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Learn How to Stretch Your Canvas Tutorial

Different Types of Canvas

There are three different kinds of canvas, stretched canvas, canvas panels or another type that is called canvas on paper. I use stretched canvas and I used to stretch it my self. This lesson is about how to stretch your own canvas.

Canvas on paper

Used many times in School for learning and is not a real canvas. It is only to copy the surface of a real canvas in order to make it cheep for the becoming artist or school.

Canvas panels

Thin pieces of canvas covering a cardboard. They aren’t that expensive like traditional stretched canvases and are usually used by beginners or by artists that aren’t concerted about a lifelong permanence.

I have read many different articles about cardboard canvases versus stretched canvases on wooden frame and can tell that if an artist want to sell any artwork and want it to last for a number of generations along with selling quality, don’t use canvas panels.

Stretched canvas

The traditional and most high quality canvas to use for any artwork. You can buy already stretched canvas in the art store. But it actually gets cheaper to buy all the materials you need to stretch the canvas your self and the best thing with it comes when you can do what ever size with what ever canvas you want.



There are two different kinds of Canvas fabrics: cotton and linen canvas. The price for a canvas can be very different depending on the quality of the cotton or linen canvas. Linen canvases are many times better and more expensive.

All canvases come in different grades of thickness, quality & heights. There is allot more to write about different kinds of canvases however, but lets get to the point about how to stretch the canvas your self.


No need for a big Hammer, but I use the one I have for other things at home.

Stretcher Bars

A Stretcher bar is a wooden material that you stretch the canvas on. You will also need the small wooden chips for making the stretched canvas snugger. They are usually free in all art stores.

Canvas pliers

Pliers are used to grip the canvas when you add it to the stretcher bars. See the picture.

Matte Knife & Scissors

Used to cut out the piece of canvas and cut away the canvas over the edges to the stretched bars.


Stapler & Staples

Used to staple the canvas to the wooden frame.


Stretch canvas to the wooden frame

Finally we get to the point when we start with the canvas stretching work :) Collect all your materials together, make your self comfortable and prepare a big, flat surface using a large piece of plastic or something like that in order to protect what ever you have under it.

Join together the four stretcher bars at the corners. Be sure to have the same measurements on the right sides. Use your hands to join them more fully together and make sure to get the bars as square as possible by twisting to even them.

Draw out the Canvas to the right size plus at least 3cm to each side; otherwise it won’t be possible to stretch the canvas to the wooden frame. Cut out the big piece of canvas and put it to your large piece of plastic on the floor or surface you are using to do this.

Lay your stretcher bars (wooden frame) on top of the canvas. Lift the canvas along with the wooden frame up and use the stapler to staple two times on each side.

Before you staple the other sides, beside the first side, use the Canvas pliers to stretch up the canvas at the same time. Be sure to do the first two opposite sides first.

The canvas plier’s stretches best if you hold the canvas toward you over the stretcher bars and down. First time you do this it might be a bit difficult and you will maybe feel like you need to be a bodybuilder in order to make it, but don’t give up!

Only after a few times you will feel confident in what you are doing. The canvas must be pulled very tightly however. Be sure to staple in the middle of the stretched bars, otherwise it might be too close to the corners.

Don’t staple only once on each side from the beginning, staple twice so that the canvas won’t brake or get destroyed. When you have done this on each side, still use the canvas pliers when you staple in the rest of the staples.

Be sure to staple at least one every 4cm to the stretchers. Now the canvas shod look pretty good and tightly stretched. Now you have only two things left to do: Put in the wooden chips and remove the parts of the canvas that are over the stretcher bars.

Use a matte knife to remove the pieces of canvas. Add the wooden chips first with the hand to the holes and then use the hammer to hammer in the wooden chips to stretch the canvas out even more then it was after you stretched it.

Don’t hammer on only one chip at the time, hammer on each of them only a few times and later get back to the first one and do it all over again.

So we are done! Good luck with your stretching!

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