What is cotton duck (canvas) ? - Bronwyn's Blog


#whattheduck….. #gettingyourducksinarow (…#imacanvasaddict)      


/ˈkanvəs /

Der. 13th century Anglo-French “canevaz” & old French “canevas”, der. Vulgar Latin “cannapaceus”

Or “made of hemp”, der. Greek : κάνναβις




  1. 1.

a waterbird with a broad blunt bill, short legs, webbed feet, and a waddling gait…….. 

…. Guys, I thought to find another excuse for a bit of a ramble, especially on re-considering some of the priceless expressions I’ve had the pleasure of seeing when I refer to our (cotton) “duck” (lol)… just thought I’d help make a bit clearer for those that are interested.

D-U-C-K….. (not D-U-C-T J) simply comes from the Dutch word “doek”, meaning “cloth”.

The word “Canvas”, actually refers to a number of different, closely woven materials …. But has generally become the term used to refer to the cloth that all of you, my angels, paint on.

You get two types of canvas - (a) Linen (made from flax plant fibers and a LOT more expensive) and (b) Cotton (made from the white “candy floss” bit, found around the seeds of cotton plants, and which is more affordable.)

  (Cotton Duck only really became popular round about the 1850’s, with the advent of acrylic paint, whereas one of the earliest surviving oil paintings on canvas was one discovered in 1410, Madonna with Angels, in Berlin.)

Under the Cotton category, you get (a) Plain and (b) Duck…..which is how we arrive at the term “Cotton Duck”, the cloth we use to manufacture the majority of our canvas. (We have a range of different cloth available including our cotton duck range, exotic linens and our new #soontobeofficiallylaunched #iamsoexcitedicouldpop “Velvetine” canvas, designed in-house………but that’s for another article….watch this space!)

The reason that we use the “Duck” and not the “Plain” variation is that Duck threads are a lot more tightly woven, which is very important – ‘looser’ threads pose the risk of overstretching or even tearing when stretching onto a frame. In addition, the tighter your weave, the better and more consistent the application of your primer. Duck is flexible – and it’s strong.

In weaving a canvas, the “Plain” (vs. the “twisp”) weave is used since it is the strongest and most hardwearing of the weaves. Our canvas, uses a variation of this plain weave, called the “Basketweave” – where two or more threads are bundled and woven (vs. the “one-up-and-one-over” or “balanced plain weave” variation), again for added strength and durability, and ultimately to facilitate the sizing, priming and sanding processes we apply to arrive at our finished product.  The grammage (weight) that we use is also carefully selected to achieve the desired result (depending on how smooth / rough you want the finished product to be)

This is where I have to mention how especially vital it is that the cloth is stretched properly, especially for larger size paintings – at ETH Canvas, our years of expertise in this field have enabled us to supply you not only with professional advice in this regard, but bespoke customization where required.

Besides factors already mentioned, close attention has to be paid to the construction of the frame and the actual way in which the duck stretched. At ETH Canvas, we have taken each and every one of these vital details into account….. even our stretching pliers have been especially imported from Germany (the locally available ones not only damage the canvas , they are just simply not strong enough.)

Without getting too technical, a canvas needs to be “sized” (especially cotton) before priming. This is the process by which a layer of gelatinous material is applied to the raw canvas prior to priming, so as to seal the pores in the surface of the cloth. This ”waterproofing” is vital in preventing fluid (paint) from seeping through into the fibers of the canvas and literally rotting it  (It saves you on tons of paint too!)

As our #canvasaddicts will tell you, ETH Canvasses are expertly sized and primed, with specially formulated materials made from imported raw materials – resulting in the final ground (or surface) being perfectly prepared for any medium! (refer to the image of the back of our primed cloth – 100% sealed!) In addition, and to bring you back to what I mentioned initially, our particular choice (weight and weave) of cotton duck contributes to the efficacy of this process i.e tighter threads, woven in a stronger pattern. It’s quite simply a winning combination!

We aren’t asking you to forget the natural beauty and smooth, stiff painting surface provided by linen, the qualities that originally seduced our masters of old … but to embrace the unparalleled quality that is an ETH Canvas.

All things aside, our cotton duck range is quite frankly the closest you can buy to canvas royalty…. It gives you the opportunity to give your work the ultimate gift - one of immortality, as it transports you through the realms of your creative process. Perfectly smooth, non-absorbent and expertly stretched, with just enough tooth to ensure maximum reflection of colour and light….. (I could really carry on talking forever…lol…but I won’t.)

ETH Canvas….designed FOR artists, BY artists.

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