At a recent Monday Night Studio Session, David Cross, oil painter and Gallery owner, demonstrated how to stretch a canvas in preparation for painting either with oil paints or acrylics. This is a great way to recycle your old stretcher bars or frames from paintings that are ready to come off the frame. It allows you to use top quality canvas or linen for archival purposes as well as ensure your frames are plum and give you an opportunity to create custom size frames.

  • Frames – is it plum? Measure diagonally – same measurement

Because you will want the canvas tight you may have to brace it to prevent    warping when you stretch the canvas.

  • Before getting Started- measure and write it down.

     Another option which is easier is to lay it down on the canvas.

     Allow extra for wrapping around to the back of the frame.

     Why the back? For a neater appearance.

  • Start- lay canvas on a flat surface.

           Try to remember warp and weft; the directions the threads run.

           Keep even, if torn off a roll use that as your straight edge or follow the sewn


  • Tack Canvas to frame- 3 staples to a side, evenly spaced.

           1st one in the middle, 2nd/3rd from the first one to the middle towards the

           Corner, pulling slightly away from the 1st staple.

           Repeat for all four sides.

           Return to the first edge you tacked, fill in-between staples, working towards

           Corners, pulling slightly.

           Opposite Side-as above, pull harder, watch for bowing in your frame. Start

           From centre again, working towards corners.

           Other two sides- Could use canvas pliers or two people with strong hands.

           Check first side, if staples are pulled you could remove them and replace.

  • Corners-fold under and keep as flat as possible, keep folds the same on both sides, this will help if framing the stretched canvas by keeping the measurements even.
  • Gesso Application- Wet the canvas by painting water with a brush. This will help to shrink the canvas as it usually has sizing in it. This helps to eliminate the sizing.

The canvas does not need to be completely dry before you gesso.

Apply Gesso.

Start at one end and work your way to the other end trying to keep a wet leading edge. Apply with a somewhat loaded brush and work the gesso into the canvas. You can check the back of the canvas to see if you have missed any areas by holding it up to light and touching up that spot on the top surface.

Gesso the edges and brush out any gesso that may collect on the top.

After it dries you can repeat the entire process, sanding lightly between coats for a better surface. Can repeat it again as often as you like.

Written by David Cross, Naracoopa Gallery & Art Studio, Bracken Ridge

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