The support is what you actually paint upon. Some artists use prepared canvases. You can purchase them in online stores, craft stores in your town, and from art supply catalogs. If you want longevity in your work, use the good, stretched canvases. They come on wooden stretcher bars. For practise, the canvas boards are fine. Gallery wrapped canvases are wonderful as they don't require framing! As soon as your painting is finished, it's ready to hang on the wall.
Other artists prefer to use mdf board or masonite boards. Unless you're planning on doing very large paintings, 1/4 inch board will work for you. Lumber yards will cut 4X8 sheets of this board into sizes you require. They usually charge a small fee for this. You can also cut your own boards if you have the tools.
If you want to get extremely creative and find your board at the best possible price, (which is free) find a friend who has a cabinet shop, a contractor, or woodworker who throws the scraps away. They'll be happy to have you pick the scraps up so they don't have to haul them off. You'll also find this material in dumpsters where general contractors have thrown excess materials away. Choose only the good fresh boards that are clean.
Once you've aquired your board and cut it to size, it needs to be gessoed. Gesso is a special kind of paint that covers boards, sticking to them and giving you a safe surface to apply your paints. I use several coats of gesso on my boards. (4-6 coats) I paint both sides so the boards don't warp. Some artists like to sand between the coats of gesso to get a smooth surface. (Let it dry thoroughly between coats.) I like the texture of my lines and lumps to show through, so I tend to slap the gesso on with abandon. Many artists use house paint or primer for this application. There are pros and cons to this line of thought. You might want to do more research on this method and decide for yourself which way to go. I've done it both ways and it hasn't seemed to make much difference. Gesso can be found in art catalogs or art and craft supply stores.
You can also gesso mat board and other surfaces before you paint on them. Don't be afraid to try new things. If you watch House and Garden television, you'll see how any surface can be painted! A word of caution. To create fine art, use only the best methods, materials and preparations. For other painting, you can get as creative as you wish.
When I purchase supports, I like to use the Fredrix Stretched Linen Canvas I find on Mr Art.com. This canvas is so smooth and rich! When you see it, you can't wait to start your next painting. I've bought supplies from Mr Art for less money than I'd pay buying them in a local craft store and I saved the gas it takes to make a trip to town.horse art on my website and purchase Christmas gifts on the special pages I set up for the holidays. Thanks for stopping by....