I get asked this question a lot, so I decided to write about it here. Choosing the right size canvas for your new custom painting can be quite a headache for many to decide. A painting that is way too small for a space will be underwhelming and even awkward. A painting that is way too large for a space can swallow a room, and dwarf any other wall art that may be present. I’ve compiled this helpful list of tips and tricks to help ensure you choose the perfect canvas size for your new, custom painting. These tips can be used whether you are commissioning a custom artwork, or are looking to purchase original art or prints.
In the US, canvas sizes are expressed in inches, and there are quite a few basic sizes. Uncommon canvas sizes can be custom made or ordered from specialty shops but we will focus on the most common sizes for our purposes here. I have included both rectangular and square options as well.
Mini Canvas Sizes - Anywhere you need a little extra detail. These canvases are very tiny and should be used as little decorative details - perhaps sitting on a shelf or as part of a collage of wall art and photos. Great for any room that needs a little extra touch.
5 x 7
6 x 6
6 x 8
Small Canvas Sizes - Inlets, hallways, little walls, small rooms. Small canvases are great for nooks and crannies of your home, decorative inlets, hallways, etcetera.
8 x 10
11 x 14
9 x 12
Medium Canvas Sizes - Bathrooms, kids bedroom, dens. Medium canvases do make a statement, however, they are often not the only piece of art on a full-sized wall. These canvas sizes are typically placed on a wall with other art, on a thinner wall or in a smaller room like a child’s bedroom.
16 x 20
20 x 20
20 x 24
24 x 24
Large Canvas Sizes - Large rooms, master bedrooms, great rooms, game rooms. Large canvases are great for bigger rooms like adult bedrooms or living rooms. They make beautiful centerpieces above the bed or couch. They grab the attention of the entire room.
24 x 30
24 x 48
30 x 40
36 x 36
Statement Canvas Sizes - Large rooms, master bedrooms, great rooms, game rooms. These are super fun, and are typically chosen for larger spaces with higher ceilings. These statement canvases really make an impact in a room and definitely deliver wow factor!
36 x 48
48 x 48
60 x 40
72 x 36
72 x 48
Before worrying too much about what size canvas would be the best for your project, it is important to first choose your inspiration image. What is the “feel” of your image? Is it a stoic but powerful picture of your grandfather from the military? Is it a loving and happy image of your children giggling and playing together? Is it a fun and lighthearted picture of your goofball chihuahua? Take some time to determine how your inspiration makes you feel, and the type of impact it makes. Now that you have a understanding and feeling for the energy your painting will exude, you can decide if this is an energy that you would like to have a larger or smaller essence in your space. This gives you a basic starting point; larger or smaller.
So you know basic canvas sizes and understand the feel of your painting and how it will display in a room - its now time to measure. Choose where you want to display your work of art and measure the walls both horizontally and vertically. If the painting will hang above a fireplace, bed or couch, just measure the wall from the top of the piece of furniture to the ceiling. If there is another work of art on the wall that you do not want to move, measure from that work to the edge. You need to know how much space you have before you can start choosing a canvas size. As a general rule, when hanging a painting over a bed or couch it should measure about 75% of the width of the furniture. For example, a couch that is 100 inches wide should have a painting above it that is about 75 inches wide.
The three eighths rule means that for an otherwise empty wall, a painting should leave room on the wall equal to about three-eighths the width of the painting on each side. In order to compute this, simply multiply the width of the wall (in inches) by 0.37. For example, a wall that is 55 inches wide should display a painting that is about 20 inches wide.
Of course this is just a starting off point, and personal preference should always be taken into account. Some people prefer smaller works of art and more blank wall space and others (like me) prefer larger and grander works of art, and choose works that are slightly larger than the three-eights rule. For example, on my 55 inch wall on the side of my bedroom window, I hang a 24 inch painting and would not prefer it to be any smaller than this. (In fact, I actually think I would prefer one that is a bit wider).
Depending on the artist you choose, your custom painting may or may not be “ready to hang” without a frame. If you need or want to frame your work, make sure to consider this when choosing a canvas size. Even a simple two inch frame will add four inches to both the length and the width of your work.