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How To Stretch Canvases: All By Yourself !!

Someone stretching canvas with the words stretching canvas. 

Stretching canvas can be a good way to pay less for your painting surfaces and control the overall quality of your piece of art from the very beginning. You can custom the size of the canvases as well instead of having to stick with the standard shapes and sizes. So go ahead and make a freaky long and skinny canvas - if you dare! If it's your first time please start with a small size - like an 8" x 10" just so that you can practice.


What you'll need:



Canvas Stretching Pliers

Staple Gun w/ staples

Stretcher Bars

Wood Glue


Right Angle


1. First, you need to give yourself a space to work that is a clean surface or the floor.  The last thing you need is a super dirty canvas or to be knocking things over in the process. Once you have tried it out once and you think you have the hang of it then the next time you can speed things up by stretching many surfaces at once.


2. Assemble your stretcher bars into a square and where they slot together apply some wood glue so that they will be joined together and use the right angle to make sure that they are joined at a right angle.


3. Lay the assembled strecher on top of the unrolled canvas to see how much extra canvas you wiil need to cut so that the canvas wraps all the way around to the back of the strecher bar (so that you can hide the staples at the back of the stretcher).  


Please Note:  The back of the stretcher bar is flat. The front of the stretcher bar is angled.


4. Cut the canvas according to that size and give yourself a little extra so that you can easily grab and pull the canvas with the pliers - to little and the job can quickly become impossible. 


5. Lay the assembled stretcher face-down in the center of the cut piece of canvas. Your first staple will go in at the center of one of the edges of the sides. See 1 in the diagram below. The next staple will go in exactly opposite from that staple and now you can start to pull with the pliers to get a nice tight canvas stretch going. 


6. See diagram below - the next staples will go in at the center of the remaining sides. From this point on you now work from side to side , always making the staple now in the diagonal from the previous  staple. You want to end up with an evenly stretched canvas. Not loose or bunched up in any areas.


Diagram showing the order to apply staples
7. When you get to the corners you will need to fold the canvas and try to make a neat edge by pulling tightly with the pliers before you staple down.


Here is a video to show you how you can fold the corners:



8. Trim any excess canvas from the back of the canvas.


Image source [2]

Video source [1]



About the author

Artist in residence Rebecca Chaperon

Rebecca Chaperon is our Artist-in-Residence

With a compulsion to create unique visual stories, her paintings often follow the thread of a heroine's misadventures through a surreal landscape.

She's had the pleasure of teaching at Langara College and given community workshops on painting techniques with an emphasis on watercolour, oil and acrylic. She is a board member at the Grunt gallery.

View her online portfolio

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