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Stretching a Canvas onto a Stretcher Frame


To stretch your painting onto its stretcher frame, follow these steps:

1. Unroll the canvas and lay the painted side down on a clean (dust-free) flat surface. Place the frame on top of the canvas. It is important to leave any excess overlapping material because this is what you use to grip, stretch, and attach the canvas to the frame.

2. Fold one side of the canvas over one of the shorter stretcher bars and then attach a staple or canvas tack at the centre of the outside edge of that bar.

3. On the opposite side, use pliers to grip the canvas at mid-bar. It may be easier to have the frame upright while doing this. With a firm grip, pull the canvas until a straight crease is formed to the tacked end. While keeping tension on the canvas, insert another staple or tack at the centre edge of the bar, just like the other side.

4. Move to the next stretcher bar (one of the longer ones) and repeat steps 2 and 3. As you do, a triangular canvas crease will form as you attach the third side and then a diamond-shaped crease when the fourth tack is attached to the remaining bar.

5. Now, place temporary staples or tacks at all four corners. Starting with the centre of one of the long bars, grip the canvas tightly with the pliers and fasten tacks at 5 centimetre (2 inch) intervals. Repeat with several tacks in both directions (from the centre) and then switch to the opposite side and repeat the process. Continue working from the centre until both long sides are completely along the side, stretching the canvas evenly as you proceed.

6. Once both long sides are finished, remove the temporary tacks that you fastened in step 5. Now repeat the same fastening process for both of the short sides, working out from the centres. For smaller canvases, one entire short side can be fastened first, followed by the opposite side. Larger canvases should be rotated several times to evenly stretch the material over the frame. Note that a linen canvas will normally require that the staples or tacks be placed closer together, due to the limited stretch of this material.

7. Fold and pleat the corners of the canvas and then neatly wrap them around to the rear of the canvas frame. Keeping tension on the material, staple all of the excess cloth to the rear of the frame so that it is neatly secured. Then staple or tack all four outer corners. This excess material is important to have in case you ever need to re-stretch or remount the canvas.

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