Difference Between Linen and Cotton Canvas
By Marc Gordon - November 9, 2022

Canvas is a type of cloth that is used as a painting surface. And while the canvas is often comprised of cotton fibers, it is sometimes made of linen. One of the most common questions from those looking for raw canvas usually goes like this: should I use cotton or linen for my artwork?

Table Summary

Cotton CanvasLinen Canvas
It is made from a cotton plant found in Africa and the IndiansIt is made from flax plants harvested by hand in Western Europe
Flexible and affordableStronger and longer lasting


Cotton is a soft, fluffy fiber that forms around the seeds of cotton plants in a boll or protective capsule. The plant is native to the Americas, Africa, and India, and it is commonly spun into yarn or thread to make soft, breathable textiles. Cotton canvases are classified according to weight and surface texture.

Linen Canvas is manufactured from the fibers of the flax plant, the best gathered in Western Europe. Many linen canvas textures and weights are available in rough and smooth finishes.

Cotton Canvas VS Linen Canvas

Cotton and linen can be cost-effective options, depending on how you want to use your canvas. Linen, on the other hand, is costlier but lasts longer. Cotton is inexpensive and stretches easily. It is the most preferred surface for oil and acrylic painting, especially among students, because a properly prepared cotton canvas will last. Cotton pulls tighter than linen without straining the wooden framework around the canvas, and heavy-grade cotton can compensate for the lack of strength and weight.

The warp and weft threads of linen are the same weight, which means they are less prone to expansion and contraction owing to moisture. Linen also preserves its natural oils, which helps maintain the fiber’s suppleness and prevents the canvas from becoming brittle. It is also said to have a more “natural” weave than cotton. Because of its resilience, linen canvas can withstand a strong painting hand and does not sag as quickly as cotton canvas.