Stretching Canvas

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Stretching canvas
Photo courtesy of Anita Thomhave Simonsen
Stretching canvas. All you need to know in one place. Why would you? What do you need? How is it done? (with a selection of curated videos).

Why would you?

Artists are always looking for ways to save money on materials without skimping on quality. Stretching your own canvas instead of buying it already stretched is a real dollar saver. It also allows an artist to have full control over the canvas they paint on and how it is prepared, and to have any size they choose. So not only can it be cheaper, but better quality too!

However, before getting outlandishly excited, stretching canvas does take time, so if you're not quick at it, perhaps buying ready-mades would be less expensive in the long run.  There is also the option of having canvas stretched for you by professionals. Obviously this costs though you get the exact specifications you want and can focus on painting, which is presumably what you do best.

What do you need?

  • Stretcher bars, either pre or home made, to stretch your canvas onto
  • Canvas to stretch, which is about 2 inches larger all round than the stretcher size
  • Canvas pliers are useful to save your hands
  • A staple gun and staples, or nails or tacks and a hammer for securing the canvas to the stretcher
  • A mallet for tapping the stretcher together
  • Tape measure for checking the squareness of the corners
  • T square for chiecking the squareness of the corners
  • Scissors for cutting the canvas
  • A razor blade can be handy for removing excess off the edges
  • Blunt nose pliers or a flat head screwdriver for removing errant staples
  • Misting spray in case the canvas ends up too loose
  • Patience

How is it done?

Rather than write up a long winded explanation, I instead sought out a bunch of the most useful videos. There are an awful lot out there and most of them are awful! I've sat through as many as I could stand (about 20) to bring you the pick of the bunch.

A good general introduction

This is a 5 minute video which deals with stretching up to about the 2 minute mark has some neat tips with razor blades and misting sprays.

Gallery wrapping of pre-painted canvas

A leisurely series on making stretcher bars and stretching canvas with plenty of handy tips

More art technique articles

This article is one in an ongoing series of technical articles for artists, all archived together and accessible from here. The topics range from details on materials, to the business of art, to specific art techniques. Please make use of this resource.

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