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What is "Cotton Duck" canvas ?


/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……..

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

Canvas comes in two forms: plain and "duck".

Duck is a heavy-duty cotton fabric, sturdier than plain cotton and holds shape better than standard canvas.

Both duck and plain canvas are standard (plain)-woven fabrics, but there are a few differences between them:

Duck is more tightly woven than plain canvas.

  • Duck is graded on a scale of 1 to 12, with 12 being the lightest fabric and 1 being the heaviest. (Classification system, established in the 1920s.)

  • Duck is made exclusively from cotton, hence sometimes referred to as cotton duck canvas or cotton duck fabric.

By definition, there are two types of "canvas"

Linen is produced from flax plant fibers (and substantially more expensive since it is harvested by hand in Europe.

Cotton canvas is produced from the white “candy floss” bit, found around the seeds of cotton plants (and more affordable, since it is commercially harvested)

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

Under the Cotton category, you get 'plain' and 'duck' cotton …..which is how we arrive at the term “Cotton Duck”, the cloth we use to manufacture our signature brand canvas.

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 over-stretching 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.

Cotton duck, uses a variation of this plain weave, called the “basket weave” – 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.

We use a 340gsm grammage in our signature brand.

This is where I have to mention how especially vital it is that the cloth is stretched properly, especially for larger 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.

Close attention is paid to the construction of our stretchers and the technique employed to stretch the cloth. Every tiny detail counts - right down to the tools that we use - our stretching pliers being especially imported from Germany since we have found that locally supplied pliers not only tend to damage the canvas , they are just simply not strong enough for the techniques we employ.

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 ultimately rotting the cloth. It also obviously reduces the volume of paint you need.

The primer we use does both. Our canvasses are expertly primed (and sized) resulting in a texture that is perfect for any medium. In addition, and to bring you back to point, our particular choice (weight and weave) of cotton duck contributes to the efficacy of this process: Tighter threads, woven in a stronger pattern. It’s quite simply a winning combination!

By no means disregard the natural beauty and smooth, stiff painting surface provided by linen, the qualities that originally seduced our masters of old … but when it comes to canvas - the quality that is an ETH Canvas remains unparalleled.

Give your work the gift of immortality with an ETH Canvas 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.

We guarantee it. We are artists ourselves. We know exactly what you need in a canvas.

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