How to stretch a canvas for beginners

A well-stretched canvas makes the painting more beautiful and preserves it for decades. But buying a perfectly sized canvas with a good fabric stretched canvas is not easy. Because as the size of the canvas increases, so does the cost of the stretched canvas increase. That’s why we learn how to stretch canvas.

Learning how to stretch will help you not only save money but also be more creative. You can choose the precise wood and fabric for your canvas which will give your painting extra value. Though canvas stretching is not very hard, you need to do it as perfectly as possible for more outcomes.

To stretch a canvas first, you need to gather some tools for it. Then measure the canvas and build the stretcher frame. Cut the canvas with accurate measurement and staple it appropriately to the frame. At last, prime the canvas.

Why do we need to learn how to stretch a canvas?

  • Canvas is the establishment of a painting. When it is stretched faultlessly, it will increase the charm of the painting.
  • You can’t have all kinds of canvas in the marketplace, so you have to stretch it.
  • A perfectly stretched canvas puts peculiar tension on the painting. It will save your painting from damage.
  • As stretching a canvas is cheaper than buying a stretched canvas, it will save your money.
  • If you stretch your canvas, you can put gesso to your canvas as much as you want and sand it properly to make it smoother.

How do you stretch a canvas even if you are a beginner?

Gather the tools

You need some tools to stretch the canvas. They are: ‌

  • Meter stick. 
  • Scissors / Utility knife. ‌
  • Pencil. ‌
  • Straight edge. ‌
  • Small hammer. ‌
  • Staple gun. ‌
  • Spray bottle. ‌
  • A pair of canvas pliers. ‌
  • Sponge. ‌
  • Staple lifter.
  • T-Square.

Choose the canvas fabric

The most popular canvas fabric which is used for stretching the canvas is cotton duck fabric. These fabrics are both durable and steady. Most beginners use medium-weight canvas fabric because these fabrics do not show the bars very much. It is good to purchase a primer medium-weight canvas for stretching handily. 

Oil painters usually use linen fabric. These fabrics work perfectly with oil paints. So there are many kinds of fabrics, but you should consider buying those fabrics that work with your style.

Measure the canvas

Canvas rolls are usually 1.83 meters to 2.10 meters wide and 10 m long. The measurement of the canvas depends on how much you are covering around the back bars. For a 60× 60 s standard-depth stretched canvas, you need an extra 10-15 centimeter more canvas. So you need 75×75 c.m. canvas. 

If the canvas is stretched by the in-depth profile bars, you need to add 20 c.m. canvas for each side. So you need 80×80 cm canvases altogether. You can fold down the extra canvases with staplers. Make sure you pick the best staple gun. We have a complete guideline on this. Check out our guide on the best staple gun for canvas stretching Or trim them.

Choose the stretch bar.

You can use professional wood, museum wood, Museo Alu-pro wood, and aluminum for the stretcher bar for the frame. When buying the stretcher bar, you have to ensure that they are perfectly square in their corners. There should be a 6-8% moisture level so it doesn’t crack when nature changes. 

Different types of wood come with different depths. The larger the frame is, the thicker bar you will need for strength. You can also add center bars to support the tensions that come from the stretched canvas on the bar.

Assemble the stretcher frame

To make the stretcher frame, you have to lay down two pairs of stretcher bars. Take one bar with a lip to begin withholding one place so that it can wiggle the second one’s lip into position. Now, it is essential that you have to ensure that the bars are not offset. You want to assemble the bars so that the tips meet and you can form a nice square corner. 

Add the other side with the two bars in the same way. If there is a little bit of a fraction space, you have to wiggle it into place with a small hammer. You have to ensure that they are tightly connected. Use a T-square to ensure that frame is square.

Cut the canvas

To cut the canvas, first, you need to spray water on the canvas, where you will stretch with a spray bottle. Use a flat surface like a table or floor to place the back face of your canvas. You must place the frame on the top of the stretching canvas. You will need to leave some extra inches of the canvas on the cause of each side so that you can fold the frame with them. 

The wider the frame is, the more extra fabric you will need. Use a pencil to mark where to cut the fabric. Then cut the canvas with a scissor and staple the canvas on the backside of the frame with a staple gun.

Stretch the longer side. 

You have to start with the longer side of the canvas for stretching. You have to staple three times in the middle side of the frame and the bottom edge with a staple machine. Now rotate the canvas and the structure to do the same thing on the polar side. 

You have to pull the canvas tightly so that you can wrinkle it over the frame—staple it three times on the reverse side of the stretcher bars. You want to save the fabric from ripping, and you should staple it slightly at an angle. Do not staple or fold the corner first.

Stretch and staple the shorter side. 

Go to the unfinished stapled side and pull the canvas tightly. You have to insert two staples so that you can bind the canvas with a frame. Start stapling from the middle of the corners. When one side is done, do the same thing to the opposite sides.

Stretching the corners 

At last, you have to stretch the corner. You have to pull a place where the canvas is venting and stretch it. The final pulling process must be steady and balanced. Then you have to staple it. Then stretch the opposite side of the canvas bar. You have to do slow stretching so that your corner looks as delicate and decent as possible.

Find a diamond shape

You need to lift the canvas to understand whether you need tension or in which place you need pressure. When the staple work goes perfect, it will form a diamond shape on the canvas. If it doesn’t come into proper shape on one side, you have to remove that side’s staples and stretch that side perfectly again.

Put the canvas to rest

When the stretching process of the canvas is complete, you need to let it rest for at least two days. This resting process will help the canvas to pull taut the frame. It would be best not to keep the canvas outside or an exaggerated moisture place for resting. You have to keep it in a place where there is not very much humidity. A dry place with room temperature is perfect for this process.

Inspect the canvas

If you tap on the opposite side of the finished canvas, it will sound like a drum and feel tight in all positions. There might be loose areas. You need to remove staples on those places, and you have to re-stretch them. 

There might be extra fabric in the corners. You can cut them or fold them under the frame to staple them. You must not cut any fabrics in the corner. If you want, you can add shims into the corner junction for any dislocation. You can use a spray bottle to water the canvas for more tightening.

Prime the canvas

Pour the gesso out on your palette paper and then grab your brush and then saturate your brush and then paint away from and cover every single area. Once the gesso has dried, go ahead and grab your sandpaper and sand out the canvas. 

Please don’t make it too smooth right now. Again pour out the gesso on the pallet paper. Put your toothbrush in the gesso and paint away on the canvas again. If you want to dry faster, you can use a hairdryer. 

Now you have to sand it again with sandpaper but now make it very smooth. When you are painting the gesso, go in the exact direction all the time. By doing this, you will get a perfect finishing.

How Much Does it Cost to Stretch an Art Canvas?

Stretching canvas is more reasonable than buying a stretched canvas. But the stretching method relies on a couple of aspects like what kind of fabric you are using or what types of woods you are using for making the frame, or what size of frame you use. 

The cost can be between $8 to $20 per linear foot, which means 50 dollars to 150 dollars per print. Experts charged around 75 dollars for a 24 c.m. × 36c.m. stretched canvas print. And 23 dollars for a 20×20c.m. stretched canvas. Suppose your passion is painting; you should learn how to stretch. It will save you a lot of money.

Time to wrap up

The canvas is the foundation of a painting, and the stretched canvas frame helps you keep saving your artwork for a couple of years. So stretching a canvas will both protect your money and your painting.

You can choose better wood and the right size for the frame when you stretch a canvas. You can also choose different fabrics for your job. 

The process of stretching a canvas is not very difficult. But you need to perform these processes perfectly, or it will ruin your painting.


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