View Full Version : Does anybody streach their own canvases?

09-07-2004, 01:41 PM
I heard its cheaper, and the way it is now I buy cheap prestreached and primed. If its easy, good quality for cheap, and rewarding, I might try my hand at it.

09-07-2004, 02:01 PM
I voted "no". I can purchase prestretched, preprimed canvas for less than what it would cost me to do it myself and the time could be better spent painting. The only exception I would make is if I wanted a non standard size for a particular composition or if, for some reason, I wanted to start with a raw canvas...


Just Crystal
09-07-2004, 02:14 PM
i would really love to learn how. It seems I am always wanting to paint weird sized paintings, and I can never find them, or at least I sure do have a hell of a time!

09-07-2004, 03:07 PM
Most of the time, yes. It's cheap and easy, and it's more convenient to store stretcher strips and rolls of canvas than pre-stretched canvases. I like being able to sand down imperfections in the wood before putting on the canvas. So often pre-made canvases have annoying little bumps and splinters on them because the manufacturer doesn't sand the wood enough.

I also like to continue the paint around the sides of the painting, so streching the canvas myself makes that a lot easier and more effective. I start painting on an unstretched canvas, then stretch it halfway through. The edges don't get touched again, so they're sort of a record of the layers of the finished painting.


09-07-2004, 03:28 PM
Unless you're an art star and have assistants to do it for you, eventually if/when Art becomes a serious vocation/avocation, ya gotta become proficient at "the craft" and all that includes- including stretching a canvas. It contributes to the aesthetic/"finished" appearance of the work. The cost is relative.......

It just takes practice :)
There are a ton of books with visuals one can buy or peruse at your local library and a gazillion step-by-step instructions with visuals on the net.

Then.....maybe some day you can hire some hungry college kid to do it for you.

09-07-2004, 04:01 PM
I mostly stretch my own, sometime buy pre-stretched. Cheap ones sometimes warp. Even not so cheap. I've had that happen. :)

09-07-2004, 04:34 PM
Cheap ones sometimes warp. Even not so cheap. I've had that happen. :)

That is what I am afraid of, I want to buy michaels brand and I like 2 11x14 for $6.99. But not if they are going to warp, I mean I am no Michaelangelo but you never know when your 3rd great grandchildren might hang your painting on their wall. If that happens I would like them to have a nice presentation. I though that kiln dried wood was all the same but does the cheaper wood warp, do the generic brands warp? :confused:

Marty C
09-07-2004, 07:08 PM
i would really love to learn how. It seems I am always wanting to paint weird sized paintings, and I can never find them, or at least I sure do have a hell of a time!
I have written an article on Making a stretched canvas (http://www.wetcanvas.com/Articles2/16809/403/) which is in the Studio Tips forum.
I very much enjoy making my own, I can make any size I want (and I have made some BIG ones), The canvas is high quality and the cost is quite low considering the better quality materials.
There is added satisfaction in the finished painting knowing the whole thing from raw materials to hanging painting is all my own work.

09-07-2004, 07:24 PM
:) I like to stretch my own canvases, for one the size of the panel progects the image, two for permanancy reasons, pre-stretched have inferior staples and cheap material, I prefer a 11oz atleast, can be mixed duck and synthetic with medium texture for holding modeling well. I prefer heavey duty bars for tight stretching and strength which they call a gallery wrap so if need be i dont have to frame to show, but most importantly to have that extra distance between painting and end of canvas in case I choose to ship unframed, it leaves plenty of room for restretching, I like to make my gesso as pure as possible to protect my whites from the cloth up.

Richard Saylor
09-07-2004, 11:20 PM
Since discovering how thoroughly delightful it is to paint with acrylics on watercolor paper, I no longer use canvas.

09-08-2004, 09:50 AM
Until recently I bought pre-stretched canvas or made canvas on masonite pannels. I wanted some other than standard sizes so ordered and received a bunch of stretcher bars in various sizes from ASW online... They were very cheap per pair. I am a woodworker so is seemed like a logical choice, and I already had the air stapler etc. Price wise, I can make a canvas for about 1/4 or less than the local craft or art store sells them for, so it is cost effective. I like the odd sizes and the fact I can say I did it myself.

09-08-2004, 10:50 AM
I just want to know if I should be afraid of cheap brands warping or if anyone has experience with particular brands?

