zest-it logo Surfaces for Oil Painting. zest-it logo

Choosing surfaces and supports for Oil painting.

zest-it support canvas
Canvas weave

Oil paint is an amenable media and can be applied to many surfaces.
The surface you choose if often a personal matter related to the finished result. The surface you use is refereed to as the 'support'.
The most common choice is canvas, either as a 'stretched' canvas or as a canvas board. There are however other choices, either as rigid or flexible supports.

Below is a selection of surfaces that can be used for oil painting.

Flexible Supports

These would be canvas, synthetic canvas, textiles, leather, fabric and paper.
‘Canvas’ is often used as a generic term for different types of ready prepared stretched canvas. The flexible canvas 'support', is material stretched over stretcher bars to give stability and a paint-able surface.

The two main true ‘canvas’ fabric types used are, Cotton Duck and Linen, a look at the back of the canvas will give an indication of its fabric type.

zest-it stretched canvas


watercolour paper selection
Watercolour Paper

Paper makes an excellent support for oil painting, if it is 100% cotton rag content and buffered against atmospheric damage, which most good quality watercolour papers are.
Drawing and printer papers are not usually suitable.

Artists who have used watercolour paper for their oil painting.

Watercolour paper needs priming for best longevity results, a thin gesso, permanent ink or gelatine can be used successfully for this purpose.

The weight of the paper is important - 140lb (300 gm) or above. Arches and Saunders Waterford would be good choices. Millford is the 'Whatman' w/colour paper replacement made by St Cutherberts Mill

Rigid Supports

These would be a wall, wood, wooden panel, metal, glass, core boards, mount board, mdf, laminated board, tinware and pottery.
The preparation of these surfaces is just as important as that of flexible ones and most need priming suited to their type.

Very few rigid supports are available as ready prepared surfaces, so for many, the preparation of the painting surface becomes an integral part of the whole painting process.
Tinware is one of the few that can be found ready for use.

zest-it support metal jug

oil painting on copper tray
'Everlasting Sweetpea's' using oil paint on a copper tray

Metal and boards can be found almost ready to use. Wood and glass can be easy surfaces to prepare for oil painting if purchased just needing to be primed and the same applies to pottery surfaces. It will pay dividends to learn about the preparation of your chosen surface.

Conservators have indicated that the more rigid the surface the better chance the oil painting has of living a good long life.

Canvas board is a popular surface for many oil painters, it is readily available, needs little preparation and economical.

They also come as paper covered board suitable for oil paint. You can make your own using canvas or paper applied to thin mdf, gesso the surface before use.

We have suitable canvas for sale in our EBay store


canvas board

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