Artists Surfaces FAQs

Artists Surfaces FAQs

How do I stop my wooden stretcher/panels from warping? Wood is a natural material and when exposed to adverse conditions the fabric of the wood will be compromised. There are however precautions that you can take to avoid your products becoming warped or twisted. Do not hang or store whilst exposed to damp, a heat source or in direct sunlight. Try to keep the wood at a constant temperature and avoid transporting or repeatedly removing from storage unnecessarily.

How can I best protect my stretchers and panels in storage? For the best conditions please store all products in a cool, dry environment, avoiding sunlight and fluctuations in temperature. Avoid leaning panels and stretchers against walls and directly on the floor, instead placing on blocks is advised. If needing to store the stretchers it is preferable to bundle the bars together for support rather than loose.


What happens if my stretcher warps? If your stretcher has been stored or hung incorrectly it may become warped or twisted. There are a number of techniques that can be used to reverse this occurrence however they are not 100% effective. By slightly moistening the wood and leaving the pieces in heavy clamps for a day may help to straighten irregularities.


Do you provide coloured surfaces? Once we have a colour swatch to work towards we are able to add pigment to the priming coats for a flat colour finish.


What is the difference between Cotton Duck and Linen? Linen has been the professional painter’s choice for centuries providing one of the best painting surfaces to work on. As an alternative, we also recommend using Cotton Duck. As the preferred choice for many artists due to its economic price, it provides a smooth regular support with an even grain and is available in many widths and weights both acrylic primed and un-primed.


How do I create a really smooth canvas? Acrylic primed Superfine linen is our smoothest fabric. Once stretched multiple thin layers of primer can be applied and sanded down between coats for an ultra smooth finish. Alternatively our spray primed wooden and aluminium panels provide no grain at all, perfect for very fine detailed work.


How do I prime an Aluminium Panel? We provide a custom aluminium etch prime that will prevent paint from cracking or peeling when applied to the surface. It provides a slight tooth for paint to grip to which is solvent based and incredibly durable. The primer is naturally white in colour and slightly absorbent; a really nice surface to work on for both oil and acrylic. Etch priming is a 2 part process. Firstly, an acid etch is applied to the sanded aluminium panel. We finish this with a white cellulose primer. This provides the best adhesion so that the surface does not peel or crack.


What are the different types of Primer? We provide pre-primed canvas and linens and also the materials to prime the surfaces if you prefer to do this independently. We also provide a priming service for our bespoke panels which includes a gesso, oil and acrylic prime. Please refer to our online shop for a full list of products, or alternatively if you prefer a specific finish please do contact us and we will be happy to help.


What are the benefits of using Tulip Wood over any other wood? We use kiln dried tulip wood for all of our stretchers. The wood is kiln dried to remove most of the moisture so that it has a low tendency to warp. We carefully hand select each piece checking for knots and imperfections that will increase the woods tendency to split.


Is it possible to only prime certain areas of my canvas or linen? When priming selected areas it is important to cover the areas of the raw canvas or linen with a clear size either acrylic or rabbit skin glue. This prevents the primed area's shrinking and puckering the canvas. For clean lines use masking tape and delicately brush in the primer.


Why do you need wedges? Wedges, or keys, are supplied with all John Jones stretcher bars. These are triangular wedges of wood that can be inserted into the corners of a stretcher to tension a slack canvas after priming or painting. The wedges are knocked in with a hammer with equal force in all four corners to expand the stretcher. Care must be taken not to knock the stretcher out of square.


How do I stretch a canvas really tightly? For a really tight stretch stretching pliers can be used for extra leverage. We provide a variety of qualities of pliers from economic to professional. Please refer to our Practical Advise section for thorough details on stretching techniques please click here.


What surface can you use to exhibit outdoors? For artworks that are going to be temporarily exhibited outdoors an aluminium panel will offer the most stable substrate and not be affected by external conditions. We would recommend a thick aluminium sub-frame for maximum rigidity.


Can you make a canvas to any shape? We are frequently asked for shaped canvases and work with artists to achieve their aims. We have produced everything from folding, spinning and crucifix shaped canvases.

Can I paint on raw canvas? Many artists do paint directly onto the raw fabric however the paint does become absorbed by the fabric meaning colour intensity and detail is lost. The paint can damage the un-primed cotton or linen over time and is not advisable for the longevity of artwork. Oil paint will cause the canvas to rot and the paint will appear dry and chalky.


Can I use household paint? Galleries do not advice artists to use household paint as it can crack and peel. However, like painting directly onto raw canvas, it is a process that is often used in contemporary art. A lot of household paints do not have the longevity or pigment quality of Artist quality paints.


