How to Stretch Canvas


Most artists learn to stretch canvas by pulling directly against warp and weft, starting in the center of each side and working toward the corners. An alternate method—stretching against the bias—involves diagonally displacing the weave rather than pulling directly against the yarns. With the traditional method, the canvas is pulled against the weave. You can get good results like this, but it's also easy to get puckering and uneven tension. Stretching on the bias shifts the whole weave for maximum stretch and even coverage. As a side note, this method requires staples.

  • Step 1

    To start, cut a piece of canvas slightly larger than the stretcher frame, leaving enough excess to wrap around the back.

  • Step 2

    Use a tape measure to locate the center of one of the shorter bars; mark with charcoal. Then mark the center of the corresponding side of the canvas.

  • Step 3

    Position the stretcher frame lift-side down on the canvas, making sure the frame is aligned with the weave of the canvas.

  • Step 4

    Staple one side in the center, pulling to the ends for a tight stretch. Make sure to place your staples diagonally, not parallel with the sides.

  • Step 5

    Pull across to the opposite bar, staple the center, and repeat.

  • Step 6

    Pull toward the corners and tighten the remaining sides, working toward the corners. After 12 staples, your canvas will be taut. Fill in the gaps, fold the corners neatly, and tack the excess fabric to the back.

  • Step 7

    Remove staples spanning each joint. Wrap excess fabric around the back of the frame and staple.