How to Make a Your Own Custom Stretched Canvas For Fine Art Painting

Are you an artist looking for a way to save money and make a custom canvas stretcher at the same time? Many “starving artists” need to be as economical as possible when it comes to purchasing art supplies. One way to both save money and make a better quality canvas stretcher is to make it yourself and then stretch the canvas on the stretcher yourself. This is particularly true for art students who may be on an even tighter budget than your professional or amateur “starving artist”. Making your own canvas stretcher is also a good idea if you are making large canvases or special shaped stretchers that may not be available in art stores. Cheaper and better are two great reasons to make your own.  clamps lowes


1. Miter saw, manual or power miter saw (a saw that will cut a 45-degree angle)
2. Corrugated nails
3. Wood glue
4. Corner clamps
5. Hammer
6. Small 1-inch finishing nails
7. Canvas pliers
8. Canvas(unprimed)
9. Gesso
10. Light duty staple gun

Step 1. Make a sketch with the dimensions of your canvas and then calculate exactly how much wood you will need for the project.

Step 2. Take a trip to your local lumber store or Lowes or Home Depot. You will need to hand pick the 1″ X 2″ lumber which the stretcher will be made with. Make sure you choose good quality and straight pieces of white pine wood. Also hand pick some ¼-inch quarter round molding, the same length as the 1″ X 2″ lumber your selected.

Step 3. Glue the 1’4-inch quarter round molding to the top outside edge of the 1″ X 2″ wood so that one flat side of the quarter round is glued to the 2″ side of the 1″ X 2″ and the other flat side is flush with the 1″ edge. Nail the quarter round to the 1″ X 2″ with one-inch finishing nails.

Step 4. Cut the 1″ X 2″ with the quarter round attached, to the proper length using a mitre saw, cutting at a 45-degree angle. Cut four 1″ X 2″ pieces about 6″ to 12″ long (depending on the size of the canvas) for braces in the four corners. Cut these braces with a mitre saw at a 45-degree angle. Cut one 1″ X 2″ piece as a middle brace for the canvas; cut it at the regular 90-degree angle. This brace will be in the middle of the canvas, butted on each side to the inside edge of the stretcher frame.

Step 5. Now that you have all your pieces cut, you need to put them all together. If you have them, use four corner clamps to hold the corners together at a 90-degree angle while you glue and nail the corners together, using corrugated nails or equivalent fasteners. Let the glue dry, take the stretcher frame out of the corner lamps and attach the four corner braces and the middle brace using glue and corrugated nails or equivalent.

Step 6. Now you have your frame! Next step is to stretch the unprimed canvas onto the stretcher frame. The canvas should be about 4 inches larger than the stretcher frame on all four sides so that it will wrap around to the back side. Lay the unprimed canvas on the floor and center the stretcher on the canvas with the stretcher frame upside down with the quarter rounds touching the canvas. Starting in the center of each side of the frame, wrap the canvas around the back of the frame and staple to the back of the frame. Pull the canvas tight on the opposite center and staple. Continue this process going from the center to the corners stapling the canvas approximately one-inch apart.

Step 7. Now you have a stretched canvas! The final step is to tighten the canvas even more with hot water and then finally gesso the canvas. Boil some water on the stove, get a rag or a sponge and wet the entire surface of the canvas with the hot water. This will shrink the cotton material, making the canvas nice and taut on the stretcher, perfect for painting. Let the canvas dry and apply a coat of acrylic gesso to protect the canvas and to have a base layer of white paint which will make your colors more intense.

Step 8. Grab a cup of coffee, sit back and admire your awesome hand-made custom canvas. Now take a few minutes and contemplate how to compose your next masterpiece on your awesome new canvas!