Whether you are a serious artist or you simply pursue art as a hobby, learning how to properly stretch a canvas is an important skill. If you learn how to stretch your own canvas you will no longer be limited by the sizes or dimensions readily available online and in art supply stores – you will be able to create custom canvases that are suited to your individual projects.
What Tools and Supplies Are Needed?
The most important supplies you need for stretching your own canvas are stretcher bars, canvas pliers, a staple gun, and the canvas itself. Stretcher bars are used to create the wooden framework to support your canvas.
You can purchase stretcher bars in a wide variety of lengths and widths both online and in art supply stores. All you need to do is purchase four stretcher bars in two equal-size pairs. Two of the stretcher bars will be used to create the horizontal frame supports and the other two will be used to create the vertical supports.
Stretcher bars are cut at 45-degree angle miter joints with interlocking slots and pieces. In addition to your stretcher bars, you will also need a roll or piece of unfinished canvas. You will be laying the canvas down flat and placing the framework on top of it. Then you will attach the canvas to the framework using a staple gun, pulling the canvas tight using your canvas pliers.
Step-by-Step Guide to Follow
Stretching canvas is a fairly simple process, though there is a certain order of steps you should follow to ensure that your canvas is taut and evenly stretched. You will find step-by-step instructions for stretching perfect canvas below:
1. Select your stretcher bars or purchase an already assembled wooden frame.
2. If using individual stretcher bars, fit the pieces together to create your square or rectangular frame – make sure the pieces fit together snugly at the corners.
3. Put a few staples into each of the joints where the stretcher bars meet at the corners to provide a little extra support.
4. Lay your piece of canvas out on a large, flat surface and place your framework over top of it.
5. Cut your canvas several inches wider than the dimensions of your framework using a sharp utility knife then center the frame over the canvas.
6. Fold down the top edge of the canvas over the longest side of the frame and place on staple in the middle of the stretcher bar.
7. Carefully fold up the bottom edge of the canvas over the bottom of the frame.
8. Use the canvas pliers to pull the canvas taut then place a staple in the middle of the stretcher bar.
9. Fold in the sides of the canvas over the vertical sides of the framework using the canvas pliers and place one staple in the middle of each stretcher bar.
10. Work your way around the canvas, placing additional staples and using the canvas pliers to keep the canvas pulled tight.
11. Start with one staple placed to the left of the staple in the middle of the top frame.
12. Place another staple to the left of the middle staple along the bottom edge of the frame then on both sides.
13. Insert a staple to the right of the middle staple along the top, bottom, and sides of the framework.
14. Continue to work your way around the canvas, following this same pattern, pulling the canvas taut with your canvas pliers as you go.
15. Fold in the corners of the canvas and staple them in place.
16. Once you’ve finished stretching your canvas, let it rest at room temperature for 24 hours or so to tighten up before you prime it.
17. Apply a thin coat of gesso (or another type of primer) to the entire surface of the canvas, moving the brush in one direction the entire time.
18. Once the primer has dried, sand it gently with a fine-grained sandpaper then apply a second coat.
19. Allow the second coat of primer to dry then repeat the process for a third layer.
20. Once the third layer of primer has dried your canvas is ready to use.
Using the tips and the steps listed above you can learn how to stretch the perfect canvas each and every time. The more you practice, the better you will get and the faster you will be able to create custom canvases. So what are you waiting for? Try it for yourself today!