Technique: Stretching a Canvas

An essential skill for any artist, stretching your own canvas is economical and gives you more creative control over the surface you’re painting on
Learn more below

An essential skill for any artist, stretching your own canvas is economical and gives you more creative control over the surface you’re painting on. Master this skill today.

MATERIALS:

  • Stretcher bars
  • Canvas
  • Staple gun
  • Staples
  • Hammer
  • Canvas pliers

INSTRUCTIONS:

How to stretch your own canvas

Step 1: 

Assemble your stretcher bars, interlocking the wood at the corners. Use a hammer to gently tap them into place, making sure that the corners are 90 degrees.

Step 2: 

Cut a piece of raw or primed canvas 4 inches (or more) larger than your frame. Lay your stretcher bar frame in the center of your canvas.

Step 3: 

Fold the sides of the canvas up over the wood and secure the middle of each side to the stretcher bar with a staple gun. Using canvas pliers or a firm grip, stretch the middle of the opposite side and secure it with a staple gun. Do this on all sides, pulling the canvas taut at the middle, working left and ride sides and then top and bottom sides, so that the canvas tension is even. Repeat this step working outwards from the middle, leaving the corners free. Be sure to rotate your canvas after each staple.

Step 4: 

To secure the corners, pull the canvas tightly outwards and fold it over the wood at a 90-degree angle. Hold firmly in place and tack it down with a staple gun. Consider if your finished painting will be portrait orientation or landscape. Pull, fold and staple the sides of the canvas at the corners, trimming excess canvas when necessary. Pull, fold and staple the top and bottom corners of the canvas.

 

TIPS 

  • Be sure to cut your canvas larger if you are using gallery width stretcher bars
  • Trim excess canvas after stapling
  • Use a hammer to make the staples lay flush with the wood