Materials for painting and graphics

Materials for painting and graphics

The basis for painting is any physically existing material or surface on which paints are applied: metal, wood, fabric, paper, brick, stone, plastic, vellum paper (thin parchment, wax, tracing paper), parchment, plaster, glass. However, only a few of them represent the traditional foundations for oil painting; they are divided into two groups: elastic (flexible) foundations, which include canvas and paper, and rigid, combining wood, fiberboard, fiberboard, canvas on cardboard (board) and metal.

The most popular and widely used basis is canvas. However, the status of canvas as a standard basis for painting is relatively young.

Ancient artists preferred to work in encaustic on wooden bases, and in the Middle Ages this practice gave impetus to the development and use of egg tempera on boards - the primary and most important form of easel painting of that time. In the XV century, at the initial stages of evolution, oil painting existed as a way to refine or - the final stage of tempera technology: the main attention was still focused on small things with careful detailing. Flemish artists, for example, preferred to paint such paintings in oil on primed wooden boards.

At that time, the most popular material was wood - oak or birch in Northern Europe, poplar - in Italy. Metal - mainly copper (the second most popular material) - was used less often. Painting on the boards, as a rule, was intended for collectors or as fragments of the decor of cult architecture, so the paintings were small.

Currently, many artists work on elastic foundations. Nevertheless, painting on boards has its adherents, and this choice presents unique aesthetic possibilities. Here is a brief description of the basics used most often in oil painting today.

Linen base

Canvas is closely related to the chemistry of oil paints. The linen cloth is made from the fibers of the Linum usitatissimum plant - the one whose seeds are used in the production of raw linseed oil. To make the canvas, the plant is harvested entirely (including the roots) during the period of the highest degree of maturation, then it is left to ripen for three weeks. Then a strong thread is spun from this material, from which the canvas is woven. What makes linen attractive? This is its strength and mainly its beauty. In comparison with other fabrics, linen does not have a mechanically correct and even woven pattern, due to the peculiarities of weaving the thread. Flax always shows a "living" texture through the applied layers of paint. This organic beauty is most clearly manifested when using standard linen and coarser varieties of texture; however, the canvas is even smaller, thin - the so-called "portrait" quality, reveals an exquisite unevenness and roughness of the fabric surface.

It is important to remember that oil painting of the early periods was carried out with thin layers of paints - in comparison with the more pasty texture characteristic of modern art. The paint was applied by layering, so its integral layer remained relatively transparent. Consequently, the texture of the linen canvas became one of the decisive factors determining the nature of the completed work. The "irregularity" of the fabric pattern and the knots and roughness found in some places filled the lessirovki with sparkling light.

The variety of textures of artistic linen is determined by the number of threads per inch. A linen canvas of medium texture contains approximately 79 threads per inch; a canvas of smooth texture - the so-called "portrait" quality - contains from 90 threads or more. Linen can be either single (SW) or double (DW) weave. The double-weave fabric is much stronger, heavier, denser and, of course, more expensive compared to the single-weave fabric. It is more acceptable for large paintings


Canvas Gammakhlopchatnik as a basis is a modern alternative to linen. It first began to be used for artistic purposes in the 30s of the twentieth century, and since then its popularity has increased many times, especially in the USA, where the bulk of it is actually produced.

Unlike linen, cotton canvas did not occupy such a prestigious position, moreover, it received negative reviews in print. Some authors even considered cotton canvas absolutely unsuitable as a basis. Such a view cannot be called completely fair, since cotton has certain advantages. It is a durable and inexpensive material. Just like flax, it has the same cellulose molecule in its structure. Compared with linen, the cotton thread is somewhat thinner and much smoother, which affects the texture pattern of the fabric. Therefore, in comparison with linen canvas, cotton does not have the same interesting surface. On the other hand, cotton fabric is more stable than linen, which tends to expand and contract depending on humidity, thereby causing the appearance of characteristic "waves" along the borders of the canvas. One of the reasons for the low popularity of cotton is that most of the commercially available artistic cotton bases are actually too thin - especially those that are stretched in factory conditions. High-quality cotton canvas should be heavy enough 340 - 430 g per square meter. Cotton canvas - appropriately prepared, glued and primed - is an excellent basis for serious oil painting. "Smooth" or "correct" texture is not the main factor if the paint is applied with a thick pasty layer.

If you want to use cotton as a basis for painting, buy it in art salons, not in fabric stores. Cotton fabric purchased in fabric stores and intended, as a rule, for the manufacture of clothing, curtains and other items, is treated with special resins that reduce the formation of wrinkles and folds. The various gradations of cotton canvas offered by art salons - commonly referred to as "cotton duck" - are produced specifically for artists. This is pure, unprocessed material; it is not exposed to chemicals that may otherwise conflict with organic or acrylic sizing.

Composite polyester

Synthetic fabric created in the twentieth century is superior in many respects to both linen and cotton canvases. Composite polyester is a durable and very resistant material. It is more stable in terms of size than flax and less sensitive to the acidic effects of oil paints. It is not subject to rotting, has no tendency to expand or contract depending on the humidity of the environment in which it is located. The same primers and adhesive solutions used with linen or cotton cloths can be used on a composite polyester basis. One of the main characteristics of composite polyester is the complete absence of texture. It's a perfectly smooth material. Proponents of composite polyester - such as the Australian paint manufacturer Archival - strongly recommend composite polyester as a basis for painting. The firm is not alone in its conviction; but, nevertheless, composite polyester is not particularly popular yet. And he has not yet fully entered the art materials markets.

