The Easiest and Most Efficient DIY Way to Stretch a Canvas

Canvas Stretching, Stretch Painting, DIY Stretching Even before I met my husband Mike, I loved to buy art from every place I visited. I love street art because I love supporting the starving artists of the world and usually the art is a true reflection of the place itself. And as I’ve mentioned before, I like to have a story about everything, especially anything that’s hanging on our walls.Why you want to learn the DIY way to stretch a canvas:

We have a story about every piece of art we own and we get excited to pass down the art AND the stories through multiple generations (my parents did this with my sister and me). On most trips, we take extra time to find a street artist that captures the spirit of the area best. Often in Europe you can find artists painting watercolors which are easy to frame; however, Mike worked in Nigeria for quite some time and brought back several large, unstretched canvases. In the past we had asked others stretch them and we were less than thrilled with the results…not surpringly our solution was therefore to pursue a DIY project!!  Last year, we purchased several large paintings from South Africa and we put our new techniques into play. And of course each canvas had different dimensions, which weren’t even symmetrical on each piece on its own. Therefore, we needed to find the easiest and most flexible way to stretch each canvas and preserve the painted space.

The first question you want to ask yourself is do you want the regular sides or gallery sides? Gallery wrapped canvases are deeper and typically don’t require a frame when hanging (meaning, they look great on their own). The trade-off is that you need to have extra canvas fabric to stretch it all the way around the frame to the back to fasten it. Typically professional artists will leave enough space to stretch the fabric well, but all bets are off with street artists!!

Required Tools:

The rest is fairly straightforward (now that we’ve had plenty of trials and tribulations to create our own opinion of what works best). You need the following tools:

  • Outer frame and middle beam stretchers (we have found Masterpiece Pro works the best and is very flexible on lengths – a sample link for the 32″ gallery sides, or Monet, is found here and for the 32″ regular sides, or Vincent, is found here)
  • Stapler (T50 staples, 8mm is fine)
  • Hammer (for final staple smashing)
  • Rubber mallet (optional for adjusting frame alignment)
  • Flat head screwdriver (I promise you will have to remove staples along the way as you adjust)
  • Phillips screwdriver (depends on the kit)
  • Wood glue
  • Paper Towels
  • Drill and small bits

Tips and Tricks:

The directions typically come with the product, but here are some tips and tricks:

  • If you choose gallery frames, make sure you have an extra 2” beyond the painted area so you can easily mount
  • Inspect each piece before purchase to ensure you don’t buy broken pieces
  • The cross-member bars with the ability to tension/ stretch after assembly are critical
  • Just need a little bit of glue in each corner and on each surface, have paper towels on stand-by to clean up mess
  • Once assembled and glued (but before glue dries) check frame for square by measuring corner to corner in both diagonal directions and keep adjusting until measurements are the same
  • Pulling the canvas by hand gets it plenty tight, don’t worry about fancy stretchers or techniques
  • Staple the middle top, bottom, left and right first and then check the front alignment.  If you are happy and everything looks tight just work your way out from each middle staple.  I recommend working opposing side of the canvas as much as possible to ensure everything stays tight!
  • Once done, I always recommend painting the sides black – it makes the actual painting pop. My favorite paint is found here or you can find a similar option here!

Feel free to reach out with questions!!

Happy travels and happy stretching!


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