You may want to consider that I haven't been in professional play for a while and that I tend to shoot people "in the wild" these days, so I'm not up to date with the latest offers. I was really hoping to see other posts from people who have recent experience in a professional studio environment, but here is:
Canvas is extremely durable, but not particularly portable or storable. As a lacquered fabric, it is well suited for surface cleaning (wiping with a cloth or sponge); As a dyed fabric, you need to make sure that bright colors get a little grubby over time and the darkness fades – dry cleaning versus washing helps, as does dark storage in a sealed bag. White is not very white unless the canvas is painted (bleaching only takes you so far). So you need space to light the background separately if you want something that is apparently White. (We assume that you have to overexpose if you want "digital white" any Background.)
Canvas can be quite heavy; Even the lighter varieties of cotton ducks that are sold as "canvas" are in the 10-12 ounces. Region and painted surfaces contribute significantly to this, so you need stable support (not necessarily a certified and approved official background stand set, but a few thumbtacks are not enough). It takes and shows wrinkles and creases, although they relax almost invisibly over time if the canvas is colored and not dimensioned (and can be ironed out). Painted canvas really has to be treated like roll paper. The binder in the color (even if there is no visible color film) makes wrinkles and creases very clear. It's great for interchangeable scenes or for permanent seamlessness, but they really need to be either hung or rolled up (and it can take days to be used if they were folded when purchased, even around a shape).
Synthetics may have changed the game a little since I last looked it up. I can imagine that something other than dropcloth-quality cotton duck (which was the basis for all the lighter canvases I've worked with) behaved a little better, but I haven't seen any evidence of this in my region Pro Foto Emporia.
I don't know what the kids do with muslin these days, but in my day it was the location alternative to speckled canvas backgrounds. Not only is muslin much lighter and a little cheaper, it also absorbs wrinkles better. Yes, that was the point. Bringing canvas in one place meant either bringing an unwieldy long roll of fabric with you, folding it neatly and having a regular fold pattern (which looks like a poor background image of a website) or a very distinctive spider web with irregular folds. Canvas is a heavy fabric; it just scratches so much. Muslin, on the other hand, is very light and boasts the ability to get an almost fractal, irregularly folded texture if you just shred it and put it in a pocket. When this texture is combined with the soft stain that usually occurs, it simply disappears. If you want a simple background, you have to treat muslin almost as carefully as canvas.
Muslins are typically made from a higher level of thread than canvases (the source looms and threads are used for bedding rather than industrial use and for painting unless they do their 20-minute photographic use per year). This means that the results of bleaching and dyeing tend to be better – you can get good white and intense, bright colors without painting, and darknesses without gloss. But wrinkles and creases will always be a problem if you need to keep them or move them.
Leotards tend to get around the wrinkling and creaking problem very well, and for this reason, they are great for plain-colored backgrounds. As fabrics, they will of course crease and wrinkle, but these folds and creases can be easily stretched. But as the man said, there is no free lunch.
Jerseys don't just hang there; They have to be stretched pretty much. If you place a simple jersey background field on a standard background stand, the top may be the specified width, but it tapers to this small, six-inch-wide cylinder at the bottom. You need to clamp the fabric to the posts to maintain the width, and the clamps must be frequent enough to avoid a visible diamond pattern due to tension fluctuations. And it's pretty much background material. It does not work well as a suture, even if you try to stretch and weight the circumference of the piece on the floor / table. (The stretch means that a blister almost always appears somewhere.) However, it makes a fantastic pop-up and works great on a frame – folds just go away.
And there is the pilling problem. If you never have to clean the fabric, it can look new for a long time. If you need to wash it, remember that you're dealing with something that is really just an oversized t-shirt. Hand washing in cold water in the bath by squeezing (no movement) and hanging to dry works well, but anything rougher will pretty much ruin it. If it's something that's going to experience a lot of rough-and-tumble, it's the wrong stuff.
Velor / velvet
These make great solid colors (assuming we're not talking about the "crushed" variety) and there is no substitute for black velvet as absolute black, apart from immense distance – light goes in and it doesn't come out. The nap hides folds and creases in the base material very well. For lighter / lighter colors, you may need to brush the surface of the nap to avoid obvious color changes (one of those large erasers, which is essentially a foam block that contains a pen and a chamois glued over a face ) very quickly and effectively for that). Velvet / velor is ideal for solid white tones, solid absolute black tones and for chromakey colors. A white or gray plate in combination with gelled lighting can ensure very even color gradients. Velvet fabrics can be surprisingly light (although some that are manufactured as coating materials, ie fabrics whose weight is suitable for coats and those based on a jersey knit rather than a fabric, can be surprisingly heavy).
However, velvet and velor are lint magnets, and the lighter colors can quickly deal with dirt. They are absolutely not suitable for seamless applications where something heavy (such as a person or even a large table object) is involved – lifting the nap again after thorough squeezing is a bear job.
There is a large selection of washability – the name really only says what the surface of the fabric looks like; it doesn't say much about the underlying construction. Some will get bald if you look at them funny, others will feel, others will laugh at your "hot" water and your measly washing machines. Some dry quickly and easily, others absorb Lake Superior in one go and will be ready for use again in February if you are lucky. It is probably safe to assume that any company that depends on the goodwill of professional photographers (Lastolite, Photek, Photoflex, Westcott, etc.) will sell you something that is suitable for this purpose. But like anything else in life, I'd be careful not to do anything that's "too good to be true" – it might work right away, but it's probably disposable.
Really, really white
If you work in a small space (not real space to evenly illuminate the background from the front evenly) and need something that is digitally white and not just seemingly white (that is, something that doesn't just look white to the viewer and can have shadows have, but these are actually all Fs, if you look at the values), it may be worth looking at the backlight. Commercially, this means using a huge Lastolite softbox or Hilite background system (which is essentially a soft box with flat sidelights). A DIY version wouldn't be too difficult to create – the only critical part is the diffusion panel, and that's really only "critical" in the sense that it has to be seamless (one piece). The rest are just reflective fabric (this can be the cheapest silver lamé you can find in the fabric store, and it can be full of seams everywhere) and a hanging frame (PVC, anyone?).