Make Your Own Canvas - Create Canvas Wall Art
Stretching Your Own Canvas is an Art
Back in my earlier days of painting, I would paint on wood panels. They were cheap, provided an instant hard surface on which to paint and were quite durable.
It was all good and well when the ultimate fate of those wood panel paintings was to end up on my walls at home.
But when I sold and had to ship them, they were heavy and not fun to deal with - at all.
I switched to canvas - a much lighter material when it came to shipping and transporting.
But I ran into another problem: for canvas that's any bigger than 18" x 24", pre-stretched canvas can be cost prohibitive. Even the 18" x 24" variety can be prohibitive if we're talking 10 or 20 pieces.
I was at the art store recently and a canvas that was 5' x 4' costs $150!
Thus, not too long after I switched to canvas, I learned to stretch my own. At first, I admit I was a little intimidated and I didn't know what I was doing.
However, now that I've done it numerous times, I feel quite confident. To me, it's like another form of art: crafting your piece of canvas so that you can create a work of art.
Another Artist's Take on Stretching Your Canvas
Making Your Own Canvas
It's not hard!
I do not have carpentry skills, either. In fact, I don't even make my own frame (also called a stretcher).
Dealing with Frames
You can purchase the stretcher bars at an art store or if you have some do-it-yourself skills, you can make your own.
I admit I do not make my own, but my husband does have great carpentry skills. I specify the size and thickness and he makes it for me. He often uses scraps of trim to make them.
Indeed, an added benefit of stretching your own canvas is that it's the exact size and thickness that you want.
What You Will Need to Stretch Your Canvas
- unprimed canvas - fabric stores carry unprimed canvas usually and isn't hard to find
- scissors (or razor blade)
- frame or stretcher, assembled
- gesso (a primer for the canvas)
Buy or Stretch a Canvas
Pros and Cons
yes, after practice
How to Stretch the Canvas
First, make sure you have enough space for the size of your stretcher. Lay out the canvas and place the stretcher over it.
If you're mathematical and/or like precise measurements, you can measure everything out. For this part, however, I personally don't do any measuring.
However, the next thing you want to do is cut the canvas so that it extends out from the frame by 3-4 inches. This is so you can fold it around the stretcher later on.
Staple the Canvas
When you go to staple the canvas, start in the middle of one of the sides of the frame. Wrap the canvas around and staple it toward the middle of the frame but a little ways away from the edge of the canvas.
Then, go to the opposite side and do the same. Except this time, pull it as tight as you can get it, but not so tight you have to strain to do so. You can use pliers at this step, if necessary, to help pull the canvas and stretch it over the frame.
Then, go to the side (or turn the canvas and stretcher by 90°) and staple, pulling as best you can. Do the same with the opposite side.
When Stretching the Canvas, Make It As Tight As Possible
Keeping the canvas tight is crucial so that it doesn't sag later on. But, don't fret about it, either - just do the best you can.
Continue stapling every 2-3 inches until you make your way out to the corners.
Dealing with the Corners
There are several ways you can approach the corners.
Some people approach it like wrapping a present and fold the corners as such.
I personally like to "hide" the seams so that you can hardly see them.
Essentially, it involves pleating and tucking a bit. You hold your finger at the end, make a pleat, and then a final fold down the back of the frame. Take a look at the photos to illustrate how exactly to do this.
Apply Gesso to your Canvas
Though you have your canvas framed, it's still not ready to paint on just yet. You need to prime the canvas.
If you tried to apply paint at this stage, the cloth would absorb the paint and go through the porous fabric.
Gesso works by waterproofing and filling in the porous tiny holes in the fabric to smooth it out. It has the added benefit of taking all the wrinkles out and markedly stiffening the canvas to facilitate a flat and sturdy paint surface.
Once you apply canvas, allow at least 24 hours of drying time before you paint on it. This will allow it to fully stiffen the canvas and waterproof it so that it won't absorb any oil or acrylic paint.
Read the instructions for the specific primer you get. Some gesso is white, some is black. Some needs to be sanded and others require different drying times.
Begin to Paint!
Now that your surface is ready, you can begin to paint.
Shortly after snapping the photo at the top of this article, I did indeed begin to paint on it.
If you're interested, take a look at the completed painting.
I hope this tutorial was helpful; ask any questions in the comments.
© 2013 Cynthia Calhoun