than paper, even when the paint is totally dried.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Watercolor Canvas

Watercolor paints, unlike oil-based and acrylic paints, contain little structure. Its name says it all, and its consistency is identical to that of water. This implies it requires additional support from the substance it is painted on to maintain its shape. The watercolor paper is highly absorbent and porous, so it holds the watercolor well. Is it possible to apply watercolor on canvas?

You can if you treat the canvas to make it more absorbent. Otherwise, the canvas will be more liquid-resistant, and the watercolor paints will not adhere. The following are the benefits and drawbacks of watercolor canvas paintings.


If you work slowly, taking your time to mix your colors, watercolor on canvas board will not dry as quickly as watercolor on paper, which is highly absorbent.

Canvas is environmentally beneficial since it is composed entirely of cotton.

Watercolor painting on canvas is more sturdy and will not shatter as readily if you are careless.

Watercolor canvas is readily put on a wall since it is commonly framed, whereas watercolor paper must be framed once the painting is done.

Watercolor paper has a tendency to distort at the margins, something you will not encounter while painting with watercolor on canvas.

Applying gesso to any canvas will result in a canvas suitable for watercolors.

If you don’t like the work you’ve done, you may wipe the watercolor paints clean off the canvas, but your work is permanent because the watercolor paper is so absorbent.


Because watercolor paints may be readily washed or pulled off the canvas surface, you must paint a clear acrylic paint over the finished piece to prevent it from being washed away accidentally.


Even if you’re an expert at painting with watercolors on paper, you’ll need to retrain your watercolor painting abilities to work on canvas since the two material surfaces are so different.


Watercolor canvas art methods can be difficult to master due to the ease they can be wiped off the canvas.


The watercolor paints may pool because the canvas is not as absorbent as the watercolor paper.


Choosing the Best Watercolor Canvas

Keep a lookout for those specialist canvases, carefully prepared to absorb watercolor paints, on your next trip to the nearby art supply store. Watercolor paper is considerably softer and absorbent, which is why prepping canvas for watercolor is vital – especially if you did not manage to get the appropriate canvas. The proper canvas in the store will clearly mention on the label if it is intended for watercolor painting. If not, check to see if the canvas is acid-free and composed entirely of cotton.

If you don’t have the luxury of purchasing another can or just starting out and don’t want to spend money on a practice round. You may always treat a standard canvas meant for acrylic or oil-based paints by applying a layer of gesso over the top. Painting watercolor on a gesso-treated canvas allows the paint to be more easily absorbed by the canvas.

Now let’s talk about the watercolor canvas.

Painting on watercolor canvas differs from painting on watercolor paper, so there may be a learning curve when you first begin. For example, paints will stay wet longer on a watercolor canvas than on paper. Furthermore, even though the watercolor canvas is covered with a gesso designed specifically for use with watercolors, the surface is not as absorbent as watercolor paper.

To get the most out of the watercolor canvas, make your first painting on it an experiment, so you may try out different approaches and see how the watercolors respond to the canvas. This might help you avoid making several mistakes when creating a “real” picture on watercolor canvas.

Many painters choose to work on watercolor canvases rather than watercolor paper since the final painting may be hung directly on the wall without needing to be framed under glass. If you do this, preserve your completed watercolor painting with a spray sealer like Krylon Crystal Clear. This, like varnish, will produce a protective finishing coat over your artwork. (Brown-Davidson, T., 1993)

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