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8x10 Canvas Stretching Tutorial
by John O'Keefe Jr.

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STEP BY STEP CANVAS STRETCHING

8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 1 - Assemble all materials

Step 1

Assemble all materials and tools before starting.

  1. Cloth Work Surface
  2. Giclee Print
  3. Pre-Made Stretcher Bars
  4. Square Ruler
  5. Mallet
  6. Small Hammer (not shown)
  7. Flathead Screwdriver (not shown)
  8. Staple Gun
  9. 1/4" Staples

8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 2 - Dry-Fit first two stretcher bars

Step 2

In this example we used pre-made stretcher bars that come ready to assemble. These stretcher bars come with cut grooves at each end for mating and interlocking to adjacent bars. You may need to sand rough edges on pre-made stretchers because the cutting tools used during the manufacturing process may leave wood burrs and rough edges.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 3 - Fully seat first two stretcher bars

Step 3

Make sure that you fully seat the two stretcher bar ends. If you see a gap along the seam where the two ends meet, then you have not fully mated the two bars.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 4 - Fully seat remaining stretcher bars

Step 4

In this view all four stretcher bars are mated together. However, we need to ensure that all four corners of this assembly are square. (i.e. A, B, C, & D)


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 5 - Use square to measure squareness

Step 5

We will need to check each corner to make sure they are square using a square ruler. This is a very important step because if your final assembly is not square it may not fit into your frame.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 6 - Fully seat square onto stretcher bar corners

Step 6

Hold the square ruler as shown and check that both inside edges of the ruler run flush along the surface of each stretcher bar. If the ruler lifts off one side (not running flush along one surface while being fully flush on the other) then your not square on that corner.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 7 - Adjust with mallet if out-of-square

Step 7

Using a mallet, you can gently tap the corner(s) to make adjustments.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 8 - Recheck for squareness

Step 8

Recheck all corners until they are all square. Now you are ready to start the canvas mounting process.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 9 - Clean work surface before laying down canvas print

Step 9

Before laying down your giclee canvas print make sure there is no debris or wood pieces (that may have fallen off during stretcher bar assembly) which could damage the printed surface. A soft cloth work surface is preferred which further minimizes the chances of causing small scratches to your giclee canvas print.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 10 - Inspect canvas print for damage before proceeding

Step 10

Lay down your print (face up) and make a final close examination to ensure its not damaged from the print supplier.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 11 - Place canvas print face down on work surface

Step 11

At this point turn over your giclee print so the image is face down. You are now ready to position your stretcher bar assembly.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 12 - Place assembled stretcher bars on canvas print

Step 12

Place your stretcher bar assembly over your giclee canvas print as shown.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 13 - Align stretcher bars with image outline

Step 13

Starting with the right side, carefully lift up the canvas print and ensure that the image is wrapping around the front face of the stretcher bar. Repeat this on the opposite side, moving the stretcher assembly left or right as needed until you see the image wrapping equally around both side bars.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 14 - Mark canvas with pencil along stretcher bars

Step 14

Once you are sure the stretcher bar is centered in relation to the printed image, draw a reference line along each side as shown. This reference line will come in handy later if the stretcher assembly moves out of position and you need to realign it.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 15 - Check that pencil mark aligns with image

Step 15

As we did in Step 13 for the side positioning, we now want to center the stretcher bar assembly along the top and bottom bars. Carefully lift up the canvas print and ensure that the image is wrapping around the front face of the bottom stretcher bar. Repeat this for the top stretcher bar, moving the stretcher assembly up or down as needed until you see the image wrapping equally around the top and bottom bars.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 16 - Check pencil marks all around with canvas print image

Step 16

Once you are sure the stretcher bar is centered in relation to the printed image, draw a reference line along each side as shown. We have now centered the stretcher bar assembly in both the vertical and horizontal directions with respect to the printed image. We are now ready to begin the canvas stretching, wrapping, and stapling processes.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 17 - Prepare staple gun for canvas attachment to stretcher bars

Step 17

For this example we have selected 1/4" staples. Make sure your staple gun is loaded so that you do not run out of staples part way through the next steps.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 18 - Fold canvas print over first stretcher bar

