Canvas Stretching

Rolled canvases brought back from foreign travels are a regular item in the workshop, they provide fond memories of that special trip

The goal of stretching a canvas is to preserve it and prepare it for framing. Depending upon the size of the canvas, different sizes of wood stretcher bars are available and once a canvas reaches a certain size cross bars are also used to prevent canvases developing a concave shape. Originally, canvases were stretched using copper tacks (they don't rust). Nowadays a pneumatic stapler is used to secure the canvas.


Do I need glass over my canvas when framing it? No, you do not need to use glass when framing painted canvases. With a painted surface on a canvas, the paint seals the fabric and prevents deterioration of the cloth.


How much spare edge do you need For stretching and stapling? I prefer to have at least 2" beyond the amount of canvas it takes to cover the edge of the stretcher bar. That way, I have something to grip with the canvas pliers so that I can stretch the canvas securely with a minimum of wrinkles.


Sorry but I don’t personally do gallery wraps, every picture needs a frame!. Once stretched there are a few framing options.

One way is to frame it in what is called a Floater Frame. This is an "L" shaped frame profile that does not have a lip to cover the edge of the canvas. The canvas is attached with screws to the bottom face of the "L" in the floater. It can be attached with a gap of 1/4" to 1/2", giving the appearance of the canvas "floating" in the middle of the frame.


A second option is to frame it with a standard wood frame that has a deep enough rebate for the stretcher bar used or a wide frame to hide the protusion of the stretcher bars. Here, the lip of the frame will cover the canvas a little bit, usually no more than 1/4".  


A third option is to use the second option, but add a fabric covered "liner" in between the frame and the canvas. The Liner acts like a mount does in a regular picture frame. It creates a visual separation between the art and the frame. It costs more to use a frame and a liner than just a frame but, if done right, is very effective in enhancing the overall design of the framing. Sometimes, mouldings can be stacked instead of a liner to create the desired visual effect.