An artist emailed me about a painting she saw that used strands of burlap fabric glued onto a canvas for texture. She noticed that some strands were flat against the canvas, while others were stiff enough to hold their shape away from the canvas, and asked how this technique could be accomplished on an acrylic painting.

I agree that texture from textiles like burlap can be very attractive in a painting. For gluing this type of substantial fabric I recommend a thick matte gel, like Golden’s Regular or Heavy Gel Matte. The heavy gel will hold it well, and using the matte gel instead of gloss will ensure you won’t have shiny areas showing through where the gel might seep out. If you are using just strands of the fabric, then a softer gel like Soft Gel Matte would suffice.

To stiffen fabric, before gluing, apply a fabric stiffener onto the fabric (like Golden’s GAC400, or rabbit skin glue), letting it dry before gluing as directed above. Alternatively, wait to apply the fabric stiffener onto the strands that end up away from the canvas after gluing.