The Secret to Perfect Canvas Stretching

We’re often asked how to stretch canvas prints and make them look perfect every time. Our answer is boring but correct: practice, and the right tools.

Unless our clients request unstretched canvas, we offer canvas stretching services in-house. We’d never source this critical part of the finishing process out to a 3rd party vendor. We order each frame custom-made from a local Phoenix-based manufacturer. Each frame is assembled by our team of artisans with decades of experience.

Behind the Scenes: How Canvas Prints Are Stretched For Museum-Quality

Tools You May Need

Having a professional print shop with proper tools helps us deliver museum-quality canvas prints. Along with a large workspace canvas stretching tools we use include:

  • Canvas pliers – specialty-made pliers that have a wide and deep head with serrated gripping. Gives you extra leverage
  • Staple gun – commercial-strength staple gun that has enough force to punch through the wooden sub-frame
  • Canvas-safe clamps – clamps that can help hold the canvas in place without harming it

Step 1: Build a sub-frame for the canvas

We won’t go into a wood-working tutorial for how to build a frame but as you’re thinking about how to frame your canvas there are some considerations to know:

  • Canvas size and thickness – the bigger and thicker the canvas, the stronger the frame will need to be because it’s under higher tension
  • Frame depth – choose a depth that matches the scale of your art and keep in mind if you’ll want to frame the canvas after it’s stretched
  • Canvas profile – suspends the print so it floats over the frame and eliminates any “ghosting” of the bars
Stretching Canvas Prints explained!

Image Above is a Canvas Frame Profile

The “Profile” (see photo at left) also helps when we tension the fabric and staple it onto the frame. The smaller frames are stretched “as is” but with larger canvas prints, it is critical to add reinforcement struts/gussets so the frame won’t twist or warp under the tension of the fabric.

Our Latex-based inks will deliver an archival-quality print that will last for years, but it’s only as good as the sub-frame it goes on.

Step 2: Flatten the canvas on a picture-safe surface

This is where having the vast workshop space and professional framing equipment can help. For larger prints, it’s critical to have a large flat surface as your workspace. This ensures there are no wrinkles and that you to can get in the proper positions to affix the canvas to the frame. For this step, simply smooth out the canvas print and get it ready for the frame.

Step 3: Align canvas frame

If the frame has been precisely crafted and the canvas has been expertly printed, this part should be easy. It’s better to move slowly and be precise when aligning the canvas and frame so you don’t nudge the canvas while moving the frame into place. The modern latex-based inks for canvas are tough but you will still want to be careful.

The time-lapse video below is fun to watch, but in reality, it can take upwards of 30 minutes to do it right.

Step 4: Stretch and staple the canvas

Starting with the narrowest side first, lift and staple the canvas to the back of the frame. Typically a staple is put every two or so inches depending on the size of the frame.

Some tips to keep in mind when stretching canvas:

  • This is a middle-out process that is gradual, take your time
  • You can start on either side, though many prefer to start on the longest side first
  • Be sure to be pulling the fabric tightly to the right or left from this center point

Steps to stapling canvas:

  1. Start to staple in the middle with two to four staples equidistant from one another
  2. Put the side you just stapled up against a surface and staple repeat adding middle staples to the other side (gives you leverage as you’re stretching)
  3. Repeat this process for the remaining two sides
  4. Now that the four middles are stapled, repeat this process by adding one on either side of the middle staples on each side until you get to the last 3 inches of the corner
  5. Use a standard or gallery wrap on the corners and cut excess canvas

We hope you find these little clips valuable and it helps you understand just what goes into making a true, archival-rated canvas print.

To learn more about the product, please visit our website! Ordering is as easy as 1,2,3.