All You Need to Know about Canvas Stretching

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Unframed paintings hardly look good from the side. Anyone who paints or visits art galleries has probably noticed that the raw canvas edges look shockingly white against the colourful, painted front. It looks even worse when bits of the colours get on the sides of the canvas during the painting process. It creates a design which is jarring against the painted front.

The canvas sides and edges hardly mattered in the past, but framed paintings are in vogue these days as framing not only compliments a painting but also adds a layer of superiority. This is where canvas stretching comes in.

Stretching a canvas is important as the process helps preserve the canvas and prepare it for framing. Canvas stretching is the process of preparing the surface (made of either cotton or linen fabric) by stretching it around a wooden frame. It is usually secured on the back, though some prefer to secure it on the sides, using staples, a metal spline or tacks. Finally, the canvas is primed with an oil based primer or acrylic gesso and it is ready to use.

Types of Stretched Canvas

  • Traditional Wrap: The painting/image must fit 3/4 of an inch wood stretcher bars so that the canvas can be easily installed in a frame. If you are using a traditional wrap, it is recommended to frame your painting/image as there will be unpainted edges and staples visible from the side. Framing is therefore essential to cover them.
  • Gallery Wrap: This type of stretched canvas is ready to hang. The canvas wraps around the bars, therefore the staples are placed on the back and hidden. The sides too are completely painted. It comes with a wire on the back, making them ready to hang as soon as you receive the new painting. Framing is not required with a gallery wrap.

Options for Stretching Canvas

  1. Outsource

Stretching canvas needs proper skills so that the surface is free of wrinkles. If you are not familiar with the process, it is recommended to seek professional help to stretch your canvas prints. The frame shops have trained professionals to create the optimal visual impact. These shops offer canvas stretching services for new and previously stretched artworks.

The biggest advantage of outsourcing this task is that you are guaranteed a high standard, professional stretching job. Stretching canvas involves a lot of hassles and is often challenging for an amateur. Just drop off your canvas prints at a frame shop and the professionals there will take care of the rest. The next time you see your canvas artworks, it will be ready to hang.

With a professional offer canvas stretching service, you don’t need to bother about the size as these framers have necessary tools and equipment to stretch any roll you bring in. Time delay is often a problem with many frame shops. It is therefore recommended to ensure that your framer has the reputation of finishing stretching job on-time.

Also, opt for an experienced framer who can create the look you are after. One big challenge of outsourcing canvas stretching is that it is expensive. The cost depends on the thickness of the stretcher bar and the size of your image. However, outsourcing is still a cost-effective way considering the high standard stretching job you will receive.

        2. Stretcher Bar Sticks

Don’t consider this option unless you own a full blown production studio where you need tons of stretched canvas every day. This process require 10-12′ stretcher bar sticks, a saw and an underpinner or joining machine. First cut down the sticks to required size and then join the bars using the underpinner to make the stretcher frame.

This process can significantly lower your cost, depending on the quality of wood you use. There will be no time delay as the entire manufacturing process is in your hands. This further provides you the ultimate flexibility with the canvas stretching process. You can even create custom-tailored and unique stretcher bars by providing a design profile to the wood supplier.

On the downside, using stretcher bar sticks needs skilled labour. You need to appoint trained and experienced employees and proper management is required. In addition, you need to make good investments in equipment. Stretcher bar sticks are only recommended for those who have huge volume of requisites for stretcher canvas prints.

        3. Pre-Notched Stretcher Bars

If you’re familiar with the process of canvas stretching, you can do it on your own. You will, however, need certain tools for that such as a staple gun and stretching pliers. Besides, you need to have enough patience to stretch the canvas by hand. You can even use pre-notched stretcher bars to further lower your cost, provided you know the traditional technique of stretching a canvas print.

Several wood options are available with pre-notched stretcher bars. While the fir wood bars are the least expensive options, those made of pine wood are more expensive. The advantage of using pre-notched stretcher bars is that you can have complete control over the stretching process. Since the fir wood bars are inexpensive, you can considerable lower your cost by using them. Better yet, you don’t need to have underpinner, saw or any other professional equipment to work with them.

However, the biggest catch of using pre-notched stretcher bars is that you must have the technical skill of stretching canvas. You will further need certain professional equipment, for example, a canvas stretching machine otherwise it will take a lot of time and effort to stretch a print. And buying professional stretching equipment will raise the cost, making outsourcing a cheaper and cost-effective solution.

Lastly, pre-notched stretcher bars come in fixed sizes. You will therefore need specific sized bars and adjust your print accordingly.

