Oil Painting On Paper Vs Canvas – Which Is Best?

Oil painting can be done on various surfaces such as canvas, wood, paper, metal, etc. Each surface has its own characteristics but amongst the two most popular choices: canvas and paper, which one should you use and why?

This blog aims to provide a complete comparison between canvas and paper as a surface for oil painting. Understanding the difference between canvas and paper can help you to achieve your desired results with oil painting.

Oil painting on canvas vs paper: Canvas and paper are two popular surfaces for oil painting. Paper is a lightweight and affordable surface but it is not durable like canvas. While canvas is a firm, more costly but durable surface that allows you to work for a variety of effects such as blending, impasto, glazing, etc. When it comes to handling, paper is a lot more flexible. To get a closer look, let’s dive deeper.

Canvas is actually a traditional surface that was also used by old painting masters. The famous painting “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo DaVinci was also painted on canvas.

Oil painting on paper

Oil on paper - Oil painting on canvas vs paper
Oil On Paper | Credit: Wikipedia Commons | Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Oil painting on paper is a new approach in which an artist uses paper as a surface to create oil paintings. At the beginning of the 20th century, artists perform some experiments with oil painting on paper. Traditionally, the canvas was the most preferred surface and it is still the most efficient source for oil painting. By considering cost and handling, oil paper is the most economical choice for oil on canvas.

Oil paints cannot stay on an ordinary paper surface, so 300 GSM or the more sized paper is required for this technique. 300 GSM is a heavyweight and high-quality paper that is used to create art prints and printing projects. It can accurately represent colors which makes it the most preferred choice for creating art prints i.e mostly oil paintings. The thickness of 300 GSM paper is 0.5 mm.

Working with ordinary 300 GSM paper can be a problem in the long run because linseed oil can break down the fibers in the paper. So, you have to purchase custom oil painting paper. If you don’t have one, acrylic painting paper will do the job but you must have to prime it with acrylic gesso.


You can stretch the paper on a wooden frame and then use it like a canvas. Moreover, it can be framed as well.


Oil paper can be beneficial or it can be worse but it depends on the artists and the technique. Here are some advantages that can be achieved using oil paper:

  • Lightweight: First of all, paper is lightweight and you can carry it easily at any place.
  • Affordability: It is too affordable as compared to Canvas, and also easy to use which makes it a great choice for beginners.
  • Vibrant Colors: Relative to the canvas, the paper has a higher absorbency rate that results in vibrant colors and a matte finish.
  • Fast Drying Rate: Oil paint will dry at a faster rate on paper.
  • Flexibility: You can get great flexibility with oil paper because it can be used in so many ways.


Beyond benefits, there could be some drawbacks:

  • Less durable: Paper is less durable than canvas and it can be damaged if not handled properly.
  • Yellowing: Some of the papers are acidic due to the presence of chemicals and they get yellow over time.
  • Less texture: Paper cannot hold more quantity of oil paint. For example, you cannot work with the impasto technique on paper.
  • Absorbency: A lot of absorbencies can be a disadvantage to causing the oil paint to sink quickly.
  • Extra Framing Cost: For framing, the paper needs an extra cost because you have to fix it on a wooden panel first.

Oil Painting on Canvas

Oil on canvas - Oil painting on canvas vs paper
Oil On Canvas | Credit: Wikipedia Commons | Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Canvas is a traditional surface of cotton or linen that artists use to paint on. Linen is a premium-quality canvas. The surface of the canvas contains pores that hold the paint. A good thing about Canvas is that you don’t have to be restricted about using materials and techniques. Impasto, which cannot be done on paper, can be done on a canvas.

Although canvas is more durable and suitable for oil painting it is also expensive and you cannot carry it everywhere. Before oil painting on canvas, it is also important to prepare or prime it with gesso. No doubt you get pre-primed canvas from the market but they don’t work well. So you have to prime it on your own.

Canvas can be used to create a variety of textures such as blending, gesso art, glazing, impasto, stumbling, etc. On paper, you have to work within some limits but working on canvas is limitless. You have all the freedom to do anything over the canvas without any worry of damage.


This is quick to know because all the disadvantages of paper are the advantages of canvas because the canvas is more durable in terms of oil painting and strength. In short wordings, the canvas is an ideal option but this option is a little more costly as compared to paper. Still, I am listing these advantages below:

  • Archival Quality
  • Versatility
  • Absorbency
  • Balanced texture
  • Durability


Here are the disadvantages of using canvas for oil painting:

  • Canvas is costly, especially linen canvases.
  • Canvas has high preparation requirements that can be a bit time-consuming.
  • Canvas is not beginner friendly.
  • Crisp details and sharp lines cannot be given on canvas.
  • Moisture can ruin the oil on canvas painting.

Oil painting on canvas vs paper – Comparison Table

1Average Price (9″x12″)6$ per canvas1$ per paper
2Drying RateSlowerFaster
6Our Rating out of 5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Table Showing the comparison between canvas vs paper for oil painting

Can oil painting be done on paper?

Yes, oil painting can be done on paper but just on specific types because oil cannot evaporate easily. You can oil paint on papers with a size of more than 300 GSM which is 0.5mm in thickness. You can also do oil painting on greater paper with greater thickness.

If you are thinking about oil painting on 70 GSM normal paper, then my answer is “No” because this size of paper cannot hold oil paints. In addition, linseed oil gets absorbed into the paper and makes it fragile.

Is it better to paint on canvas or paper?

The choice of using canvas or paper for oil painting depends upon some factors such as quality, cost, texture, and durability. Canvas is a better option for quality, texture, and durability but paper is more affordable. Visible differences can also be seen between these surfaces. So, the canvas is a better option for oil painting but only for professionals and moderators.

For beginners, paper is best because it is cheap and easy to use for oil painting. You can turn it easily or can practice on both sides of a single page.


Can I use paper instead of canvas?

Yes, paper can be used but remember to use only paper with a thickness of 0.5mm or more. In other words, 300 GSM papers and above are only perfect for oil painting. Normal paper that’ are used in books is only 60-90 GSM.

Which paper should I use for oil painting?

300 GSM or above paper can be used for oil painting. 300 GSM is the most recommended size.

Why do people paint on canvas instead of paper?

Artists know how to paint and where to paint. Good artists have a good understanding of the surfaces they are painting on and the materials they are using. Canvas is an easy winner due to its durability, flexibility, texture, and drying. People paint on canvas because normal paper cannot hold the oil paints like pencil colors. There are also some specific oil papers that are made for just oil painting, we can use them.

What is the best surface to oil paint on?

Linen canvas is the best and ideal surface to oil paint on. Compared with any other surface such as paper, metal, plastic, and wood, canvas is the most durable, suitable, and perfect choice for oil painting.

Final Words

The oil painting has another name oil on canvas which become famous just by using canvas as the main surface. However, oil painting can also be done on other surfaces too such as metal, paper, and wood. If you are thinking to compare canvas and paper for oil painting, then the canvas is a winner.

I hope you have gathered enough information about oil painting on paper vs canvas. This blog has been made by me to the best of my knowledge.


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