Which colors are suitable for canvases?

Stretched canvases can be painted with very different colors. You can, depending on what effect would like to be achieved, use different colors or partially combine with each other.

Here we present the paints that are particularly suitable for canvases.

Optimal colors for canvases

Acrylic color

Acrylic paints are acrylic acid-based paints that can be diluted with water.

The colors dry quite quickly on the canvas. However, the drying time can be extended somewhat with appropriate painting agents.

When drying, acrylic paints become even slightly darker and harden into a waterproof coating. This means that they cannot be removed later. A fixative is therefore not necessary.

When using acrylic paints, good and quick brush care is also necessary. Brushes and other painting tools should always be cleaned with water after use. Once the acrylic paint has set, it is difficult to remove paint residues from the brush. 


These water-soluble paints consist of the binder "gum arabic", color pigments and chalk.

The gouache color can be used in painting opaque but also glazing. When drying, the colors get a kind of pastel effect. Dried colors can be dissolved and used again.  

Since gouache does not set after drying, it is recommended to apply a fixative to the painted canvas. However, care should be taken to ensure that the fixative is suitable for gouache colors and is matt, otherwise it will spoil the pastel color effect. 


These colors consist of an emulsion of water and oil or glue. Various additives are used as binders. Egg, casein or starch are typical.

Real tempera paints are rarely sold as ready-made tube paints because they deteriorate very easily and can only be preserved to a limited extent with the heavy use of preservatives. Normally, therefore, artists prepares the colors themselves.

The dried colors are more resistant to aging than pure water-based paints and have a velvety matte surface.

Oil color

These paints are mixed from drying oils as binders and pigments.

Oil paints take a relatively long time to dry. Unfinished paintings can therefore be painted even days and weeks after the work has begun. Gradients can also be best achieved with oil paints. Oil colors can be thinned with turpentine and various oils. If a pasty application is desired, the paint can be supplemented with painting agents.

Once the painting is thoroughly dry, the painted canvas is typically slightly glossy and very resistant to aging. 

Oil pastels

Oil crayons are solid colors and contain significant proportions of oil and wax in addition to fillers, binders and color pigments.

When rubbed together, oil pastels produce well covering and strong colors. Similar to oil paints, they can be smudged to form fine, transparent color gradients. They are not water-soluble, but can be painted with turpentine or benzine and also mixed dry. At temperatures above 50 °C, oil crayons become soft.

Unlike pastels, oil crayons do not require a fixative after completion of the painting and are resistant to aging.

Further Colors


Watercolor paints consist mainly of water-soluble binders and very fine pigments. These glazing colors are diluted only with water and applied with a brush usually on special paper or parchment.

To be able to paint with watercolor on canvas, there is a special primer to prepare the canvas for water-based paints. It should be mentioned that in any case the canvas structure shows through, because the pigments are deposited in the canvas structure. If you use a highly pigmented watercolor paint with a little water, you can achieve interesting effects on a primed cotton canvas. However, this has nothing to do with classic watercolor painting.

If you want to achieve similar effects on a canvas as in watercolor painting on paper, the stretched canvas AQUA is recommended, which was developed directly for painting with watercolor. 

Pastels, coal and red chalk

Pastels, coal and red chalk are ideal for preliminary drawings on stretched canvases. All have in common that these have no binders and thus leave a loose layer of paint on the canvas.

Of course, you can also use them as a stylistic device in the canvas painting and leave strokes of the preliminary drawings.  

The important thing here is to treat the drawn elements with a fixative before applying the other paint. This prevents the drawings from rubbing or mixing with the paint.

The choice of fixative depends on the color that will be used to paint on the canvas. 

Markers and pens

Beautiful details can also be achieved using felt-tip pens, fineliners or markers. The basic prerequisite for this is that the canvas surface is not very absorbent so that the colors bleed.

In addition, the canvas surface should be as smooth as possible. Due to the structure of the canvas, the marker fibers can be roughened. The life of a marker is therefore significantly influenced by the painting surface. 

Primed cotton fabrics are therefore only suitable to a limited extent for painting on with markers. Specially developed ForMarkers canvases are ideal for this purpose.

More tips and tutorials for stretched canvases

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Mixed Media on Canvas

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