The surface you paint on is an integral part of your painting. There are several options for supports that are used for various circumstances, from quick studies and exercises to finished paintings. Artist Nina Weiss presents things to consider when going to the art store for a pre-stretched canvas such as a back-stapled canvas over side-stapled canvas for a more finished edge to your painting. Another thing to consider is the weave of the canvas and how to customize the surface with gesso if it feels too rough.
If you want an even more customized size or surface, you may favor stretching your own canvas. Nina takes you through this process step by step, including how to pick your stretcher bars and assemble them, how to measure and actually attach the canvas to the bars with a staple gun and canvas pliers, and finally how to gesso the canvas to prepare for painting.
Nina then presents watercolor paper as a great option for quick studies. Working on a watercolor block keeps the study from warping, and it is easy to customize the size. Be sure to frame any work done on paper under glass.
She then discusses a different option: masonite. Masonite is a solid piece of wood that can be cut to any size and is a good option for studies, exercises, or finished paintings. Masonite can be bought at the hardware store unprimed or at the art supply store pre-primed, though the pre-primed boards will only be available in standard sizes.
Book board is another option as it is archival and is great for traveling because it is flat, lightweight, and easy to customize your sizes. Nina shows you how to cut the book board as it can be a bit trickier than other supports to keep a straight edge. After gessoing the book board, she shows you how to keep the board from warping.
There are so many different options for supports for your paintings!