How to stretch a canvas

How To Stretch a Canvas

I’ve decided to start creating one painting a week, indefinitely. I’ve plotted the numbers and purchasing a canvas each week can be done more efficiently, financially… Rather than spending up to $30 a week on the cheapest one I can find, I found a local (I’m incredibly lucky how local it is..) warehouse selling premium quality, 10oz, 100% cotton canvas for just under $70 for 5m.

So I popped over to my local Salvos and found a hectic stack of artworks where other artists have given up on them. So I rightfully purchased them, removed the existing painting ready to sand and paint the frame.

I didn’t need to paint the frame although I figured the more protection against the world, the better!

Step 1: Cut the canvas.

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Apart from my stand-up photography on the left (I’m an actual product photographer if you need that btw), you can see that I’ve prepped one frame and cut/ ripped the canvas to size.

I read that you get a straighter line ripping the canvas. You do although be careful as I was ripping on an awkward angle for a larger one and accidentally ripped the wring direction half way through! I also think that the canvas looks more authentic when ripped, like a real artist did it.

I left about 6cm on each edge although quickly learnt that when you stretch it, the canvas will stretch (duh..) and you’ll have extra by about 1cm.

Step 2: Start to stretch the canvas.


Next step is to staple the middle of each edge, this is a super easy step (although the whole thing is easy in general..).

I borrowed a staple gun from a friend because bunnings was a nightmare.. I’ve now ordered a lightweight 4-14 staple gun from eBay and will update this if that’s wrong.

Make sure you evenly stretch each side, and like a tyre, do one side, then the opposite and so on.

The middle should be stretched out and nice to lookout and the surrounding parts will have wrinkles at this stage.

Step 3: Finish stretching the canvas.

I like to wet a cloth and just wipe over the canvas at this point just for that extra give.

Once you’ve done the middle staples, then add one to the left and right of it and do the opposite side. A way of describing it is that you need to work your way out from the centre of each side while doing the opposite side straight after, kind of like how you smudge your makeup from the centre out on your face.

As you stretch the rest, you’ll see that the wrinkles will flatten out.

You’ll then get to the corners, stretch those (you won’t have much give) and fold them over, I like to do mine to the right because it looks nice although that will be annoying for framing.. #sorrynotsorry


Step 4: Gesso the canvas.


No one really knows how to say the word gesso… The origin is latin language although I think it originated in Italy. So I’ve decided that if you’re Italian, say it as “jesso” and if you’re from another country that pronounces that spelling as “guess-o” then go ahead.

Whip out your gesso. I’ve used Mont Morte 500g brand because they randomly pop up in your local 2 dollar shop and are what you need/ more affordable than eBay.

This canvas is about 115cmx 90cm (for sale btw) and I used the whole gesso tub. I wasn’t thinning it out although I personally like a good amount of coverage.

After it dries you’ll see that the canvas is super tight! It will also be noticeably better quality and sturdy than the ones you buy in the shop due to the canvas quality.

I now never have to pop over to the shops for a canvas, because I have a stack waiting in my closet! The average cost wast about $5- $20 per canvas depending on the size.

Check out my paintings on insta! -Vanessa Stefanova

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