09-08-2004, 11:45 AM
The only time I've had a problem with warping is with ultra cheap pre-stretched canvases where the thickness of the stretcher strips was too light for the distance spanned, and no cross bracing was used. So don't exceed the strength of the bar, and you should be fine. Any good guide to stretching canvas should give you an idea of the required strip weight vs. canvas size and weight, and when to use cross bars.

If you're not doing more than twenty or thirty canvases, you might find it more economical to just continue buying them pre-stretched, especially if you can order them someplace cheap like Curry's. Good canvas pliers can be expensive (the lighter the weight the better, and get padded handles!), and there's the cost of a staple gun, too. I'll probably do over 100 canvases this year, so for me, the savings are huge if I stretch my own. But if I was only doing a few canvases a year, I think I'd just buy them pre-rolled.


09-08-2004, 12:58 PM
I stretch my own canvases for large or oddly shaped pieces, but for a lot of my work I find Curry's "heavy duty gallery wrap" pre-stretched canvasses to be an incredible bargain as well as good quality - they come on the heavy duty stretcher bars, stretched gallery-wrap style. I just got an order of 27 canvasses, ranging in size from 12x12 to 24x24 (I like squares!) and wound up paying $5.12/each!

09-08-2004, 01:36 PM
I voted no. The small amounts of money I save are not worth the time, the bother, and the aggravation that I go through when trying to get it just right. For instance, I hate having to make sure the thing is at perfect right angles.

And I agree with Deefox, I believe it was, who said that the time can be better spent painting.

Some people are really good at it and want to do it, and that's fine. If I have old stretcher bars left from a bad painting, I might stretch a canvas over it. But I doubt if I'll buy any more bars just to stretch canvas.

09-09-2004, 08:53 AM
I voted no, only because I can't afford to buy enough materials in bulk to make them cheaper to stretch myself, than that of the cheaper pre-stretched canvases. Saying that though, I would not buy a really large canvas pre-stretched, but would save the money and make my own.
Just my 2c worth.

Bill Posters
09-09-2004, 12:44 PM
Voted no.

I have one or two online/offline outlets that I use regularly in order to buy from a good range of pre-stretched, deep, back-stapled canvases.
Each of them know what they are doing and either prefab them in-house to order (larger sizes) or buy them in from quality suppliers.
Both places have sufficient turnover to enable them to offer a good array of sizes* at reasonable prices.
(* I'm not yet sufficiently developed as a poncey artiste to appreciate the value of a 23.5" canvas over a 23" or 24" canvas.) ;)

For anything bigger than 60" I might have a go at stretching my own canvases, but I may just opt to order a made-to-measure canvas.

Pre-fabbed canvases can start to get 'noticeably costly' when they get large, but if the sale price of a painting can't easily absord the cost of the materials including the canvas support, then something is going wrong somewhere.
Pace yourself. I'm sure the quality of your materials will increase as the cost of your paintings do. ;)

09-09-2004, 03:01 PM
I have always stretched my own canvas. I do things on canvas other than painting, and sometimes I want a raw canvas to work with. I also tend to work in sizes that are not standard.

I think that every artist should learn how to make stretchers and stretch their own canvas. There may come a time when you can not afford to buy prestretched canvas or stretcher bars. You can get a good grade of canvas at Wal Mart, and I used to buy it by the bolt when I was doing a lot of fibers work and painting.

09-09-2004, 07:54 PM
OH yeah.... a long time ago, I bought all the stuff to do it myself because I thought "REAL artists stretch their own canvases" and got all gung ho on being a do-it-yourselfer.... after about 10 so-so resulting canvases and only 2 good ones, I sorta gave that all up.

It's just not worth the hassle when I can get really high quality pre-stretched ones cheaper (and that's an objective word) than the materials and the hours lost it would take doing it on my own.

Unless I'm doing an odd size (gee, that's my next project! argggghhh!) I buy pre-stretched, usually gallery wrap style (cause frames are such a pain). For just playing around I use cheap Michaels 3 buck dealies. Even then, if it's all held in a frame good and tight, there's not much percievable difference, IMO.

To those who have good stretching skills, more power to you! I wasn't cut out for that particular craft.

09-09-2004, 07:58 PM
I used to, but not anymore. Like mentioned, you can buy really nice prestretched and pre-primed canvas for way less than what it costs to make one's own. My personal fav is the Gotrick canvas. Curry's Artist Supply is always selling them 50-60 percent off.
If I need an odd size or very large one, I get my husband to make the frame from MDF and I buy a nice preprimed piece of canvas and stretch it. But, I don't work huge often anymore, too expensive.

