-Although not necessary, heavy duty canvas stretching pliers
-Canvas (not pictured) Stretcher bars (not pictured)
Most art supplies stores will carry the materials needed for this project. I am using gallery sized stretcher bars along with an oil primed 12 ounce cotton canvas, that has been cut 2″ larger then the frame. In an upcoming article I will discuss ways in which I size and prime all my canvases.
Note: Make sure to check that all of the corners of the assembled frame make right angles. Double check by measuring the length diagonally across the frame. Also if you are using stretcher bars greater then 24″ by 24″, cross support bar is recommended to strengthen the frame.
Lay your pre assembled bars down over the canvas, with the painting side facing down. Secure 4 staples in opposite bars, pulling the canvas tight.
Now add 3 to 4 more staples to each of the 4 stretcher bars, working in opposite direction. Pull the canvas evenly and firmly, and secure staples opposite each other, so that consistent straining is attained without wrinkling the fiber. Use canvas pliers to pull the cloth tight around the frame or just do as best as you can with your hands.
Repeat the process working your way around the whole canvas, leaving 3″ to the corners. The staples should be about 2″ apart and evenly spaced as shown. When working the sides of the canvas, apply the staples systematically, keeping each side in step and tight against the other.
The corners always pose the greatest difficulty to most people, so here’s an easy way to handle them as I was taught in art school. Because there is usually excess canvas bulk in the corners, use your scissors to cut an inch or so from all 4 corners. This will ensure a tighter and a cleaner corner.
The corners should always be finished of neatly as it will make for easier framing. Create a dimple in the corners so that the flaps fold parallel to the stretcher bars. Pull tightly and apply a few staples. Repeat for all four corners. If necessary use the hammer to drive the staples into the frame all around (in case you did not staple them all the way). You’re done and ready to paint.
Here is what the corners look like once completed:
Stretching your own canvas is really easy, once you get a hang of it. Please note that the steps described here are for a pre primed canvas. If a glue size is to be applied after stretching, the canvas should be taut but not as tight as a drum to allow for shrinkage. This gives you some idea on what it takes to stretch your own canvases. If you have any questions or comments send me a word. Happy painting.