Most framing projects are simple, with a flat print that slides effortlessly into one of our easy-to-assemble canvas frames. With certain pieces of artwork, however, it may take extra components and just a little bit more time — especially when you’ve bought a one-of-a-kind painting or a specialty canvas print.
Introduction to Canvas Prints and Paintings
Canvas is a type of woven fabric upon which artists can paint or, more recently, print, using specialty printers. There are two ways to purchase them: stretched onto a wooden frame or rolled. Canvases on stretcher bars require another frame: either a standard wood or metal picture frame, or a canvas floater frame to finish the piece. Rolled canvas must first be stretched and placed into wooden stretcher bars before they are framed.
How to Frame Rolled Canvas
There are different reasons you might purchase a rolled canvas print instead of one that’s already been stretched onto a frame. You may pay less money for a rolled canvas, or you may prefer to have the canvas stretched just prior to framing to ensure it doesn’t loosen. Other times, it’s the only option available.
If you’ve purchased a rolled canvas print or painting, you’ll need to stretch the canvas before framing it. Note that rolled canvas paintings should actually be rolled with the paint on the outside, which may seem counterintuitive; however, this puts less stress on the paint and reduces the chances of cracking.
To frame a rolled canvas, you’ll need a few extra items:
- Stretcher bar frame
- Staple gun
- Canvas pliers (optional)
- Wood, metal, or floater frame
- Glazing (optional)
Step 1: Measure The Height and Width
First, you’ll need to measure the height and width of your canvas to see what frame size you’ll need. Make sure to leave enough canvas to fold and staple to the stretcher bar. If you need to cut the canvas because there is an excess that makes folding impossible or bulky, leave at least two inches of canvas to fold over and stretch.
Tip: Use shorter stretcher bars if you’re using a wood frame. For a floater frame, read our guide to pairing canvas floater frames with stretcher bars to find the right size.
Step 2: Place Canvas Face down on Clean Surface
Place your canvas face down on a clean surface. To ensure that the canvas is placed evenly, measure the distance between the corners; they should be the same.
Step 3: Fold the Canvas
Starting on one of the shorter sides of the canvas, fold one side of the “extra” canvas over the stretcher bar and use the canvas pliers to hold it in place. If you’re not using canvas pliers, you can simply begin stapling. Staple once in the middle of the folded piece of canvas.
Step 4: Turn Over and Repeat
Turn the canvas to the opposite side (180 degrees) and repeat the folding and stapling step until all sides have one staple in the center.
Step 5: Pull the Canvas
Once each side of the frame has a single staple, pull the canvas slightly — not too much, or your canvas won’t be able to shrink or expand — and add a staple on both sides of the middle staple, spaced evenly apart.
Step 6: Fold the Corners
Fold the corners by tucking one side under the other, making sure you’re pulling tightly. Cut the tip of the corner before folding down and then staple it to the frame.
Step 7: Place in Final Frame
Once your canvas is stretched, you can place it into its final frame.
Framing Stretched Canvas Prints and Paintings
When framing a canvas print that’s already been stretched onto stretcher bars, you’ll have less work to do — but you may need help choosing the right frame!
You can choose a wood picture frame, metal frame, or floater frame for stretched canvas artwork, the latter of which is made especially for canvases. For all types of frames, make sure that the rabbet (groove) of the frame is larger than the thickness of the stretcher bar so that the artwork fits within it. A wood frame with a rabbet that is too small will force the artwork away from the wall; in the case of a metal frame, you simply will not be able to slide the canvas inside.
Most pre-stretched canvases are one of three thicknesses: 5/8, 3/4, and 1½ inches. Frame Destination carries a number of wood and metal frames suitable for these standard sizes
If you choose a wood frame with a rabbet larger than the canvas, order picture-frame points with your frame at the required depth. If you choose a metal frame that has a much deeper rabbet than your canvas print’s stretcher bar, you may need to use spring clips to hold it in place. Canvas floater frames from Frame Destination come with offset clips, which are available in two depths.
Note: If you’d like to frame your canvas print as if it were a picture within a picture frame, it’s possible! Select a frame with a rabbet deep enough for your stretched canvas, You can also switch the offset clips around and have the back of the canvas actually be the back of the framed piece
Buying canvas prints and paintings, whether rolled or pre-stretched onto stretcher bars, can add significant sophistication to your home or office decor — and the right frame only enhances it.
Updated March 1, 2021