Friday, January 15, 2010

HOW TO: Stretch Canvas for Paintings

Stretching Canvas For Oil & Acrylic Paintings

Canvas paintings are always stretched over some type of stretcher bar or strainer frame.

Materials Required


Strainer frame

Stretcher bars

Corner keys

Canvas pliers

Staple gun with 3/8” staples


1. Measure the canvas painting to be framed and select standard stretcher bars whenever possible. If odd measurements for a canvas are required, then a strainer frame must be cut from 1 x 2 fir strips to size, glued and nailed as you would a frame.

2. When joining stretcher bars, be sure they are square before stretching canvas. Use a carpenter’s square. Place two staples in each corner across the mitered cut of the stretcher bars to help keep frame square while stretching canvas painting.

3. Firmly crease the canvas along the outer edge where the painted and unpainted canvas meet. With staples on the bottom, center canvas on stretcher bars.

4. Place folded edge over short side of frame and staple at center of canvas edge.

5. Reverse to opposite side. Using canvas pliers to grip canvas, pull taut from corner and staple canvas edge to frame.

6. Turn frame to long side up and with canvas pliers grip and pull until diagonal wrinkles appear from the first two staples, then staple at the center of canvas edge.

7. Reverse to long side and pull taut with canvas pliers until a pair of diagonal wrinkles appear to form a diamond.

8. Move pliers two inches to left center staple and staple. Repeat in same direction, every two inches stapling toward the corner of the frame. Do the same from center staple to the right.

9. Reverse the frame to the opposite long side and repeat Step 8.

10. Repeat Step 8 on the two short sides of the canvas and frame.

11. Remove staples from mitered corner. Fold excess canvas over back of frame and staple. Do not trim surplus canvas from frame.

12. Insert two corner keys into each corner of frame, long side of key against the wall, and tap lightly in place. The keys will tighten the canvas whenever necessary. Also spraying the back of the canvas lightly with a mist of water will help tighten the canvas like a drum.

13. Inspect canvas stretching and mounting to make sure there are no wrinkles, subject matter is centered, and that the stretch bars/strainer frame is square before putting into frame.

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