Gallery Wrapped Stretched Canvas
Canvas – Duck canvas or linen, (unprimed)
Stretcher bars – Or 1” x 2” pine
Staples or tacks –To attach canvas to stretchers
Staple gun – Type found in hardware departments
Hammer – Helps to make precut stretchers square and to tap in any staples that need it.
Square – L shaped, metal preferred
Sewing Scissors – be sure they are sharp!
Gesso – As a sealer/primer to be used on the canvas surface
Miter saw – Necessary to cut stretchers at a 45 degree angle. Box is less expensive and will work, but if you can afford it an electric miter saw is a wonderful time and energy saver.
Nail Punch – Optional – used to help make staples flush to wood in corners
1- ½” Nails – Optional – used to make corners more secure
2” Paint Brush
Sources for Materials
Dick Blick – www.dickblick.com
Sax Arts and Crafts
Creating a Stretched Canvas
Choose size desired for a finished canvas. Keep in mind if you want to frame it with a standard size frame, you will want to go with sizes easily available. 5” x 7’, 8” x 10”, 11” x 14”, 12” x 16’, and 18” x 24”, anything larger would likely need to be specially made. You will find most commercial framers are willing to work with just about any size of canvas you wish to frame. But if in doubt, inquire with your framer.
If you are cutting your own 1”x 2”s, inspect them before purchase for bowing and/or excessive knotting. 1” x 2” usually comes in a length of ten feet. Most lumber yards will cut them down to a smaller size if it works better for you to handle. Some will go so far as to cut the 45 degree corners for you to length. But since this is ground for your art work, you will probably prefer to cut your own, to ensure a tight fit and correct size.
Once home simply cut the ends to meet in a 45 degree angle. Be sure to keep in mind the end measurement of your canvas will equal the longest edge of the corner when assembled.
How you actually attach your corners will depend if you purchased, or cut your own. ** See below if you have purchased your bars.
Lay the large metal square down on a flat surface. On the inside corner of the square lay down the stretcher bars against the edge. Lay down all four edges to be sure they are the right size, and double check for warping of wood and other imperfections. If they aren’t this is the time to make adjustments, not after they are attached to each other.
Before attaching to each other, BE SURE THEY ARE SQUARE! It works best to worry only about 2 pieces at a time, at this point. So remove two of the bars and concern yourself with just what is happening in the corner of the square
If you have cut your own, it works well to simple staple them together on both side. It is usually a good idea to put at least 2-3 lined up in a row.
Be sure that they are flush as possible with the surface of the wood. If not they will create a ‘bump’ on the canvas that is not a desirable end result. To do this tap with a hammer or use a nail punch. Be sure to recheck that things are still good and square. Turn over carefully and do the same process to the other side. Be careful when turning over that you do not cause the first staples to come out or twist. It is important to do both sides, so that there is adequate reinforcement.
When all four sides are connected, ensure they all are square with each other, an old carpenters trick is to simply measure from corner to corner crosswise, if they measure the same than they are still square.
**If you have purchased your stretcher bars they more than likely have tongue and groove ends. These ends will fit into each other and create 4-90 degree corners. Simply tap or push the ends into each other until tight and square. Your purchased bars also come with small pieces of wood called ‘keys’. These are pushed into the openings in the inside corners to help make it tighter and more stable. Some artist will also tap in a small nail, or staple the corners to ensure they do not move when stretching canvas on them.
Lay your canvas material onto a clean flat surface. Laying the stretcher bars on top, and measure around the stretcher bars about 3 inches of extra material on each side.
Starting on one edge fold the fabric up and over the edge of the stretcher bar, staple the canvas to the bar in the center.
Pull the canvas snug and repeat on the opposite side. Repeat on the remaining two sides. Be sure to pull canvas snug each time, before it is stapled.
Starting on the edge you began with. Place staples approximately 2” apart all the way around, except for the very corners. Then do this on all four sides.
There are several ways one can create a corner that will work for various needs. Our goal is to create one that will work for a professional looking corner, with or without a frame. If done correctly, you can paint around the sides of the canvas and hang it without a frame and it will appear professional, with very clean lines. No matter what style of painting you may have.
It may take some practice to get the hang of folding the corners and have a smooth edge. But take your time; it is well worth it in the end.
*Preparing to fold corner
*Folded corner from side
*Corner folded and snug, stapled down.
NOTE: If you use pre-primed canvas the following is not necessary.
Lay down your stretched canvas painting side up. Wipe away any stray threads or dust that may have attached them selves when stretching. If necessary use a damp cloth.
Going in one direction and using your 2” brush apply gesso to the surface. Be sure to paint the edges of the canvas also! Allow this first coat to dry thoroughly.
You can leave the canvas as it is for a slightly rough tooth surface, which works well for general use. Or if you want a rougher surface to paint you can add pumice, marble dust, sand, or about any other materials to the next coat to increase the surface tension. If you want a smooth surface, take fine sand paper and lightly sand the surface between coats of gesso. Allowing the gesso to dry well each time.
Tip: Apply 1-2 more coats depending upon surface desired. Be sure to go a different direct for each coat of gesso. This will help to build a stronger and longer lasting surface.
*TIP – If you used cotton duck canvas and find a ‘dent’ anywhere on your canvas wish you can fix this with a spray of water on the back side of your canvas. Allow the water to dry and the canvas will stretch back into its original shape. If you did not use Duck canvas and find yourself in a similar situation, there are more high tech materials on the market, than our use of a water bottle. How you handle the situation depends on the materials used. We suggest you check with your art material supplier for products available and their use.