How to stretch a canvas

How to stretch a canvas in a few easy steps:

You might want to stretch you own canvas rather than buying a pre-stretched canvas.  A properly stretched canvas on a well-built frame will display and protect your work for years to come and by customizing your own paintings it ads a personal touch and stretching your own canvas is very cost-effective and can be fun, especially if like me you love DIY.

 Here are the tools you will need;

  • Your Canvas, whether clean, printed or painted
  • Heavy duty staple gun and staples
  • Staple lifter, or flat screwdriver
  • Rubber Mallet/small hammer
  • Strong pair of fabric scissors
  • Brown Tape
  • The wooden frame, make sure that you have the appropriate size frame for the canvas you want to stretch.
  • clean work surface with towel
  • optional extra is a stretching pliers

Ready to stretch the Canvas:

    1. Place your towel down on your clean working surface.
    2. now place the canvas down on the towel "image facing down" - the towel is there to ensure that your printed/art image does not scrape and damage while you are stretching as you will be applying a lot of force, If your canvas is pre-primed, ensure that the primed side is facing down.
    3. Put the frame on top of the canvas so that you can cut it to size. Leave enough room on all sides for the canvas to fold over the edge of the stretchers and get stapled on the back, i personally like to leave a little extra as we can always trim the excess later.
    4. Fold one side of the canvas over the frame, making sure that your image is straight and aligned, now in the centre apply one staple to the canvas to the back of the frame. 
    5. Pull the canvas VERY taut on the opposite side and fold the canvas over the frame and place a second staple on the opposite side in the centre from the first staple. 
    6. Now do the same for the other sides pulling the canvas VERY tight each time, until you have one staple centred on each side, each time before a staple, check the image as the wrinkles will guide on where you need more tension.
    7. With the four sides of the canvas secured, you need to apply the same method and begin working your way to the corners, doing one staple on each side around tightening and stapling as you go. Maintain tension, your canvas should be so taut that it has the same sound as a drum when you tap the canvas, this process is a lot easier with two people as one person can stretch and the other staple to ensure the tension is not lost while trying to staple.
    8. Work from the inside staple out until you are about 5 centimeters from the corners.
    9. Secure the corners:  To fold corners – first pinch and pull a bit of canvas from each corner and fold it tightly against the frame at a 45-degree angle, hold the first fold down, pinch and fold the excess fabric lining it up along the edge of the frame, and staple it down.  Do the same for all four corners.  If you see wrinkles or the canvas needs a little more tightening at this stage, that is why it is essential to do one staple on each side and work around instead of doing one full side at a time.
    10. Once completed and you are happy, cut away the excess canvas and tape it up with the brown tape, this will just neaten up the the canvas and avoid any unravelling of the canvas and protect the staples.