What are the benefits of using Aluminium Stretchers? Aluminium stretchers can be particularly beneficial when transporting artwork or oversized as they are relatively lightweight and inert so they will not warp in changing environments.


Can I stretch canvas or linen over a panel and what are the archival qualities of this? Canvas or linen can be stretched over an aluminium or wooden panel to provide a very rigid surface. This can either be glued or traditionally stretched over the substrate. So long as the panel is fitted with the correct depth of support and stored correctly the panel will have the same archival qualities as canvas on a stretcher.


How is the wooden panel attached to the sub-frame? Are pins visible? No pins are visible. When pinning the face to the sub-frame a filler is pasted over the area and sanded flush to create a completely smooth surface. PVA glue can also be used with smaller panels which will give a completely strong hold.


What are the best brands of canvas? Each brand of linen or canvas has its own individual qualities that one artist may find preferable over another. We stock a wide range of canvases and linens to suit a variety of applications. Claessens is our preferred choice of linen due to its long tradition of manufacturing artist linen. Claessens is renowned for their high quality linens and traditional methods of priming fabrics which dates back to 1906. We use Fredrix 12oz Cotton Duck for our sized cottons. Made from selected cotton yarn and coated with acid-free acrylic titanium prime, we chose Fredrix due to their high archival qualities and their 140 years of experience. On request we are also happy to discuss keeping in stock certain rolls of fabrics for artists.


How are the oil primed linens prepared? Claessens uses synthetic glues rather than hide glue, which are less sensitive to humidity and in keeping with their ethical policies, in accordance with Belgium and European legislation. The coating itself consists of an oil paint, linseed oil as a binder and chalk, zinc white or titanium white as grounds and pigments.


How do I prevent my wooden panel from warping when priming myself? When applying primer to a thin wooden surface sometimes the panels can twist or distort. We would advise a thick wooden or aluminium subframe to hold the panel in place when priming. For an oversized panel multiple cross bars can also be an added strength. Use thin layers of prime and an additional layer of rabbit skin glue on the reverse.


How do I stretch canvas or linen on a circular or oval stretcher? Due to the construction of circular and elliptical stretchers it is important to note that wedges cannot be used after stretching, this means therefore that the canvas or linen must be stretched extremely tightly and can only be stretched with un-primed or pre-sized canvas or linen.


How often should I replace my supports? Supports can last the life span of a painting however over time stretchers can become out of shape and warp. We do however offer an in house stretching service to replace misshapen supports. We can also strip line paintings which have become frayed or torn at the edges.


Why does the orientation of my canvas matter? The cotton or linen can be stretched onto stretcher bars so that the fold of the fabric on the corner is not visible when hung at eye level.


How can I hang my panels/stretchers? We are happy to advise and provide suitable art hanging solutions to match the specifications of your surface. For larger stretchers, canvases and panels we will be able to match the correct size of strap hanger and our aluminium panels and stretchers can be fitted with keyholes.


Who uses John Jones Artist Surfaces? Our client base extends to galleries, framers, interior designers and fabricators as well as artists across several generations and disciplines, including those recognized both on a National and International scale. These include the likes of Stuart Semple, Jack Vettriano, Tracey Emin, Mark Evans, Julian Opie and Nigel Cooke, to name but a few. Detailed Case Studies can be found on here.

How do I place an order? Call 020 7281 5439 and speak to a member of the Artist Surfaces Team or email on  Soon we will be launching our interactive website which will allow all orders to be placed online. Sign up to our monthly Newsletter for the latest information.


Can I book a consultation? Please call to arrange a time to visit us in our 37,000 sq ft studio in North London and keep checking the website for exciting developments on the new John Jones state of the art premises.

Can I request Canvas and Linen Samples? We stock 16 different grades of Cotton Duck and Linen, both primed, pre sized and un-primed, and would be happy to post a sample out to you. Alternatively, a full display of our products are available in our studio showroom in North London, please contact a member of our team to arrange a suitable time to visit.


I would like to order a paper panel but don't know what paper to chose. Can you advise? We can mount practically any paper onto a tycore substrate. The most popular choices of paper are Arches Aquarelle Hot Pressed or Cold Pressed. This is an acid-free and chlorine free water colour paper, made of 100% cotton fibres which confer strength and stability. Hot Pressed paper has a very smooth surface. The paper is rolled through heated presses that smooth down the cotton fibres. This is the perfect paper for artists that do very fine, detailed work. Cold Pressed paper has a coarser, rougher surface. This surface is ideal for artists who like a toothed surfaced to work against.

Related case studies

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