How to Stretch a Canvas Painting

Posted April 11, 2022 by in Lifestyle
Artist Painting Palette

Art is one of the earliest methods of self-expression among humans, and it continues to be a hobby and career for millions of people to this day. Painting allows us to put unspoken feelings and ideas to a surface, capture daily scenes, and just have fun.

One thing hobbyists and professional painters can agree on is that hand-stretched canvas is the best to work with. Stretching a canvas painting is not as difficult as it sounds, and once you get in the hang of it you will not turn back. Canvas stretching at home not only produces better quality canvases than store-bought canvases, but it also can save lots of money.

Keep reading for all you need to know about how to stretch a canvas painting.  

Woman Holding a Brush Painting on a Canvass

Gather Your Materials

You will need several items for your canvas stretching project:

  • A wooden frame- these can be homemade or bought to the size you need
  • Canvas- unprimed canvas will be the easiest to use
  • A spritzer bottle of water 
  • Gesso
  • Canvas pliers
  • Staple gun
  • A cutting instrument (knives, scissors, X-Actos, and razors will all work as long as the blade is very sharp)

Many of these supplies will be available at your local craft store. If you cannot find the needed materials locally, try online. 

Prepare Your Workspace

Once you have gathered all of the materials, you are ready to prepare your workspace. Clean a flat surface thoroughly- your canvas will be directly against this surface and you do not want any dirt or grime to transfer.

Lay your canvas over the clean workspace and place the frame on top of it. If your canvas is too large, now is a good time to trim it. Make sure your cutting instrument is very sharp- an X-Acto knife works excellently for canvas stretching.

Be sure to leave several inches on all sides for the stretching process. Remember, it is easier to trim excess canvas later than work with too little fabric now. 

Arrange all of your other materials within arm’s reach. This process moves fast and it will be easier for you not to have to get up to find your staple gun or water!

How to Stretch a Canvas Painting

Make sure your frame is still centered over your canvas well. Beginning with the side closest to you, take the center of the fabric and wrap it over the edge of the frame. Use the staple gun to place a few staples in the center of the edge of the frame, securing the canvas in place. 

After your first side is secured, switch to the opposite side. Repeat this process, pulling the fabric taut to the frame. Secure the fabric with the staple gun. 

Remember: at this point, we are only working with the middle section of each side, we are not stapling along the entire edge just yet. 

Next, begin on the remaining two sides. Repeat this process of pulling taut and securing the middles with the staple gun. 

Feel free to use the water as needed. By dampening the fabric, the canvas will be easier to work with now and even tighter once it is dry.

Now, we are ready to work on the corners. Begin by pulling a section of the fabric tightly towards the edge. The canvas pliers can help hold the fabric tight without damaging the material.

Once the fabric is pulled tightly, secure it in place with a staple. 

Rotate the frame and repeat this process on each of the corners. Don’t do every loose section at once in the corners- the end result will be more even if you do one piece at a time. 

After all of your corner material is secured, fold your corners at a right angle and secure the excess fabric. Make sure all of your fabric is tightly secured. The fabric should be tight and drum-like. 

If you have an excess of remaining fabric leftover on the back, use your razor to trim off the fabric as needed. 

Prime and Enjoy Your Canvas 

Now that the fabric is secured, we are ready to prime. Give the fabric a day or two to dry and settle to the frame. 

Gesso is a canvas primer made from calcium carbonate and acrylic polymer medium. Gesso helps to tighten the canvas further and create a smooth, even surface for your paint. If you are unfamiliar with gesso, your local craft supply store should be able to help you find a good one. 

Most paintings benefit from three coats of gesso. Apply the gesso with a brush in one direction.

After drying, sand the gesso lightly before beginning the next coat. Repeat for each of the three coats, or more if needed.

Now, your canvas is ready to use however you like! Whether you are painting for fun, painting for a career, or are throwing an at home paint and sip party, a home-stretched canvas is a great way to ensure amazing results and a perfect canvas every time. 

Start Stretching Your Canvases and Have Fun

Stretching canvas at home is both fun and rewarding. You will love having custom, high-quality canvases at home, and you will love not having to dish out lots of cash on pre-stretched frames. We think the process of stretching canvas is pretty fun, too! 

Now that you know how to stretch a canvas painting at home, it’s time to get started. Drop by your local art store, get your supplies, and stretch out your own canvases at home today!