How to Stretch Your Own Canvas

Can’t find the right canvas size for your new painting project?
Follow our guide on how to stretch your own canvas.Unknown

Supplies you’ll need:

  • Canvas fabric
  • Frame (built or bought)
  • Spray bottle filled with water
  • Gesso primer
  • Specialty pliers
  • Staple gun
  • Utility knife / X-acto knife

Steps to Stretch Your Own Canvas

  1. Build your frame or buy a canvas stretcher. A frame meant for stretching canvas will include pre-cut slats that help you easily snap the frame into place.
  2. Make sure you have enough canvas on hand. Depending on the width of your chosen frame, you’ll want enough canvas so when it lays flat, there’s 6-8 inches on either side extending beyond the frame. Purchasing unprimed canvas will make the stretching easier.
  3. Cut the canvas to your desired size.
  4. Center the frame. Before you begin any stretching, smooth the canvas once more and clean up any stray fibers.
  5. Begin the stretching. Take the longest side of the canvas, fold it in, and staple it down with three staples on that side of the frame. Now repeat this step for the opposite side. *Always staple in the center of the frame.*
  6. Now use your spray bottle to mist the canvas. This will encourage shrinkage as you proceed through the following steps.
  7. Move on to the shorter sides of canvas. Pull on the remaining canvas to ensure tightness, and attach it to the frame using two staples. Repeat for the opposite side.
  8. Now the corners are left. Begin with the side you started with in step five. Start from the center, pull the canvas tightly, fold down, and staple up towards the corner. Follow the same pattern you did for the center stapling.
  9. Staple the corners. Now you should have the entire canvas stapled save for the corner fabric. Fold one side down into a triangle as though wrapping a gift, then pull the other side down tightly on top. Staple 2-3 times.
  10. Double check your work. Inspect all sides of the frame to be sure the canvas is appropriately stretched and all staples are securely in place. If necessary, staple in additional, loose-looking places, or use a hammer to straighten unruly staples.
  11. Almost there. Let the canvas rest and tighten up over 24-48 hours, prime, and you’re ready to paint!