09-10-2004, 08:21 AM
[QUOTE=it'sALLart] For just playing around I use cheap Michaels 3 buck dealies. Even then, if it's all held in a frame good and tight, there's not much percievable difference, IMO. QUOTE]

I have been buying those, have you had any problems?

09-10-2004, 10:03 AM
I only recently started stretching my own! And oddly enough, I found myself asking the same question! I'm so glad that I saw this thread! I'm see that I see now that I'm not alone! The surprising thing I found when researching the subject is that there is very little reference on the internet that provide a good visual tutorial along with detailed, easy to follow instructions! If anyone knows of a site, please chime in! I did not even think to check WC.(Duh) Marty, I will read your article!

I would love the hear from those of you who do make your own stretchers, how you do it?

I fabricate my own stretcher bars and supports if needed! The canvas I buy from a nearby fabric store, who carry a large selection due to the demands of the art department of the local University! I can't believe how easy it is to stretch your own and how much cheaper it seems to be! Although, I have not figured the final cost of the DIY version, with canvas preparation, and the retail version!

I find the entire process, relaxing and therapeutic! It's also a nice break from the norm and very satisfying when you complete a painting on a canvas that you stretched yourself!


09-10-2004, 01:20 PM
I didn't vote, because you didn't have the option for 'sometimes'. I had to learn how to stretch my own canvases in college, it was a requirement in one of the painting classes. I bought a large roll 54" x 6 yds. of Frederix preprimed canvas, and since I used a 40% off coupon at micheals I got it for around $20. Sometimes I feel lazy though and just buy prestretched

09-13-2004, 11:32 AM
I didn't vote for the same "sometimes" reason.

I stretch my own about 25% of the time when I have a specific sort of painting in mind and want canvas textures I haven't yet found in premade canvases.

In other words when I want the texture of heavy canvas, (12 # - 14#) and do not sand much if at all between the only 2 coats of gesso/sealant mixtures I use prior to painting.


09-13-2004, 12:13 PM
I too, stretch my own canvas for any major piece. I use siding screws (large gap threads) because they pull the stretchers into the corner blocks the best. They also do not rust. For any piece over 4' in a dimension, I use a brace (crossmember) every 24". Sixteen inches is the strongest but 24" still provides great support and reduces weight over the 16". An 8' piece would use 3 support bars. I loved Marty's tape idea, never thought to do that before reading his tutorial (well done old boy!). If the air is hot and DRY then I will dry/bleach in the sun but most of the time, I dry with a diffused hair dryer or the exhaust of my shop vac (it's clean). Remember to dry from the center out, just as you staple from the center out. I use copper tacks which is more difficult than stapling but they weather instead of rusting. If you don't paint the edges then they add to the overall. I use three coats of Gesso. 1st coat I sand with plain old 120 grit. The second coat gets 120 grit and then 00 steel wool. The last coat gets 120, 00 steel wool or 400 grit, and then either 600 dry or 1200 wet sanding. Feel the final surface one time and you'll understand why.

09-13-2004, 12:13 PM
I have been buying those, have you had any problems?

Not really... the thing I make sure of is putting it on the floor and seeing if they lay flat, bounce the opposite corners, etc. If they have any wobble at all they go back on the shelf and I'm on to the next one.

10-29-2004, 09:13 AM
[QUOTE=Marty C]I have written an article on Making a stretched canvas (http://www.wetcanvas.com/Articles2/16809/403/) which is in the Studio Tips forum.

great article, very simple.I voted yes because i do, the only question i have is that i was taught to use a piece of quadrant on the edge that touches the canvas to stop the canvas sticking to the frame itself and the edges showing through the paint.Do you have that problem? or does the weight of canvas or technique you use stop it happening?

Marty C
10-29-2004, 09:59 AM
In the article you will see that I use a router to produce a bevelled thin edge on the frame. The actual area of wood in contact with the canvas on the face is very small and does not interfere in any way when painting.
The edge I produce is actually thinner than a quadrant edge, around 2mm in width. Thin as this is, it does not interfere in stretching (some have asked whether an edge this thin will cut into the canvas), and produces a very even painting surface with no edge effects at all.

10-29-2004, 12:49 PM
oh duhh......another example of me opening my mouth without processing info first...

ta very much ;)

10-29-2004, 06:35 PM
For me streaching the canvas is part of the process. I can create a painting precisly the size I want, with the quality of canvas needed for the painting.

