Fabric Dictionary: What is Canvas Fabric?

Fabric Dictionary: What is Canvas Fabric?

Canvas is a durable, tightly woven plain-weave fabric that is commonly made from cotton fibers and is used in variety of different applications.

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What is Canvas Fabric?

Canvas fabric is a coarse, tightly woven fabric that originates from 1500 BC India. The word “canvas” is derived from the Latin term “cannapaceus,” meaning made of hemp. Stiff and rugged in texture, Canvas fabric is known for its increased durability and tear resistance.

How is Canvas Fabric Made?

Canvas fabric is commonly constructed from cotton, but can also be woven or blended from polyester, linen, acrylic, or hemp fibers. Plain canvas is woven with a simple plain-weave or basket-weave technique, meaning there is a single yarn in the warp and a single yarn in the weft. Sometimes this weave is colloquially referred to as “one up, one down,” which refers to how the yarns are intertwined to create canvas fabric. However, slight variations to the weaving process can create different styles of canvas with different characteristics.

Types of Canvas Fabric:

There are two major types of canvas fabric: plain canvas fabric and duck canvas fabric. Below you will find the most widely used canvas fabrics.

1. Plain Canvas Fabric:

Plain canvas fabric is woven using a plain-weave or basketweave, which involves weaving with a thick single yarn in the warp and a thick single yarn in the weft. Plain canvas can be further treated with chemicals to give the fabric enhanced qualities. For example, canvas fabric can be backed with a PVC (polyvinyl chloride) coating to make the fabric waterproof or coated with a paraffin-based wax to create a smooth, textured waxed canvas fabric.

2. Duck Canvas Fabric:

Duck canvas fabric has a much higher thread count than plain canvas. As a result, Duck Canvas fabric is much smoother to the touch but also less pliable. Duck Canvas fabric can be further categorized into three different types of duck fabric: Single-Fill Duck Canvas fabric, Number Duck Canvas fabric (also known as Double Fill), and Army Duck Canvas fabric.

A) Single Fill Duck Canvas Fabric:

Unlike plain canvas, single fill duck canvas fabric is woven with a pair of single yarns in the warp direction and a thicker, singular yarn in the weft direction. It is also woven with a much tighter weave compared to plain canvas fabric but is still more pliable than number duck canvas fabric. Single fill canvas fabric is usually labeled by its square yard weight in ounces, like our “10 oz duck canvas fabric” or “7 oz duck canvas fabric.

B) Number Duck Canvas Fabric:

Number Duck Canvas fabric, also known as double fill canvas fabric, is the strongest variation of duck canvas fabric. Number duck canvas fabric is woven with two or more plied (or twisted) yarns in both the warp and the weft. Plied yarns make the canvas fabric thicker, denser, smoother, and sturdier. Number duck canvas fabric is identified with a “#”, a reference to its plain-weave structure, where #1 is the heaviest number duck canvas fabric and #12 is the lightest.


        • Army Duck Canvas Fabric- Army duck canvas fabric is a type of number duck canvas fabric, but the fabric’s popularity in both industrial and military applications warrants the fabric having its own section. Similar to Number Duck Canvas, Army Duck Canvas fabric is woven with two or more plied (or twisted) yarns in both the warp and the weft, however Army Duck Canvas fabric uses finer yarns to achieve its lighter weight, industrial strength characteristics. The fine yarn also makes the canvas fabric water resistant as the yarns expand when exposed to water.
        • Other Duck Canvas Fabric- Several other variations of Number Duck Canvas fabric exist for single-use applications, examples being Belting Duck, Boot Duck or Shoe Duck, and Hose Duck. Belting Duck is a heavy-duty canvas fabric that is used for conveyor belts. Boot Duck, also known as Shoe Duck, is a canvas fabric that is used in the linings for shoe or boot uppers. Finally, Hose Duck fabric is a durable, waterproof canvas fabric used in the manufacturing of hoses.

What is Canvas Fabric Used for?

Canvas fabric is a stylish fabric that can be used in a variety of applications. Traditionally viewed as a durable fabric with industrial applications, Canvas fabric today has many uses as fashion trends and manufacturing techniques progress. Today canvas fabric is used for a variety of apparel including workwear, shoes, pants and more. Additionally canvas fabric has other uses like painter’s canvas, tote bags, upholstery, tents, and many more applications.

Plain canvas fabric and single fill canvas fabric can both be used for crafts such as:

  • pillows
  • tote bags
  • corn hole bags
  • aprons
  • home furnishings

Number duck canvas fabric is mostly used for heavy-duty applications such as:

  • backpacks
  • tarps
  • tents
  • utility bags
  • floors
  • wall coverings
Additionally, artists use lighter weight, numbered duck canvas (such as #12) because of the fabric’s tight woven, impenetrable surface that handles paint well.

Can canvas fabric be dyed?

Canvas fabric can be easily dyed. Untreated, natural canvas fabric composed of cotton fibers can be dyed using reactive dyes. Reactive dyes are affordable and found in powder, liquid, and print paste forms. Canvas fabric dyed with reactive dyes do not lose color when washed or when left in sunlight. Furthermore, untreated canvas fabric made from polyester fibers can also be printed on by using dye sublimation printing.


Canvas fabric is a durable, coarse textured fabric that is stylish and can be used for a variety of applications. Woven in a plain weave style, also known as a basket-weave, canvas fabric can be manufactured from or blended with any fibers such as cotton, polyester, or acrylic. Ranging in characteristics from lightweight and breathable to durable and waterproof, canvas fabric can be used to craft anything from summer jackets to boat covers. Check out these blog posts Makeup Brush Case Tutorial, Weekend Duffle Bag Tutorial and shop canvas fabric to get started on your own Canvas fabric projects.

1 comment

john ramming

john ramming

the 10oz duck fabric has a weight of 230 gsm, the 7oz duck fabric has a weight of 310 gsm, is there a typo on one of the weights? I expected the 7oz to have a smaller gsm than the 10oz. Thanks, John

the 10oz duck fabric has a weight of 230 gsm, the 7oz duck fabric has a weight of 310 gsm, is there a typo on one of the weights? I expected the 7oz to have a smaller gsm than the 10oz. Thanks, John

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