How to Apply a Canvas to a Frame for Painting

How to Apply a Canvas to a Frame for Painting thumbnail
Stretching a canvas is considered a fundamental painting skill.

The ability to stretch your own canvas is a valuable skill that many painters learn when they begin their artistic training. Being able to stretch a canvas yourself means that you will be better able to determine your canvas's dimensions as well as your image's composition. It's also a budget- and eco-friendly way to create art as a hobby or profession. Large rolls of canvas can be purchased from most art suppliers and are available in coated or uncoated varieties, which can then be applied to a wooden frame quickly and efficiently.

Things You'll Need

  • Canvas
  • Wooden frame
  • Scissors
  • Staple gun
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    • 1

      Lay the canvas face down on a clean, flat surface.

    • 2

      Place the wooden frame on top of the canvas so that the round, grooved edges are face down against the canvas. Adjust the position of the wooden frame until it is centered on the canvas.

    • 3

      Trim the canvas along the edges of the wooden frame, leaving a 3-inch overlap. This will be necessary when stretching the canvas over the sides and onto the back of the wooden frame. Set aside the remaining canvas once it has been trimmed.

    • 4

      Stretch the left side of the canvas over the wooden stretcher bar while holding the rest of the frame securely in place. Use a staple gun to the secure the canvas to the wood with four staples along the stretcher bar lengthwise. Repeat this process for the right stretcher bar, then the top and bottom stretcher bars.

    • 5

      Pinch the top left loose corner of the canvas with your thumb and forefinger, then fold it down and inward toward the back of the canvas. Apply two staples to the folded corner piece to secure it in place. Repeat this process for the bottom right corner, then the bottom left and top right corners.

    • 6

      Use scissors to trim the folded canvas edges once they are all securely in place.

Tips & Warnings

  • Reuse a wooden canvas frame by stretching and priming a canvas prior to painting, then removing it from the stretcher bars when it's completed.

  • Save space by storing your finished paintings unstretched and rolled into cardboard tubes.

  • Paint onto the sides of your stretched canvas while painting your image on the front. This will provide a visual guide and ultimately ease the process of stretching your finished painting in the future.

  • Use 3/8-inch staples when securing your canvas to the wooden frame to prevent the staples from penetrating the surface of the canvas.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

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