10-29-2004, 07:15 PM
There is nothing wrong with prestretched canvas, especially if you paint smaller sizes you can find good deals. I particularly like gallery wrap. Having said that, I am painting larger sizes now and not necessarily desiring the sizes that are standard. Nothing bizarre, but I like the effect of a 30x36, or a 36x50. I have recently even started making my own stretchers for larger sizes. My biggest to date is 46x92! I am working on a 36x72 and have also finished a 23-3/4x31 (odd pieces for the larger) and 41x58. Really nice to make it from the ground up! But it is WORK, and sweaty work at that! I suppose it boils down to how immersed you are in the art of the painting.

Making your won stretchers really helps cut the cost down. I use 2x2 lumber, the straightest and driest I can find. To this I tack/glue 3/4" quarter round molding, resulting in about 2.5" width. I cut angles with a electric miter saw. I don't have a router, so I just lightly sand the edges to remove some sharpness. I have brackets and straps to hold it all tight. These new wood glues are amazing -- no nails needed -- just get the whole affair square and let it dry overnight! I use a cross brace, mainly for manueverablity, but for some support.

Here are pictures of part of the evolution. Have fun. Jim

10-30-2004, 05:28 PM
I didn't vote because I've tried everything. So far, pre-stretched canvas or plain plywood (gessoed) are my favorites.

I'm with Ed and Jocelyn. Curry's has amazing deals on art supplies, including canvas. They just started stocking a cheaper lighter weight house brand that effectively gives you 4 for the price of 3 (compared to their heavier weight house brand). They also include a pack of keys. I got some to try today.

10-30-2004, 05:50 PM
I voted no.
If you work in standard sizes, I think pre-stretched is the way to go. If you calculate the cost of materials plus the labor needed, it would be worth it to spend a few more dollars on pre-stretched. They are also great if you work in smaller sizes; I'd say anything under 12"x16". They are very cheap that way and since they are small, the canvas has a "tighter" feel.


11-02-2004, 09:29 PM
I totally agree!! Jim

11-03-2004, 07:52 AM
I suppose it boils down to how immersed you are in the art of the painting.

Woah, wait a minute! As a professional working artist who has made a living from painting and art for over 27 years, I have to address that statement.

At this stage in my life, I'm TOTALLY immersed in the art of painting, painting nearly every day and evolving as an artist and really enjoying the process. In fact, I'm so immersed in the art of painting, that I really can't and won't get bogged down in the craft/skill of canvas stretching. To include that activity in the art of painting as if it were "part of the process" is almost like saying that making my own paint would make me a real artist. It's dropcloth drippings.

In fact, if you look at history, most artists shunned making their own paint and had some lackey do it (if they could afford one) so they could concentrate on painting. I've stretched my own and know how time consuming/frustrating it can be for me. For me, it would be going backward in time, especially with the available sizes out there. As well, there's a guy that will stretch canvases in our city that charges not too high a price for it if I want a special size.

I won't begrudge ANYONE the "fun" or whatever it is they derive from stretching their own canvases and I applaud their efforts. I personally don't have the time to do so. BUT: buying pre-stretched does not mark me as someone not totally immersed in the art of painting and your statement is a big put-down to those of us who are professional working artists and would rather simply get down to the business of painting.

11-03-2004, 08:10 AM
I agree with Keith, it doesnt matter if you are immersed or not. I am an amature and I would rather save time, and buy pre-stretched. James :wave:

11-03-2004, 09:09 AM
I barely have time to put paint on my canvases let alone stretch them before I do it.