Jute (burlap)

Jute is made from hemp, a material from which strong ropes and ropes are made. Canvas made of this durable natural fiber has a uniform woven pattern with a pronounced texture. It noticeably dominates other elements of painting. This is an ideal basis for working in the style of energetic and pasty application of paints. The gaps between the threads of the jute canvas are wide, so it sometimes has to be primed twice.


Paper is a rather interesting soft base: it is diverse, easy to work with and attractive. Paper has that immediacy and degree of intimacy that artists are unable to detect in other, more familiar foundations. Due to the inherent absorption ability of the paper, the paints on it dry faster and become matte. The variety of paper textures make it even more attractive for painters.

In the early periods of the development of painting, artists painted on wooden boards-panels. Remember icons, as well as magical and religious altarpieces in churches.

The experience of working on wooden bases is significantly different from the experience of working on canvas. Painting on boards, as a rule, is characterized by a small format and a more impressive mass compared to canvas; it definitely creates a sense of strength and weight. Almost any kind of natural solid wood can become the main one for painting - oak, cedar, poplar, birch, walnut or, for example, mahogany (pine is less suitable because it contains a lot of resins and has weak water resistance). It is very important that the tree is mature (aged) and does not contain moisture; there should be no cracks on the board. Its thickness varies between 2.5 and 0.5 cm, while a thickness of 1.5 and 0.7 cm is considered the norm. If the board is very thin, the drying paint will certainly deform it. The board will acquire a convex shape - like a barrel rivet. The tree can expand and contract. The most vulnerable property of wood is that it tends to deform, it is extremely difficult to align it again. The advantage of thinner paints is that their deformation is more easily corrected by strengthening the rear walls.

Unfortunately, at the moment, hardwood boards are a rare and expensive material; however, reusable furniture parts can become an excellent basis of this kind. If the oak wood of an old school desk or door has not rotted and is not eaten by a worm, it is perfect as a basis for painting. It will take only a little work with a plane and sandpaper, a saw - to achieve the required format. A large number of paintings of the late XV century were made on recycled wood of old sailing ships.

Plywood (multilayer board)

High-quality plywood is made of birch, mahogany and poplar, the wood of which is a smooth and durable material. One side of the plywood has a rough texture, and the other is smooth - this side can be cleaned with sandpaper to an excellent condition, preparing it for priming with an adhesive solution. Plywood usually has a thickness of 0.7 to 1.3 cm. If any of the dimensions exceeds 45 cm, as practice shows, it should be reinforced with a wooden frame.

MASONITE board (hardboard)

It is a synthetic material made from a mixture of wood fibers and glue crushed into sawdust. The mixture is formed, resulting in a flat sheet. Masonite (hardboard) is produced in the range from dark brown to a shade of coffee tan, has both specially treated (hardened) and untreated surfaces. The treated side has a significant hardness and may need to be sanded with sandpaper before priming. The untreated surface contains more fibers and is characterized by less hardness; therefore, - of the two types - it is this surface that is most suitable for painting, thanks to its ability to absorb.

Some types of hardboard have a very smooth, flat surface on one side and a rough texture resembling a canvas on the reverse. But the side with a rougher texture will not be able to give the viewer the impression that there is a fabric in front of him. As a rule, it is better to use the smooth side. There are also sheets of hardboard, in which both sides are smooth. Of course, this base lacks the attractive texture inherent in wood - the texture of wood; but in any case, this property will be lost after priming the board, even from natural wood. Is the natural beauty of wood so important if, ultimately, it will be hidden under a layer of primer? Masonite (hardboard) has its drawbacks. The first problem when working with them is that the board bends very easily, but not in accordance with the direction of the fibers, but obeying gravity. This means that a piece of hardboard suspended at an angle to the wall will bend towards the center of gravity. To prevent such an effect, the sheet should be inserted into the frame tightly and completely straight, or placed flat in a recumbent position, or strengthen the back side with wooden connecting brackets. Deformed wooden frame is very difficult to align, so to strengthen the back side of the board, use wood of good quality and solid aging.

Another problem associated with the use of hardboard is the significant weight of large-sized sheets. If you really want to work in a large format, use multilayer plywood instead of hardboard, since the latter is somewhat lighter.

Hardboard sheets are inexpensive and are sold almost everywhere. In addition, they are very strong and durable - their shelf life is comparable to that of hardwoods; it is certainly very resistant and one of the best hard foundations of artistic quality available.


Artists, as a rule, chose copper. However, there are other chemically resistant metals such as iron, stainless steel, tin (tinplate) and aluminum. Since metal is a heavy material, the paintings made on it are traditionally small in size. Nowadays, artists can use a light metal "building" material that is perfect for working on large-format works - the so-called "honeycomd aluminum" or "honeycomb aluminum" (porous structure). "Aluminum honeycombs" are two thin sheets of aluminum arranged on top of a core of fibrous (profiled) aluminum, thus resembling corrugated cardboard. It is produced in large flat sheets of various thicknesses, easy to process and cut.

The most important quality of metal is its smooth, glass-like surface. It does not bend or deform as a result of exposure to drying paint. However, before starting work, the metal base should be cleaned of rust and covered with a metal primer, which differs from other primers in that it slightly etches the smooth surface of the metal and provides reliable adhesion between it and the paints. If there were no primer layer, oil paints would not be able to get a foothold on the metal surface.

Metal bases can be purchased in metal equipment stores and art salons offering various printing equipment, including plates for engraving.

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