How to Stretch Cotton Canvas
A Step by Step Guide to Stretching Professional Quality Canvas
Every art materials reference book contains a slightly different method for stretching cotton canvas. They vary according to the preferences of the authors, but only in the details. What follows is a brief summary of the fundamentals. If you are planning to stretch unprimed linen - a far less forgiving material - practice on cotton first, and ask for a copy of our information sheet: Priming Your Canvas and Stretching Unprimed Linen - it will be included with your order.
Make up a frame by fitting together the mitered ends of the appropriate size stretcher bars. Make sure the frame is square by measuring the diagonals; they should be equal. If crossbars are to be used, attach them before stretching the canvas.
Spread the canvas on a at, clean surface, with the primed or desired front side down. Position your frame, making sure the weave of the canvas runs parallel to the bars. Cut out the canvas, allowing 3 to 4 inches excess (depending on the size of bars used) for gripping and stretching.
Fold one side of the canvas over a short side of the frame, tacking or stapling at the center of the bar.
Switch to the opposite side, using canvas pliers to grip the canvas and pull it over the center of the bar, with the frame in an upright position, front facing you. Pull the canvas firmly until a straight crease runs from the pliers to the tacked end. Then staple or tack.
Moving to an adjacent side, pull firmly and tack canvas to the center, creating a triangle crease with the two previously tacked sides. Then switch sides, and stretch and tack the center of the fourth side, creating a diamond crease.
To continue fastening the canvas to the bars, most artists start at the centers and tack toward the corners. Some start at the corners, which pulls the whole canvas taut sooner, but care must be taken not to pull the frame out of alignment. Either way, the tacks or staples should be applied about 1-1/2 inches apart (closer for linen). Continue tacking or stapling for several inches on each side of the center, then rotate the frame and continue the process on an adjacent side. Depending on the size of the frame, you may rotate it several times before it is completely stretched.
Tuck in the corners with two folds and tack through the folded canvas into the frame, while pulling it taut with your fingers.
The excess canvas can then be taped or tacked to the back of the frame. Trimming is not recommended, as it limits the possibility of restretching the canvas if the need should arise in the future. Do not wet the back of the canvas to remove any wrinkles; instead, remove the tacks and restretch the affected portion.
Preprimed canvas is ready to paint. Unprimed canvas can now be primed.
Use one of two methods.
A. Traditional method for oil painting
Size the canvas or linen with Rabbit Skin Glue. (Dissolve a tablespoon of crystals into a cup of water. a double boiler; do not boil. Apply with a brush.) When glue sizing is dry, apply DANIEL SMITH Oil Gesso. For a very smooth surface, Oil Gesso can be sanded when completely dry and additional coats can be applied let each coat dry and sand between coats.
B. Modern method for oil or acrylic painting
Apply DANIEL SMITH Acrylic Gesso directly to the stretched canvas. Let it dry thoroughly, then apply a second coat. After the second coat has dried, the canvas is ready to paint.