Paint and Sip Canvases: Everything You Need to Know

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As a painting instructor for paint and sip parties, I get asked many questions. One of the things I find people have the most questions about is the canvas they will be working with.

Most of the time, I supply the canvases, and I always tend to use the same size canvas for each party. But, if it is the party host who is supplying the materials, they often ask me many questions about the canvases.

What size should the paint and sip canvas be? Should the canvas be pre-treated with gesso? What other painting surfaces can be used instead of canvases?

Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more.

What Size Should the Canvas Be?

In most cases, the size of the canvas will depend on the subject of the painting. At most sip-and-paint parties, I tend to use canvases that are at least 11X14 inches.

Anything smaller than this is not easy for beginners to work with. It is the same for larger canvases. The 11X14 canvas is, to me, the ideal size for those who are just learning how to paint.

Standard Canvas Sizes

A canvas of this size is ideal for a basic landscape painting. Of course, other paintings may require something larger or smaller. Here is a rundown of the standard canvas sizes for painting classes.

  • 8X10
  • 9X12
  • 11X14
  • 12X16

What size of canvas is best for beginners?

When I first started painting, I mainly used 11X14 inch canvases which I found is best for beginners. Now that I have more experience and my skills have greatly improved, I have moved up to larger sizes, including 16X20 inches.

What Size of Canvas is Best for Paint and Sip Parties?

When it comes to teaching paint and sip classes, I like to make sure that everyone is using the same canvas. I usually bring along 11X14 inch canvases for paint parties, although in some cases I have students 12X16 inch canvases.

One thing to keep in mind is the amount of space you have to work in. If the room and table are small, it is best to use 11X14 inch canvases, or even smaller.

My studio isn’t huge, so I can only bring in about 15 to 20 people per painting class. This allows enough room for each person to have an easel with an 11X14 inch canvas and space for the other art supplies they will be using.

Should the Canvas Be Pre-Treated with Gesso?

To give additional texture to paintings, many artists like to paint a coat of gesso onto their canvases before they start creating. Gesso is a thin, white paint.

The problem with gesso is that it takes about 24 hours to dry. In the beginning, I was wasting a lot of time treating each canvas with gesso. Now, I simply buy canvases that are pre-treated. That way I don’t waste any time and I don’t use up all of my gesso.

If there is going to be a solid background color for the paintings, such as black, I usually do this step myself. That way, the canvases are primed and ready to paint on during a sip party.

You can read my guide on how to prep a canvas for painting for more details.

How do you trace a canvas for sip and paint?

Know what you want to paint

Start by picking a simple image or design that you’d like to paint. It could be a flower, an animal, or even a basic shape. Keep it uncomplicated since you’re just starting out.

If you are painting with black background, check these easy black canvas painting ideas.

Get your materials ready

Gather the things you’ll need, like a printed copy of the image, graphite transfer paper (or carbon paper), tape, and a pencil or pen. Make sure your canvas is clean and ready to use.

Set up and transfer the printed image to canvas

Tape the printed image onto the canvas where you want it to be. Take the graphite transfer paper and place it between the image and the canvas, ensuring the graphite side faces down onto the canvas.

Trace the lines

Now, using a pencil or pen, carefully trace over the outlines of the image. Apply gentle pressure as you trace, making sure the lines transfer onto the canvas. Take your time, and don’t worry about being perfect—just focus on capturing the basic shapes and lines.

Remove the image and transfer paper

Once you’re done tracing, remove the tape and gently lift off the image and transfer paper. Check your canvas to see if the traced lines are clear and visible.

Start painting

With the traced outlines as your guide, it’s time to start painting! Use the traced lines as a reference and fill in the colors and details using your paint brush and chosen colors. Feel free to add your own artistic flair and have fun experimenting!

Can You Use Other Painting Surfaces?

Don’t feel that you have to limit yourself to only painting on canvas at paint parties. Many different types of alternative painting surfaces for paint and sip can be used to create some cool artwork.

Wood Cookies

Wood cookies are ideal for painting surfaces. These are thin (about 1/2 inch to one inch thick) slices of wood that still have the bark on them. I like to coat the bark with a glaze to ensure that it isn’t going to flake off over time.


If the class will involve using watercolors for the paintings, I don’t recommend using a canvas at all, unless you have a medium that will give the canvas the same texture as watercolor paper.

You can buy books of watercolor paper in various sizes, including 11X14 inches. This paper is textured and thick enough to not tear when it gets wet.

This type of paper is made with a mix of cellulose fibers and water. High-quality watercolor paper will be made with cotton fibers. Lesser quality paper is usually made with wood pulp. The best paper is 100% cotton, but a lower-quality paper will be fine for a paint-and-sip night.

Watercolor paper comes in a variety of weights. This is not something you need to concern yourself with, yet. Heavy paper is best, but it is also more costly, and not always necessary for a sip-and-paint class.

Wood, Ceramic, Glass, and other Hard, Smooth Surfaces

If it can hold paint, it can be used as a painting surface. I often like to experiment with a variety of surfaces, to bring something different to my classes.

A piece of plywood can be a great painting surface, as long as it is treated with a base coat of paint or gesso. Or, you might want to paint on an old pane of glass. I’ve even taught at paint parties where everyone brought their own painting surfaces, and everyone had something different.

Some ideas for alternative painting surfaces can include plastic, glass, ceramic, wood, and even fabric. Using different surfaces can be quite fun and interesting!


Often, students want to paint designs on jackets and other items of clothing. Acrylic paints work great on fabric because they do not wash out. You can also get special fabric paints if you are doing a clothing painting sip class.


Whether you are painting on canvases or other surfaces at your next paint and sip party, you are sure to create some pretty unique masterpieces. Remember, different surfaces will give you different effects.

A finished canvas painting will look and feel a lot different from a painting on a different surface, such as wood or glass. I always encourage my students to branch out and try using different surfaces.

Don’t forget to check my guide on the best paint for canvas and spray paint canvas ideas for more tips!

*image by Krakenimages/depositphotos