A Brief History of Painting Fabrics


Linen has been used as a painting support for centuries, and its long history can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where it was used for mummification, clothing, and even as a currency.

During the Renaissance, linen became the preferred support for oil painting as, unlike wooden panels, it could withstand the expansion and contraction of the paint as it dried and was resistant to moisture and humidity. This allowed artists to create large, complex works that could be transported and displayed without damage.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, linen remained the primary support for oil painting, but its popularity declined as cheaper, mass-produced alternatives such as canvas and paper became available. However, linen remained the preferred support for high-quality, professional-grade paintings.

Today, linen is still used by many contemporary artists for its high quality and archival properties. It remains a popular choice for oil painting and other mediums, such as acrylics and watercolours.

In conclusion, linen has a long and rich history as a painting support, and its enduring popularity is a testament to its durability, strength, and quality. Whether used by ancient Egyptians, Renaissance masters, or contemporary artists, linen remains an essential and valued material in the world of art.



Cotton canvas has been a popular painting support for many years, offering artists a durable, flexible, and relatively inexpensive surface to work on. The history of cotton canvas as a painting support can be traced back to the 19th century when cotton duck fabric was first introduced as an alternative to linen, which was more expensive and less readily available.

Cotton duck fabric is a tightly woven cotton material commonly used for sails, tents, and other outdoor applications. In the mid-1800s, painters began using cotton duck fabric as a support for their paintings, stretching the fabric over wooden frames and priming it with layers of gesso to create a smooth surface for painting.

By the early 20th century, cotton canvas had become the preferred painting support for many artists. Cotton canvas was more affordable than linen, and its strength and durability made it an ideal choice for larger paintings that required a sturdy support.

During World War II, cotton canvas became harder to come by due to shortages of cotton fibre. As a result, alternative materials such as synthetic fabrics and paper began to be used as painting supports. However, cotton canvas remained the most popular choice among artists due to its superior quality and durability.

Today, cotton canvas is still a popular painting support, particularly for artists who prefer the texture and feel of natural fibres. Cotton canvas comes in various weights and textures, allowing artists to choose the perfect support for their artistic vision.

In conclusion, the history of cotton canvas as a painting support spans over a century and is closely tied to the evolution of art materials and technology. Its durability, affordability, and flexibility have made it a popular choice among artists for many years, and its popularity shows no signs of waning.


Synthetic Fabrics

Synthetic fabrics have been used as a painting support for several decades, offering artists a cost-effective and convenient alternative to traditional painting supports like linen or cotton canvas. The history of synthetic fabrics as a painting support can be traced back to the mid-20th century when new synthetic materials were developed for various industrial applications.

In the 1950s and 60s, synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon began to be used as a supports for large-scale paintings requiring a lightweight and durable surface. These synthetic fabrics were popular among artists who wanted a support that was less expensive and more easily transportable than traditional painting supports.

One of the most popular synthetic fabrics used for painting is polyester canvas. Polyester canvas is made from woven polyester fibres coated with an acrylic polymer to create a smooth surface for painting. Polyester canvas is lightweight, strong, and moisture-resistant, making it an ideal choice for outdoor painting and other applications where traditional painting supports may not be suitable.

Another popular synthetic fabric used for painting is polypropylene. Polypropylene canvas is like polyester canvas in that it is lightweight and durable. Still, it is also highly resistant to UV radiation, making it an excellent choice for outdoor painting.

Despite their many benefits, synthetic fabrics have some drawbacks as a painting support. Because they are made from synthetic materials, they may not have the same texture and feel as natural fibres like linen or cotton canvas. Additionally, they may not be as archival as traditional painting supports, meaning they may not stand up to the test of time.

In conclusion, synthetic fabrics have a relatively short but significant history as a painting support, offering artists a range of benefits and advantages. While they may not have the same texture and archival quality as traditional painting supports, they remain popular among artists who value convenience, cost-effectiveness, and durability.