• Canvas is a textile used as a base for painting. It is available as a roll, board, or stretched over a wooden frame. Canvas can come in different weights and weaves. 1


  • Canvas is typically made from cotton, but pricier linen canvas (from the flax plant) is also available. Canvas may be purchased primed with gesso, and a glue-like “sizing”. This is either PVA size (neutral pH white glue), or rabbit skin glue, which strengthens the fibers. 1 Canvas stretcher bars are made from pine, paulownia, and other woods depending on the canvas quality. 2, 3


  • The cotton industry consumes an immense amount of water, releases pesticides into the environment, and depletes the fertility of the land. 4 Linen production outputs less waste water and carbon dioxide, and uses less energy than cotton. 5 Rabbit skin glue is likely a byproduct of the rabbit fur and meat industry, which requires fewer resources and has greater output than beef production. 6

Human Health

  • There are no major health risks associated with canvas.

Social Equity        

  • Unsustainably managed agriculture leads to the pollution and exhaustion of the land, which causes long term damage to the livelihood of the surrounding community. 4
  • The use of pesticides can affect farmers and the surrounding community; poisoning and death are not uncommon, especially in developing countries. 7

Safe Use and Exposure

  • Use caution when cutting and stapling canvas. Do not flake old paint off a canvas without breathing protection. Many artist paints contain heavy metals which can be accidentally inhaled as dust.

Proper disposal

  • Painted canvases that are no longer desired can be painted over and reused. Canvas can also be donated to the givetake, or disposed of in the regular trash. Allow wet paint to dry before disposal.

Safe Alternatives

  • Choose canvas that is made from sustainably grown plant fibers, or reuse old canvas.


  1. “Understanding the Difference Between Canvas and Linen”, Winsor & Newton,
  2. “Canvases and Surfaces”, Blick,
  3. “Block Academic Cotton Canvas”, Blick,
  4. “Cotton”, World Wildlife Fund,
  5. “Environmental Footprint of Different Textiles and Comparison of Cotton and Linen (Flax) Fabric”, Envormation,
  6. “Industries Using Market Rabbits – Meat Production”, Florida 4H,
  7. Why Farmers Continue to Use Pesticides Despite Environmental, Health, and Sustainability Costs,