What is Canvas material ? 8 different types

A guide for understanding canvas fabric, its characteristics, and the various types available.



Canvas is a weave and a fabric. It is a plain weave that results in a very strong and sturdy fabric that can be bought in widths starting from 36 inches and can go up to even 144 inches. Canvas is also the name of such a densely woven fabric woven this way. The fabric can be made of cotton, linen, or hemp fibers.

In this weave, the thick yarns go in a pattern of over one under one, producing a heavy-weight, densely woven fabric. Canvas is made into different varieties depending on how tightly the threads are woven together.

Canvas takes dyes very well, resulting in a wide variety of colorful thick fabrics. Canvas is very durable. It is stiff but flexible.

Canvas is somewhat water resistant, but when the appropriate coating is applied it is as waterproof as any waterproof fabric. Canvas shoes – the most durable of shoes is made of canvas. It is also easy to care for as it is usually a cotton fabric. 

canvas stretched for paiting.
Artist’s canvas stretched for paiting.

Uses of canvas

Canvas is a very versatile fabric. There are many uses for canvas fabric – it is used for making heavy tote bags, awnings, floor clothes, slipcovers, and placemats and for covering upholstery, especially outdoor furniture. A tighter stiff canvas can even make very sturdy outdoor tents. It is used to make sails for boats because of its water-resistant nature. 

It is also used as a surface for painting. The stiff nature of the fabric makes it easy to make freestanding things like trays and storage containers.

Canvas wrinkles a lot, and that is one of its rugged charms. But if you want to remove those wrinkles, you will need to apply a lot of heat and force. But, sometimes, when ironing canvas, you will find that simply increasing the heat is not helping much.

You can use the steam setting in your iron to soften the fabric and then press nicely to take out the wrinkles – this (usually) removes even the most stubborn of all creases.

Types of canvas fabrics

Duck canvas

Also called Cotton duck, this fabric is made of coarse yarns, which are tightly woven together. If you have wondered what your canvas sneakers are made of, do not anymore – it is the duck canvas.

Hammocks, placemats, tents – there are many things in your everyday life that may be made of canvas.

Drop cloth

Dropcloth is a duck canvas fabric – it is used for making slipcovers for upholstery and also as painters drop cloth -protecting surfaces from paint.

It is thick and does not let the paint go underneath and is absorbent enough to take in the paint that drops on it – and best of all, it is very inexpensive.

Organic canvas

This is a thick stiff fabric made of 100% organic cotton fibers, i.e., cotton fibers produced and harvested without using pesticides and processed organically and then used to make top-quality fabric.

Related post – organic fabrics.

Waxed canvas

This canvas fabric has an extra wax coating on the surface. This coating gives the fabric excellent water resistance, and strength, and durability.

The creases and folds on the waxed surface result in a rugged look which adds character to the fabric. It is used to make bags, jackets, tents, outdoor gear etc.

Polyester/cotton blended canvas

This is a fabric with all the advantages of polyester and cotton. Superior tenacity and a natural feel. It is used as art canvas for painting and for inkjet printing of photos/artworks.

Needle point Canvas used for embroidery

Needlepoint canvas is a canvas in white or beige color used for needlepoint embroidery. This is an openweave canvas fabric with fine holes between the yarns- resulting from fibers woven in a precise grid pattern.

The Mono Needlepoint Canvas, Interlock Needlepoint Canvas, Rug canvas are some of the different needlepoint canvases.

Learn more about different fabrics used for embroidery here.

Waste canvas

Waste canvas is a type of canvas with very loose thread with the grid pattern you need for embroidery. The fabric is held together with sizing/glue. It is used to embroider on top of any fabric without the weave you need for embroidery.

You can keep it on top, do the embroidery and after the work is done, remove the canvas fibers after wetting it and taking the fibers out one by one with a tweezer

Marine grade Canvas

This umbrella term is used to describe very sturdy, durable, strong, hardwearing water resistant canvas used in many areas of marine life – to cover boat cushions, make awnings, etc. It is made of very sturdy acrylic fibers.

Sail Canvas

Sail canvas is a very durable, tightly woven canvas made with a two-fold linen warp and coarse cotton weft. Polyester canvas is lightweight and hence very popular as sailcloth material.

Dressmaking Canvas

This is a thick but fine enough cotton-linen blend fabric that is used to make clothes.
It is bulkier than other dressmaking fabrics, but the advantage is that you can use it without the need for linings.

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

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