How to Stretch Canvas – The Basic Steps

  • Buy rolls or pre-cut, un-primed canvas
  • Measure how much canvas you will need
  • Lay the stretcher bar frame on your canvas (face down)
  • Fold up each edge. There must be plenty of canvas overlapping on the bar
  • Cut out the piece in appropriate size using a scissor
  • Fold the canvas over your stretcher bar, taking one side at a time and start stapling them using your staple gun
  • Now spin the canvas to staple the opposite side, pulling as much canvas towards you as you can
  • Repeat the same process for the remaining two sides
  • Remember that the centre of the canvas is tight
  • Now grab, pull, and staple along the bar with staples running down each side until you reach the corners
  • Finally, grab the canvas corner and pull it nice and tight, turning it on its side so that the canvas lay flat and staple it
  • One edge of the canvas must have a 45 degree folded line, while the other edge should have no fold at all

Repeat this process for all corners.


Though stretching canvas sounds an easy task to do, it involves a lot of measurements and special skills. You can start stretching your own canvas, provided you have the required skills and equipment. But remember that it might not have the high standard and professional touch to compliment your artwork.

What to Expect from a Professional Framing Service

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While making your own frames at home may seem like an easy thing to do, many a time, it isn’t. It is easy for things to go haywire, which only leaves behind a mess and thoughts about what could have been. That’s why it is best to leave certain jobs to the professionals.

We all want our art work to look gorgeous and stand out. We want it to razzle and dazzle, and capture the fancy of the audiences. However, your art work alone may not be able to do so every time. Sometimes, a little help goes a long way in influencing the audience to succumb to the work’s charm.

A professional framing service is your best bet when you need to get a painting framed. But that’s not all that professional framers are for. The post lists a few facilities that a professional framing service can provide in addition to treating your artwork with the utmost care while framing it.

 1. Determining the Structure

Typically, this step is given a miss as when you paint on a canvas or on a board, you tend to adjust its size in accordance with the shape of the canvas. However, if you paint on a normal sheet of paper, you may be left with extra paper around the edges which may need to be cropped. This is where the professional framer can help you.

A good framer will take some mounting board and talk to you about the parts of the painting that need to be trimmed off. Once that’s taken care of, the framer will make a few markings to mark the four corners to denote where the frames will go.

It makes sense to listen to the suggestions of the framers about this aspect as they’re experienced in this and have a sound idea of determining a suitable structure accurately. If you disagree with his suggestions, you can move the mount in different angles and see what the art work looks like. Whatever you decide will ultimately prevail.

 2. Figuring Out the Mount

In case you’re wondering what mounts are, they are pieces of colored cards that are placed around the paintings before they are framed. In the USA, however, these cards are called mats and the backing board is called a mount.

Paintings may or may not have a mount, and the frame may embrace the edges of the paintings. But having a mount is preferable as it can help bring out the colors and enhance the overall appearance of the paintings. They may have multiple mounts, often with only a bit of the one complementing the painting showing.

Ask your framer for mount options and he will show you a range of samples in a variety of colors. He will also have a display board over which your painting will be fastened to make it easy for you to pick the right mount color. In doing so, you will have to view your painting from a distance to get a better idea of what it will look like once it is mounted.

3, Finding the Right Frame

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Professional framers stock up on an assortment of sample corners of frames. These too will be attached to the corners of your art work (aside from the mount board), for you to get a good idea of what it will finally look like.

If you find it difficult to envisage your painting as a fully framed one, use your hands or sheets of paper to cover up the rest of the exposed parts of the painting. That way you will see only the angles decorated with the sample corner.

4. To Go for Glass or Not?

Most framed art prints that we come across have a glass front. While it is important for watercolors, pastels, and drawings to be framed behind glass, it may not be necessary for paintings that are varnished.

Your framer will show you two types of glasses – reflective glass and matte glass (less reflective but absorbs some of the color of the painting) – and ask you to pick between the two. If you’re unable to decide, ask the framer to show you a few samples so you can see the difference and take a call accordingly.

5. Cost Estimation

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The cost of framing depends on the size of the art work, the number of mounts used, the frame chosen, and whether or not you choose to have glass in it. Your framer may either give you a quote as soon as you select your frame or give you an estimate over the phone. If you’re not happy with his quotation, feel free to try elsewhere.

6. When the Pick-Up Date Is Here

Just as you’re careful with all your purchases, be scrupulous with this one too. Before you pay for the framing, make sure the following are in place:

  • Does it have a mount board? Has it been cut tidily?
  • Is the mount flat and correctly placed?
  • Has the frame been attached properly?

If you find any discrepancies in any of the above aspects, get them rectified before you make the payment. If you like the framer’s workmanship, do let him know about it. A little appreciation for a job well-done never hurt anyone!


All your art prints deserve a place of pride in your home or in the art gallery. Make sure you approach a professional framing service to adorn them with the most attractive and suitable frames, which will not only enhance their splendor, make them the cynosure of all eyes, but also keep them protected. The above points should give you a fair idea of how a professional framer can help you. Do make a note of them and make them work to your advantage.

