Which is better?
Canvas panels (sometimes called canvas board) consists of canvas glued or stretched onto cardboard.The word “board” is a bit confusing, it’s not a wooden board, it’s CARD-board.
Generally considered a student surface, canvas panel is best kept for learning, practicing, and playing around.
Because over time, the cardboard tends to degrade and deteriorate. Many times the canvas panel will warp if not framed. Paintings on canvas panel are not considered archival.
Stretched canvas consists of canvas stretched tightly across wooden stretchers, similar to a wooden frame – but with unfinished wood. Most of these come pre-gessoed. This surface is generally used for work that you want to keep, preserve. In other words, your “real” paintings.
When I first began painting, I used a lot of canvas board. They are cheaper than stretched canvas. In retrospect that was mostly a good idea – except I did have one acrylic painting that turned out pretty good, I wish I could have seen into the future and painted that one on stretched canvas instead. But I consider this the school of hard knocks, or paying your artist dues. – Cindy Davis, editor Acrylic Paint Review
Of course, stretched canvas comes in a variety of qualities. It’s a certainly a case of you get what you pay for. Cheaper stretched canvas arrives with soft wood that tends to warp, thinner cotton canvas and thin gesso. At the other end, some high quality pre-stretched linen canvas costs hundreds per unit.
Don’t confuse cardboard with wood.
Some painters, often plein-air oil painters, use small or medium size wooden boards, with canvas glued on top as a surface. Don’t confuse this with the product marketed in hobby and art stores called “canvas board”. Two different things – two different surfaces – two different qualities.