ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How To Stretch A Canvas - Instructions

Updated on October 30, 2011
Azure11 profile image

Marian (aka Azure11) has been working as a professional artist since 2006 and has sold over 600 paintings in that time.

Why stretch your own canvas?

Working as an artist, I sometimes do paintings that I decide I don't like any more and if it is not possible to paint over them then I will remove them from the frame they are stretched on and reuse that frame.

Also, it can be cheaper to stretch your own canvas on stretcher bars that you can buy in bulk and have shipped to you, or just easier to get the products shipped and make them up as you need them. For those reasons it is good to know how to stretch a canvas.

Personally though I find that you can buy very cheap ready stretched canvas from plenty of shops these days that saves the time in stretching your own, so I will only really do this when I have a frame that needs a new canvas on.

Stretching canvas over a frame does take a bit of practice - it is easy enough to do but to get the canvas really tight does take work and often sore hands! The bigger the canvas and frame are, the harder it is to get the canvas tight so I would recommend if you are doing this for the first time, until you get to grips with how to stretch a canvas tightly, to try it out on a smaller frame until you are confident that you can get the canvas tight.

Items Needed For Stretching A Canvas

Sargent Art 90-1001 Roll of 72-Inch-Wide Cotton Canvas, 6 Yards
Sargent Art 90-1001 Roll of 72-Inch-Wide Cotton Canvas, 6 Yards

Canvas on a roll - this is double primed already and suitable for oil or acrylic painting. It's 72 inches or 180cm wide so will fit most frames that you want to stretch on to.


Things you need to stretch a canvas over a frame

You will need the following items to start stretching your own canvas. These can be bought easily in many places and to help you out I have added links to where you can buy these online if you need to get them. Once you have the items required, follow the instructions for how to stretch a canvas below.

  • Canvas on a roll - you can buy pre-treated canvas that is ready to paint or else you can prime your own canvas with gesso, rabbit skin glue etc.
  • A heavy duty staple gun
  • Sharp scissors
  • Canvas pliers (optional). This will mean that you can stretch the canvas a bit tighter than you would otherwise but they can be a bit fiddly to use.

You will need a good flat and clean surface to work on - ideally a kitchen or hard floor works best and plenty of space around.

Make sure the canvas is big enough to fit all they way round the sides and onto the back of the frame.
Make sure the canvas is big enough to fit all they way round the sides and onto the back of the frame.

How to Stretch a Canvas

Cut The Canvas

The first thing you need to do when stretching a canvas is to start by rolling out the canvas and cutting a piece that is at least 5 cm (2 inches) wider than the size of the frame.

Roll out the canvas on the floor (I find it best to use a soft carpeted floor to stretch a canvas on) and place the frame on top so that you can cut round it.

Cutting a bigger canvas is best as you can always trim off the excess canvas afterwards, but you need enough canvas to stretch around the sides and onto the back of the frame (so it may depend on the depth of the frame itself). So cut round the frame, allowing a decent amount of canvas so that it stretches over the sides and the back of the frame.

Put the first staple in at one side of the canvas in the middle.
Put the first staple in at one side of the canvas in the middle.
Where to put the first 4 staples
Where to put the first 4 staples

How to Stretch a Canvas

Stapling The Canvas To The Frame

Firstly, make sure that you have the canvas with the front side facing the floor before you start...

There is a bit of an order that you should following when stretching a canvas on a frame so that the canvas is as tight as you can get it. Start at the centre of one side (it doesn't really matter which side) and staple the canvas to the back of the frame.

Next go to the opposite side of the frame and stretch the canvas as tight as you can against the previously stapled side. Ensure that you are directly opposite your first staple so that the canvas does not twist.

For the 3rd staple, go to one of the other sides of the frame, in the middle. Don't try to stretch the canvas too far when stapling this side as you will only twist the canvas. Just keep it as tight as possible and at the same time keep the canvas straight. This is probably the trickiest one to get right and takes a bit of practice when learning how to stretch a canvas.

For the 4th staple, go to the last side of the frame (once again in the centre) and pull the canvas as tight as possible. The way I do this, without using canvas pliers, is to hold the canvas down with the flat of my hands and push the frame against the 3rd side with my thumbs. Then keep the canvas tight whilst you staple that side (see pic).

Hold down the canvas and push the frame to stretch it against an already stapled side.
Hold down the canvas and push the frame to stretch it against an already stapled side.

Complete the Canvas Stretching

Once you have the first 4 staples in, go from one side of the frame to another adding more staples. Once again when you staple on a side that does not already have an opposing staple, do not pull the canvas too tight, make sure you pull it tight on the next staple.

Keep stapling around until you have stapled the canvas at around 2 inch intervals, leaving space at the corners to tuck them in. You have nearly completed the process of how to stretch a canvas so make sure that the canvas is tight at this stage before you complete the stretching process by completing the corners.

Staple up to, but not right in to, the corners.
Staple up to, but not right in to, the corners.

Finishing the Corners

There are a couple of ways that you can finish the corners of the canvas. You can cut the canvas and tuck the 2nd edge underneath or you can do what I will show here, and fold in the corners. If you are folding in the canvas on the corners then this makes it a bit easier to restretch if you ever have to take the canvas off the frame again.

Fold the edges of the canvas over, as shown in the pictures, and staple in place. Try and give the canvas a sharp fold so that it does not stick out too much - it's a little bit like making the bed!

Once you have finished stretching the canvas over the frame, cut off any excess canvas at the back so that there is no spare canvas flapping around. You can also use a sponge to damp down the back of the canvas and this will slightly tighten it even more.

Once you have tried this a few times you will get the hang of how to stretch a canvas and exactly which bit of the canvas that you need to pull tighter and each canvas will get better than the last. It is a really useful skill for an artist to have - I have also used this to stretch existing paintings for people who have bought a rolled up canvas from art markets abroad.

Buying Blank Canvas

If you decide that stretching your own canvas is too much work then you can always buy ready stretched blank canvas! One of the cheapest places to buy blank canvases is on eBay and there are a number of sellers who have shops selling blank stretched canvases.

Check out a few of the options shown below.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Ayoob 19 months ago


      I am ayoob I was looking for double sided canvas screen tutorials on internet pages but I could nt find any

      Please help me I need it

      Please help

      Please help

      Please help

      This is my gmail:


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)