Buying a premade canvas or panel for oil painting can be expensive. It doesn’t matter if we use stretched canvas, canvas panels, wood panels, aluminum panels, watercolor paper, drawing paper or something else, this guide will be handy to see quickly what each one will cost to buy or make. Whether you’re a complete beginner or a veteran professional artist, this oil painting surface cost guide will help you find some excellent options for oil painting in the studio and plein air that you might not have thought about before.
Since we discussed oil painting surfaces a few weeks ago – linen or cotton canvas, wood, plastic, and aluminum panels – I thought it might help to break down the approximate costs of buying pre-made painting surfaces vs making your own. If you want to see the pros and cons of many of the best oil painting surfaces to paint on go to ‘Oil Painting Panels, Canvas, & Primers – Which are Best?’.
The most popular oil painting surface among professional landscape painters is probably linen canvas – especially lead primed. That does not mean it is the best to paint on. Much of that comes from tradition and the history of oil painting. It’s important to experiment when you can and decide what works well for you.
So, here is a general idea and guide detailing the costs for each panel or canvas you might use for oil painting.
Oil Painting Canvases and Panels Costs – Pre-Made vs Make your Own
For consistency, I will use a 12×16 inch measurement for each canvas or panel. Keep in mind that prices may change up or down from time to time.
The prices do not include possible shipping or tax costs.
Here are the prices for the oil painting panels and canvases I recommend for landscape and flower paintings:
Oil Painting Panels:
- Art Board Natural Fiber Painting Panels – $12.50 (the company recommends a primer – generally, you can oil paint directly on wood panels)
- Ampersand Hardboard Oil Painting Panels – $7.22 (these do not need to be primed, but they will accept any traditional gesso. If you want you can paint directly on these wood panels)
- Lead White Oil-Primed ACM (aluminum) Oil Painting Panel – $32.68 (these are ready to start oil painting immediately)
- Richeson Hardboard Panels – $2.30 (Blick doesn’t offer a 12×16 inch panel so the price listed is for the 11×14 inch panel. You will want to seal these panels to protect against moisture. If you are not worried about water damage you can paint directly on them. I do not know if they are formaldehyde free)
- ABS Plastic Panels from ePlastics – $2.85 (the price is for a 2×4 foot sheet that you cut into 12×16 inch panels yourself. You can cut ABS with a box cutter and some oomph. It is recommended to sand the shiny surface with 150 grit sandpaper. Then you can oil paint directly on the surface without primer)
- ABS Plastic Panels from ePlastics – $6.18 (this is the price if you have them cut it into 6 – 12×16 inch panels for you)
- MDF Panels from Home Depot – $1.26 (1/4-inch 2×4 ft sheet for $7.57 fits 6 12×16 panels. This requires cutting the 2×4 ft panel and sealing it if you want it protected from moisture – and the panel is NOT formaldehyde-free)
- Purebond Mahagony Plywood – Home Depot – $2.62 (This is what I recommend for DIY wood panels. $15.73 for a 1/4-inch 2×4 ft sheet. This panel IS formaldehyde-free, patch-free, no toxic fumes, water-resistant, and they will cut it for you and deliver the panels to your home for free if you order more than $45 worth. You can oil paint directly on the panel without primer)
Oil Painting Canvases (rolls, stretched, or on panels):
- Lead Oil-Primed Linen ACM (aluminum) Panel – $57.75 (the panel is of course ready for oil paint as are all the other canvases in this list)
- New Traditions L280 on Gatorfoam – $32.13 (medium texture)
- Italian Store Belgian Linen Lead Primed – $18.49 (Medium weight oil painting canvas w super even finish. You will need to mount the canvas to a panel or stretch it yourself)
- New Traditions L280 84” x 6 yards – $10.91 (Lead primed medium weight linen 84-inch x 6 yards can make 91 – 12×16 inch oil painting panels. There is usually waste with rolls, so the price and number of panels is approximate)
Oil Painting on Paper
- Arches Oil Painting Paper – $2.26 (This price comes from buying a 51” x 10 yard roll at $203.55 from which 90 – 12×16 inch pieces are possible. You can oil paint directly on the paper. It is also excellent for watercolor underpainting washes to oil paint on top of)
- Classic Cream Drawing Paper Roll – $.20 (20 cents each for 120 – 12×16 inch sheets from a roll that is 48” x 10 yards. You will want to seal the paper with primer before oil painting)
- Strathmore 400 Series Drawing Paper – $1.25 (or $1.00 each if purchased in packs of 50+ sheets – they are flat 12×19 inch sheets. You will want to seal the paper with primer before oil painting unless you are using it for temporary experiments)
- Strathmore Visual Journal – $.40 (A 12×9 inch spiral bound 140 lb. watercolor paper journal for easy transport & storage while travelling – obviously, would only work if the paint dried to the touch before closing the journal. Or you can use it for initial watercolor sketches or studies and then paint on top with oils later in the studio. The paper will need to be sealed with primer before oil painting)
- Raymar 58A Oil Painting Paper Panels – $15.89 (a paper adhered to an 1/8-inch MDF wood panel. You can paint immediately with oil paints or start with a watercolor underpainting. It is sold in a 5 pack for $79.43)
- Old Atlases or books at thrift stores, garage sales, or library sales that you can get for free or for under a dollar. This is for low-budget oil painting. Use the pages to practice experimental oil painting techniques or for plein air studies you don’t intend to sell in a gallery. Paint directly on the paper (oils will eventually rot the paper) or cover with acrylic gesso.
I hope this quick oil painting surface cost-comparison guide will give you some ideas when you are deciding which oil painting surface will work best for your circumstances.
Play and experimentation are keys to unlocking creative potential in our journeys as oil painters.
Have fun and Happy Painting!