What to Avoid When Shopping: Panel Canvas

You’ve seen them on walls and galleries; we’ve all seen them in endless stacks on shelves, so let’s deal with the elephant in the room. Those undeniably affordable panel canvases that often come in cheap packs of multiple units are a real steal. But who’s being stolen from, really? These easy to produce, easy to buy products are certainly tempting, but you may not be aware of the long-term drawbacks that come with such low-cost, low-quality canvases. Today we’re going to give you the nitty-gritty on why panel canvases are something that should mostly be avoided by those looking to create good, lasting work.

What’s This Panel Canvas You Speak Of?

We should first define what we’re talking about, for those who might not know. Panel canvases are easy to recognize because they’re usually very thin compared to higher-quality canvases. They usually come in packs of more than one, and they’re very common in both the rather dismally stocked art supply sections of major department stores as well as real art suppliers.

They achieve their thinness because, instead of being properly stretched and stapled to a sturdy frame, these canvases are glued over a much cheaper material, usually cardboard or cheap wood. This provides a cheap alternative to stretching the canvas for the manufacturer, allowing them to pass savings on to the customer, but at the price of quality.

If you see staples and a wood frame, it's probably a stretched canvas and not a panel.

What Panels Should Be Used For

Of course, these cheap facsimiles of real canvases aren’t all bad, in fact they’re absolutely spectacular for quick studies, for students without the need for expensive surfaces or for anyone else who just wants to experiment with paint.

Why These Canvases Should Be Avoided

However, these canvases become trouble when used for serious work, as their quality is lacking in many ways. To begin with, they aren’t meant to hold up to much stress. Whether from movement, weathering, age or even just too much paint used on them, they can easily bend, warp and become otherwise damaged.

Additionally, since they are glued to the board instead of stapled, these canvases can often come partly or even entirely off their backing, ruining the painting or at least making it very vulnerable. The canvas itself is often of poor quality, and they are rarely primed well, because these canvases are made quickly and in high quantities in order for the manufacturer to turn a profit.

The Shady Side of Panel Canvas

Though there’s nothing wrong with panel canvases existing, and in fact many professional artists use them as an indispensable testing ground, the real problem is the way that these canvases are often presented on the market.

The world of art supplies is a fascinating, but somewhat hard to crack puzzle, especially for beginners. When people see that they can buy a great many panel canvases for the same price as one good stretched canvas, they can often jump right into making a purchase without knowing the consequences.

The manufacturers, though rarely outright lying, aren’t exactly trying to stop these shoppers either. Many panel canvases are packaged with exciting pictures and copy that give the impression that the buyer is getting a high-quality surface, and most of this is indistinguishable to the common buyer from the packaging on a nicer canvas.

This is why it’s important to do some research before making any art supply purchase, and why it’s a pretty good rule of thumb that anything which looks too cheap to be true probably is just that.

You won't get this kind of personal attention with panel canvas manufacturers.

Unless you need to save the cash or just need something for a quick piece of work, it’s really just best to avoid panel canvases. You’ll be glad you did when that gorgeous piece you did five years ago still looks great, while your friend with the shallow pockets and cheap panel canvas slowly watches his work fall apart before his eyes. If we have one goal here at the shop (besides actually making great canvases), it’d be to keep our customers from becoming that guy. Be the one with the long lasting, wonderful piece of artwork that’s displayed on a worthy surface, and choose stretched over panel canvases for all of your serious work.

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