While some artists paint directly on canvases that are already stretched over a wood frame, others prefer to paint on flat canvases and stretch their own. This allows for a professional, customized final product. Frame Destination offers stretcher bar frames for canvases in more than 60 different sizes — and can even create custom sizes as they are all handmade in-house by our trained staff.
Stretcher bar frames are a better option than tongue and groove stretcher bars that you assemble yourself because they’re already in the square shape you need, meaning no rough edges and no danger of collapsing. You also don’t have to clean the wood shavings like you would for a tongue and groove stretcher bar, which, if left to sit in the frame, could damage your canvas.
Take a look at this “how-to” guide to choosing and using stretcher bars.
Which Type of Stretcher Bars Are Right for You?
Each stretcher bar frame varies by the height of the frame and the riser height. The riser height determines how much space there is between your canvas and the top of the bar. Determining the riser height is important when making your frame size decision, because if your canvas isn’t stretched tight enough, it will sag over time; a line in your canvas can also appear.
If you want to frame your artwork in a wood frame, a shorter stretcher bar frame should be used. If you want to hang your art without a frame and “float” it on the wall like the galleries do, then a taller wood frame would be ideal. For larger frames, you can purchase a bracer bar to reinforce the sides of the stretcher bar frame to ensure it doesn’t sag.
Frame Destination offers stretcher bar frames with medium and low risers, as well as a gallery wrap stretcher frame used for gallery and floater frames. This particular frame is easy to add a foamboard backing to, which provides support to the canvas in addition to stretching it.
How to Stretch Canvas Using Stretcher Bars
To stretch your canvas using the stretcher bars you will need:
- Electric staple gun
- Canvas pliers (optional)
- Your canvas
- A stretcher bar frame
Step 1: Measure the height and width of your canvas to determine what dimensions you’ll need in a frame, leaving enough extra canvas to fold and staple. If you’re planning on putting your canvas in a wooden frame, purchase a frame with a shorter stretcher bar.
Step 2: Check your frame for loose wood or any other rough surfaces, and place your canvas face down on a clean surface.
Step 3: Fold one side of the canvas over the stretcher bar and clip it in place with the pliers, if using. Staple once in the middle of the fold.
Step 4: Turn the frame 180 degrees and repeat.
Step 5: Repeat on the other two sides of the frame.
Step 5: Moving in a circle around the sides of the frame, add an additional two staples on either side of the first staple, while pulling the canvas tightly. However, do not pull it too tight, as the canvas will need room for shrinkage and expansion.
Step 6: The canvas should now have fold corners. Cut the tip off of the top of the corner and fold it down, stapling it to the frame. If you don’t cut the canvas corner, it won’t lay flat against the wall or in your frame.
Step 7: Flip the canvas over, and either place it in a wood frame (if using the smaller stretcher bar frame) or hang it directly on the wall for a gallery wrap.