Framing Paintings: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional

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Only a truly creative person would understand the importance of protecting and beautifying a work of art.

Whether you create art yourself or buy it from an artist, displaying it tastefully will probably be the topmost concern on your mind. Most art prints are stunning enough by themselves to attract and retain the attention of the onlooker.

There are ways in which you can make these creations look more chic. Framing them is the easiest and most common way to smarten them up and present them in a way that can enhance their appeal.

If you’re confused about whether you should go about the framing chore by yourself or hire a professional to do it for you, this post has some important pointers for you.

DIY Framing

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If you’re creative by nature and love painting, designing and decorating, then it makes sense to give DIY-framing a shot. The basics of framing aren’t very difficult to master and this activity can be a lot of fun. In fact, when you create the frame on your own, you might as well refer to it as a work of art in itself. Keep in mind that the frame you choose to create will affect the appearance, longevity and value of the art print.

Here are a few pros and cons for your consideration to help you decide whether DIY framing is for you.


  1. You Save Money:

Framing your art work yourself will save you money as you will not have to pay the labor costs, which can add up quite fast. You can use the Web to shop for all the materials you’ll need at discounted rates.

2. You Have Total Control:

Because you’ll be doing everything yourself from scratch, you’ll have the authority to customize picture the frames the way you like it. Add and delete elements from it based on what you want the final product to look like at any point. Mix and match colors, styles, woods, glass, etc. and flaunt your creativity to the hilt. In short, let it reflect you!

3. Learn a New Skill:

Once you become aware of the process, you’ll find things falling into place. In fact, the more number of frames you make, the more your skills and abilities will improve. Soon you’ll be able to do it like a professional!

4. Makes for a Great Hobby:

Once you realize how enjoyable, easy and inexpensive DIY framing can be, you can turn it into a regular hobby.


  1. It Can Get Complicated:

While DIY framing is relatively easy, it can also get quite complicated, especially if you decide to create something intricate. If you’re not careful with your craft, you may just end up losing the plot and ending up with a big mess rather than a beautiful frame. So that would mean a waste of your time, money and energy.

2. You May Not Always Get the Desired Results:

While you may have visualized your frame to turn out in a certain manner, chances are that the final product may not live up to your expectations. If you’re not meticulous about it, you may unknowingly make errors in getting the measurements right, or get the wrong type of wood, etc.

3. Keeping Up with the Changing Trends Can Be Difficult:

Home-interior trends change rapidly with new styles and designs being created and sold at the drop of a hat. In such a scenario, it may become difficult for you to keep reframing your art work.

Professional Framing

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If you’re too pressed for time to build a frame on your own, or find it hard to create anything that will need you to let your (barely-there) creative juices flow, then you should give professional framing a thought. All you need to do is give them your art prints and leave the rest to them. Approach a good framer to ensure that you get exactly what you signed up for.

Here are a few pros and cons for your consideration to help you decide whether you should hire professional framers.


  1. It Saves You a Lot of Time:

Making your own frames can be an extremely long and time-consuming process. If you’re unable to give it enough time and effort, you may just end up losing interest in your project and leave it unfinished.

Professional framers have special tools and equipment, as well as the experience to get the job done in a short span of time. Hence, it makes sense to outsource this work to the professionals.

2. It Will Be a Job Well Done:

Because framers specialize in what they do, you can rest assured that they will do a swell job with framing your art work. Thanks to their expertise, you do not need to worry about going wrong with measurements or the quality of the wood or even the color going bad.

3. You Can Go for Intricate Framing:

While you cannot even think about creating frames with intricate work/designs on them by yourself, you can definitely expect high-quality, intricate designs with a smooth finish from professional framers. Sit with them and let them help you decide and choose from the variety of frames they have on offer. Some framers even oblige when you tell them your specific requirements related to how you want the frame to look.

4. Frames are an Investment:

This will make sense to those who create art work and sell it. Good frames not only keep your art protected, but also help in presenting them well. This is particularly important when you’re displaying your art work at a high-end gallery. The style, quality and the value that the frame lends to the art work can be quite influential in its sale. So it is highly advisable to get the framing done from a professional.


  1. It Can Get Expensive:

The only con related to getting your art prints framed is that it can get a tad costly. Apart from paying for the material and supplies, you also need to pay for the labor. Further, professional framers may charge you several hundred dollars for a single painting, so if you have several numbers of paintings to be painted, it could cost you a bomb.


If you have quality art prints, it is imperative that you get them framed. Apart from making them look better, frames also help art prints stay in good condition. I hope the above pointers will bust all your doubts when it comes to getting your art work framed and help you decide which way to go.