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How To: Build + Stretch Your Own Canvas

Making things with your hands isn't for the impatient. While hand building a frame and canvas aren't always in the cards (no access to a wood shop, lack of tools, or no time), sometimes you REALLY need to know how to sludge through it. Let's face it, commercially made canvas just isn't as nice. Or, in my case, I need a specific size that isn't considered standard.

I made the wooden panels, stretched the canvas and made the frames for all of these paintings. I don't have access to a wood shop right now but I hopefully will soon!

In this DIY art video I show you how to build your own canvas from start to finish.

Links below for any products I used.

P.S. I lost some of my original footage and recreated it on a smaller scale at 0:35 using a wood panel, instead of a frame. The process is the same, however. SORRY! Keep your eyelids peeled for an appearance from my dog. Thanks to my husband for being my body double as I filmed. The frame he built is 53" x 64".

Also, I'll let you in on a little secret: I HATE the bounce that you get from stretched canvas. So I will more often than not, stretch canvas over a pre-built wood panel, so I reap all the benefits of painting on canvas but no bounce.

This is super laborious process of making your own wood panels, which I then stretched canvas on top of, and gessoed. Lucky, for you, this tutorial ISN'T about how to make this!

In this tutorial I quickly walk you through the major steps to making your own canvas with pre-built stretcher bars. Keep in mind that this is "Hollywood" time. In real time, this is a laborious process, so whether it's your first time building or it's just been a while, muster up some patience, get all the right tools the first time and have fun!

STEP 1: Gather Supplies: Hammer, Wood Glue, Stretching Pliers, Staple Gun, Staples

STEP 2: Gather More Supplies! Roll of unprimed canvas and four stretch bars.

*my dog joins the party*

STEP 3: Apply wood glue to Stretcher Bars and Join.

Repeat on all four sides. TIP: use the hammer and a level surface to ensure the frame is level.

STEP 4: Staple one side of the frame. (Option) Use pliers to pull the canvas tight on the other side + staple.

STEP 5: Staple with uniformity around the entire frame. Essentially you staple, then rotate

TIP: Never staple all of one side of the frame and then another. This will give you an uneven surface and the canvas will most likely have "pockets".

STEP 6: Fold your corners (you may want to watch this part a couple of times - there's a finesse to folding!) and staple.

TIP: flick your stretched canvas with your fingers. It should sound like a drum and be very taught. You can also "paint" the back of your canvas with a large brush and warm water to tighten it as much as possible. Now you're ready to Gesso! That's another video ;)

Still itching for more? Check out more tutorials from me on how to gold leaf, how to make carbon copies in the 21st century, learn about local color and how to mix a value scale using tints and shades!



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