From the Studio: Re-stretching a canvas

March 15th, 2014
Anomaly: Mixed Flock, 4' x 4' acrylic on canvas ©lizamyers

Anomaly: Mixed Flock, 4′ x 4′ acrylic on canvas ©lizamyers


Recently I had an fortunate/unfortunate experience in the process of selling a large canvas. (Well, 4′ x 4′- not that large.)
Having someone fall in love with the painting and take it to a new, happy home was great. A successful sale was great. But one of the stretcher bars had warped.

Not so great.

Re-stretching a canvas can be a challenge.


Corner braces firmly placed into corners after the corners are squared.

First step: order and assemble new stretcher bars.
I recommend that you purchase the highest quality stretcher bars.
They must be heavy duty ones for a canvas this large.
Be sure that they are not warped!
All corners must be precisely squared.

Center brace conveniently connected to side stretchers.

Center brace conveniently connected to side stretchers.



Next, carefully remove the painting from the warped stretchers. For this I use a flat edged screwdriver, gently prying it under the staple and twisting the tip to lift the staple without ripping the canvas.  (Rips in canvases are frowned upon.)


Underneath the tarp is a thick pad.

Underneath the tarp is a thick pad.

Once the painting has been removed from the original stretcher bars, lay it face down on a clean, soft surface.

Then match the corners of the the painting VERY CAREFULLY  to the corners of the stretchers. If they aren’t perfect you’ll have to take it off and do it again.

After your corners are matched put in a few light staples as place holders. You will have to lift them to tidy up the canvas corners in the end.

Then, start by stapling 3-5 3/8″ heavy duty staples in the middle of each side of the canvas. Work on one side, then stretch the canvas taut and put in the same amount of staples on the opposite side. Then rotate and repeat,  keeping the canvas tightly stretched as you move from the center of the stretcher out to the corners. Keep your staples balanced, the same number on each side.

The corners are very important. Decide which way you want to fold them and be consistent on all four corners. Hospital corners like old fashioned bed sheets? Simple overlap? It’s up to you.

Almost done! Two pairs of hands are essential!

Almost done! Two pairs of hands are essential!

Get a friend to help you. Unless I grow an extra pair of arms I can’t manage the restretching process alone.
The canvas must be very taut, and very even. It takes two or even three people to get it right.

Triple check all of your edges.

I hope this is helpful if you need to re-stretch or even stretch an original canvas.

Happy painting!



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