12-04-2004, 02:02 AM
Itsallart -- I didn't intend to sound elitist about canvas stretching! My comment was perhaps lacking in clarity and understanding. The point was more toward the desire to produce as much of the finished product as practical.
By "immersed" I meant when you are so enthused about the process itself that you look for all possible aspects to involve yourself in, regardless of the fact you might be getting few hours sleep or have an empty wallet. You know, kind of manic non-stop enthusiasm, which I am certain you have with your experiences as well. I have gotten so "immersed" painting canvases that I am almost unable to transport with normal vehicles. I have a VW camper van and can barely squeeze a 46x96 in it! I will resist painting canvases that would have to be disassembled to get out of the house or rent a special truck to move! I do have limits, but who knows? If there is a demand and sale, I'll jump on it.
I would possibly consider making paint, except that there is so much available by so many manufacturers already. And it is doubtful that I would exceed the paint makers final results (oils, such as my favorites from Old Holland, Schmincke, Holbein, Blockx -- I have absolutley no idea how I would make a huge selection of acrylics!). I need a lot of paint, probably along the lines of your needing pre-made canvases.
Perhaps that is how canvas is for you -- you need so much for your work flow that even if you wanted, it would be an impractical interuption.
For similar reasons I would not attempt to manufacture brushes. I'm sure I could do it, but why?
Like you, I am painting all the time, and going to larger an larger canvases. Size and cost lead me toward making my own.
Compared to making your own paints or brushes, canvas is an area that is practical to achieve a superior or unique product that is not commercially available.
I have a current thread in the Oil Painting forum about canvas stretching, showing a few recent samples of canvas I have produced. Also a survey which includes the points about not stretching your own canvas. Check it out -- I'd appreciate your comments.
Non-stretchers are certainly not alone or a small minority of artists!
Sorry to ruffle feathers. Jim

12-04-2004, 07:24 AM
Feathers are all smoothed back into place, here, Jim...

And I have to "open beak, insert claw" because:

I had to stretch my own canvas two weeks ago!!! Ok, ok, don't laugh too hard at me and my big beak that damned me into having to do this.

Had a commission piece that was an odd size (18 x 28) and no time to wait to order one. I bought the stretchers and canvas and did it myself. I don't know if it's because I'm older and wiser than the last time I tried this (20 years ago???) but it went pretty smoothly. Took me about 4 hours when you add the time for 2 coats of gesso and sanding.

I still would of bought one if I could have found it that size tho as it took away half a day of painting... will fly over to see your thread in oils. Sorry about the droppings...

12-05-2004, 06:15 PM
Itsall -- Thanks for checking out the other thread and for your comments there.
And thanks for "'fessing up".
I realize that not everyone will want to stretch (about my only exercise!) their own, and until a few months ago, I was was using mostly prestretched from ASW in sizes up to 30x40. I very much liked the 24x30 size as well.
But as you noted, when you reach an odd area -- large size, odd size, etc. you are basically forced to roll your own. I decided to embrace the task and to excel at it and it has lead me to larger and larger affordable sizes. The paint is still a concern, price-wise, but it is exhilarating to confront a big canvas. I'm competitive by nature and the large sizes have my creative juices flowing.
I'll try to post pictures when I complete this batch I'm working on now. Jim

12-06-2004, 12:33 AM
I enjoy stretching my own. It gives me some creative satisfaction. I however, found the canvas mounted to board gives me more support and the rigidness I am looking for on larger paintings. I have also been one that has fallen in love with paper once again. I love the "drink" on paper that gives me so many options. I have not seen any of my canvases deteriorate or droop, so I am somewhat satisfied that stretching my own is okay. If I am in a hurry, no doubt, I will give in the an already mounted canvas.

12-06-2004, 10:45 AM
Oh GOSH NO. :eek: I can barely apply the gesso on them....LOL

12-08-2004, 11:18 PM
Okay, here's the result of my latest madness on making stretcher frames and stretching canvas!
You can head over to Oil Painting forum (I believe it is called "Stretching Canvas -- Fiat Accompli") for more photos and details.
Thanks, Jim
Canvas sizes: 44x95, 44x94, 40x86 and 35x54.

12-08-2004, 11:30 PM
Wow, those are monsters!

12-13-2004, 09:51 PM
I vote YES, one simple reason. I like elongated sizes they don't sell. Say 44 by 12 or something different like that. Why. I hate boring sizes, if'n you want a wide thin landscape- say for over a couch, or a tall thin one at the end of a hall, and the plus is+ = this allows different space for original compisitions. :D

12-27-2004, 02:23 AM
I voted "no". I can purchase prestretched, preprimed canvas for less than what it would cost me to do it myself and the time could be better spent painting.


Me too.
But I have tried pasting calico and thermal backed curtain material on board and thick cardboard and preparing it with Jo Sonja's all purpose sealer. Ok to work on but wouldn't consider selling any paintings prepared like this. Just experiments. :wink2:

02-13-2005, 01:37 PM
I haven't read every post on this thread yet but I voted no. Mainly because I am a beginner and I can pick up canvas boards and also pre stretched panels (think that's what there called :D ) pretty cheap at my local art supplier. I would love to give it a go some day though.