Thoughts on Quality Materials

by wendellmyersart

stretcher bars assembled and ready

One of the things that has continued to frustrate me throughout my painting experience is the difficulty of finding materials and supplies that are of consistently high quality but are still affordable.   There are lots of products out there, whether you are talking about paints, brushes, canvas or whatever.  Much of what is available, unfortunately, caters to the casual hobbyist, for whom the main consideration appears to be cost.  Lots of supplies are available in rediculously small quantities (e.g. 2 oz tubes or jars of paint), and quality that is mediocre at best.  I guess this makes sense for people who paint small paintings on an occasional Sunday afternoon, hang them in the guest bedroom or give them all away to family and friends, but if you’re serious about what you are doing, it just doesn’t cut it.  Finding quality paint is pretty easy. Most folks agree that you can’t go wrong using either Golden or Liquitex.  Quality is consistently very high with both brands.  Affordability for many is an issue with these brands; they are not cheap, but in terms of cost per painting, both brands are reasonable.  There are lots of other brands out there, which one could certainly try, but these two appear to be the standards by which other brands are judged.  

For me, the real challenge (leaving brushes aside for now) has been finding consistently high quality, at an affordable price, in canvases, whether you are talking about prestretched canvases, or bulk canvas and stretchers.  As I said in my last post, one advantage of stretching your own canvases is that it gives you complete control over quality.  You can (and should) select the highest quality canvas and stretchers that you can afford (more on this in a future post).  

Prestretched canvases are more problematic, due to the expense of the human labor involved in their preparation.  Most of what’s on the market is imported from countries in Asia where labor is much cheaper.  Some of the quality is really, totally, abysmal. I started with Michaels, and their best prestretched canvases are the “Artists Loft” gallery wrapped, 1.5″ deep. They are kind of pricey, but often on sale for 40 or 50% off.  Sometimes you can do even a little better than that.  I watch for sales and only buy them on sale (you can sign up for email notification on Michael’s website).  The quality is really good, but I still occasionally have encountered problems.  i have one finished painting, which I like quite a bit, which will need to be restretched because one stretcher has bowed inward; apparently too much tension on the canvas.  Some don’t have enough tension and develop ripples at the corners.

Looking for a less expensive option, I tried prestretched canvases from, an online source in California.  Their prices were great but their quality was terrible.  I ordered several 24 x24 inch, several 30 x 30 inch and one 24 x 48.” Pam urged me to return the entire shipment, but I thought it was not bad enough to justify the hassle of repacking the entire shipment and returning it.  I am still regretting that decision!  I have restretched several of the worst, and have framed one to get rid of the warp.  Just noticed the other day that one of these isn’t square, isn’t even close, and I have been working on this painting on and off for a year.  I will either have to just trash it or restretch it and rework portions.low quality stretcher strips

Some of the stretchers from canvases I have restretched are pictured here.  Don’t know if the poor quality really comes across, but these are flimsy, light weight, full of knots and splits, twisted, warped, terrible!

A brand that’s very popular around here is “The Edge” gallery wrapped canvas.  I have tried these, and I don’t believe the quality is acceptable.  Pretty flimsy stretchers with a tendency to warp.

One that’s quite a bit better is Paramount Pro.  This is a good, heavyweight canvas on pretty heavy duty stretcher bars with 1.5″ depth, which is available from multiple different online sources.  Again, watch for sales, you don’t want to pay full price.  I am currently looking for something of even better quality, as these sometimes come with dents and dings along the edge, which is a real issue since I don’t frame my paintings.

I’ll let you know when I find it!  Any suggestions are very welcome!