Acrylic Painting

Painter’s Reference: A Guide to Common Art Canvas Sizes

Selecting the proper art canvas size is a Goldilocks-esque feat of painting: How do you decide on one that is not too big, not too small, but just right?

Canvas sizes

While figuring out what size canvas is right for you is a subjective thing, there are several standard sizes that you’ll be able to work with to discover what scale feels right to you. These common art canvas sizes correspond with common frame sizes, reproduction sizes and the general sizes that people like to work in and display.

This guide to canvas sizes is a handy reference to explore the common canvas sizes in the respective worlds of acrylic and oil painting.

Large Painting on canvas

Abstract floral painting via Craftsy member Julia Fine Art

What Every Painter Should Know About Canvases

art on canvas guide

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Which size is right for me?

There’s not one answer to the question of which size is right for you. Consider what type of artwork you’d like to make. For instance, if you’re miniaturist, and anything over 4″ x 6″ makes you break out in a cold sweat, in which case, a small canvas is probably the way to go. On the other hand, if you like to go wild on a canvas, Jackson Pollock-style, a larger canvas is the best suited to your artistic needs.

If you’re unsure of which size you prefer, stick with medium sizes between 8″ x 10″ and 16″ x 20″. These sizes are versatile and affordable enough that you can try out several techniques and see which size works for you, or if you are craving a larger or smaller surface.

Medium canvas

Underpainting via Craftsy instructor Micah Ganske

Rectangle canvases

Rectangle canvases are by far the most common. They come in infinite size variations, but we’ll break down some of the most common ones.

Note: While the sizes are standard, our breakdown is objective. What seems small to one painter might seem quite large to another.

Small

Smaller canvases are great for working on fine detailed work or creating images featuring a single, bold image. It’s also the size of many postcards and greeting cards, so it can be a good size for creating artwork to scan and turn into stationery designs.

Common small canvas sizes:

  • 4″ x 6″
  • 5″ x 7″

Medium

A medium canvas is ideal for the beginning painter. They have a more generous surface area for painting than the previously mentioned small canvases, but aren’t such a large work area as to be intimidating. They have room to use a variety of brushes, and allow you to explore a variety of different techniques. They might not have a huge impact in a large room, but they will create significant paintings.

Common medium canvas sizes:

  • 8″ x 10″
  • 9″ x 12″
  • 11″ x 14″
  • 12″ x 16″

Large

A large canvas is exactly what you need to create paintings that make an impact in a room. They have plenty of room for creating large compositions or large, sweeping scenes. It’s generally easier to work on larger canvases if they are on an easel versus on a flat surface.

Common large canvas sizes:

  • 18″ x 24″
  • 20″ x 24″
  • 24″ x 36″
  • 30″ x 40″
  • 36″ x 48″

Mini canvases

Anything under 4″ x 6″ is considered a mini canvas. Within mini canvases you might find square variations such as 2″ x 2″ or 3″ x 3″, or an “ACEO” size (Art Cards Editions and Originals) that is a little bit bigger than a business card. Mini canvases are ideal for creating small paintings, and can look great when displaying many of them side by side.

Mini canvas sizes: anything under 4″ x 6″

Square canvases

Photo via CakeSpy

Square canvases

Square canvases are available in a number of sizes, and are perfect if you prefer the square surface, or if you are making a series of paintings to display side by side (Andy Warhol, for instance, allegedly made his square paintings of a series all in the same size so that they would look great when displayed on museum walls one day).

Common square canvas sizes:

  • Mini sizes (under 4″ x 6″)
  • 8″ x 8″
  • 10″ x 10″
  • 12″ x 12″
  • 20″ x 20″
Round oil painting

Round oil painting via Craftsy member Rodica Slavuc

Shaped canvases

You’ll find a variety of shaped canvases available. Circles and ovals are arguably the most popular, but you can find unusual shapes such as hearts or hemispheres, as well. Typically, these canvases are sought out for specific uses. They can be a bit more difficult to frame than rectangle or square canvases.

Sizes and shapes will vary.

Oblong canvas

Poppies via Craftsy member Maggie Lowe Original Oil

Oblong canvases

Oblong canvases are long in one direction and quite slender in the other, sort of like a panoramic view photo, but they can be aligned to be either wide or tall. You might find oblong canvases in sizes as small as 3″ x 9″ or as large as 12″ x 36″. These are not an extremely common canvas size and are often used to create paintings intended to be lined up side by side.

Sizes will vary.

Custom sized canvases

If you don’t want to conform, or you want a canvas larger than the common sizes, you can purchase specially sized canvases, or you can stretch your own canvas in any size and shape you’d like. However, there are some considerations with custom sized canvases. For one, they can be quite expensive — especially larger sized canvases. Also, keep in mind that if you intend to frame or display your artwork, an unusual size might create obstacles in hanging or might prove quite expensive to frame.

Sizes will vary. 

What Every Painter Should Know About Canvases

art on canvas guide

Set all your paintings up for success! Learn how to choose, stretch, prime and paint your canvas. Get my FREE guide »

5 Comments

Gail Lankshear

great info..
thx

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