Choosing a surface for acrylic painting

Choosing a surface for acrylic painting

Looking for an easy way to introduce variety to your acrylic painting practice? Acrylic artists have a wide variety of options when it comes to choosing a surface for work, ranging from the expected to the unconventional.

Whether you opt for traditional canvas or a non-traditional surface such as degreased leather, it’s worth familiarising yourself with the nature of various surfaces before you start painting. Read on for a simple guide to five types of acrylic surfaces that can lend your art a decidedly different look and feel, and open up new creative possibilities.

Acrylic paper

Acrylic painters enjoy using paper tailored for acrylic colour because of its texture, affordability and convenience of use. You can apply acrylics straight onto the surface of the paper, and, because it’s portable, it’s ideal for artists who work both in a studio setting and on the go. Winsor & Newton Acrylic Pads are embossed is embossed to provide a canvas-like texture in a transportable form, in addition to being acid-free to maintain acrylic colour brilliance over time.


Stretched cotton canvas is the surface used most often by professional artists, for its cloth weave and spring. When you use acrylics you can paint straight onto canvas, as they will not sink into the material like oils. Acrylics will produce strong, bright colours on raw cotton canvas, meaning there is no need to size or prime the canvas before you start working.

Canvas board

Canvas boards were first introduced to help artists work outdoors (en plein air), but they’re usable indoors, too. Taking up less room, and less easily damaged than stretched canvas, ours are made with a substantial backing board and high quality cloth, making them superior to coated sketching boards. If you are looking to frame your finished work, then a canvas board can be easier to frame than traditional canvas.

Medium density fibreboard (MDF)

MDF is created from wooden fibres that have been compressed with adhesive under high pressure. It is affordable and readily available in most DIY stores. Remember to prime MDF before painting to control the texture, absorbency and colour of your surface. Our Professional Acrylic Mediums Clear Gesso, White Gesso, Galeria White Gesso Primer and Galeria Black Gesso Primer are all great options.

Unusual surfaces

Push your creative boundaries further by working with an unusual and unexpected surface. Plaster, brick, terracotta and degreased leather are all exciting options for experimenting with acrylic. It also is suitable for use glass, Perspex and acetate, making it idea for experimenting with and painting large-scale works such as murals.