Step 18

Starting with the top stretcher bar, wrap the giclee canvas print around the stretcher bar as shown. Be sure that the stretcher assembly has not moved out of the reference lines we drew earlier.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 19 - Staple canvas print over first stretcher bar
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Step 19

Holding the staple gun squarely on the canvas and stretcher bar, staple the canvas to the stretcher bar in the center of the bar as shown.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 20 - First staple should be in the center of stretcher bar

Step 20

Check that your assembly looks like this - having one staple in the center of the top stretcher bar.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 21 - Seat staple with hammer if not fully inserted

Step 21

Sometimes the staple gun is not held square to the canvas and stretcher bar resulting in a staple that is not full inserted. Lightly tap the staple with a hammer until it is fully inserted.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 22 - Fold canvas print over opposite stretcher bar

Step 22

We are now ready to tightly pull and wrap the giclee canvas print around the bottom stretcher bar. Using just your hand strength, pull the canvas, wrap it around the bottom stretcher bar, and hold securely with thumb (as shown) in preparation for stapling.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 23 - Staple canvas print over opposite stretcher bar

Step 23

While still holding your thumb in place, insert one staple in the center of the bottom stretcher bar. Once you have inserted the first two staples into the top and bottom stretcher bars as shown you should notice a slight tension pull on the canvas between the two staple points (i.e. points A and B.)


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 24 - Fold and staple canvas print over third stretcher bar

Step 24

As we did in the previous steps for the top and bottom, now we must secure the left and right sides. Starting with the left side, stretch, wrap, and hold canvas securely in position in preparation for stapling. (Not shown: Insert one staple in the center of the left stretcher bar.)


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 25 - Fold and staple canvas print over fourth stretcher bar

Step 25

As we did in the previous steps, stretch, wrap, and staple the right side. Be sure that when stapling opposing sides you stretch the canvas so that it does not droop or sag. Our assembly should now have one staple placed directly in the center of each stretcher bar as shown.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 26 - Flip assembly and inspect the image is square with stretcher bars

Step 26

Flip over the assembly so that you are looking at the printed image on the front. Check that the image is centered both vertically and horizontally - you should see the image wrapping equally around all sides and no 'white' border should be visible along the front face. Check that the image has not rotated clockwise or counter-clockwise so that it is no longer square with the stretcher bars. Also, check that the printed image is not overly loose or sagging. In the next steps we will tighten the canvas as we stretch, wrap, and insert the remaining staples, but now is the time to remove the staples and make adjustments if the position of the image is off or the canvas is very loose and sagging.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 27 - Staple first stretcher from center to end

Step 27

Beginning with the top stretcher bar (1), insert staples starting from the center staple and moving left with each new staple until you reach the left stretcher bar as shown.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 28 - Staples remaining stretchers from center to end

Step 28

Repeat the previous step for the bottom (2), left (3), and right (4) stretcher bars... in that order. Remember to start from the center staple and move in the direction of the arrows (as shown) as you staple the remaining three sides.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 29 - Staple all four stretchers in opposite direction

Step 29

Now we are ready to pull and stretch the canvas for the remaining unsecured areas. Starting with the top (1) stretcher bar, PULL THE CANVAS SNUG, hold it with your thumb and staple from the center to the right stretcher bar as shown. Repeat this process for the bottom (2), left (3), and right (4) stretcher bars... in that order. IMPORTANT: You should notice that the canvas has more tension across the front face. It should not sag, droop, or have ripples along the surface. If any of these conditions exists then you did not apply enough tension during the pulling and stapling process. If you determine that your canvas was not stretched properly you may need to remove all the staples and repeat the stretching and stapling processes. One indication of good tension is hearing the sound of a drum when you tap your finger on the back of the canvas. On a small hand stretched canvas (as shown in this tutorial) it may sound more like a deep thud.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 30 - Fold and Wrap canvas around corner

Step 30

Now we must fold and secure the four corners. Hold the corner of the canvas material as shown.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 31 - Ensure canvas print is stretched tight over corner

Step 31

While applying tension, wrap the corner around the stretcher bar as show so that the fold is on the side of the assembly. The fold should run at a 45 degree angle as shown.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 32 - Hold wrapped canvas print tightly on back

Step 32

While continuing to apply tension on the canvas material, fold it around the back face and hold securely in the position shown in preparation for stapling.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 33 - Staple folded corner to stretcher bar

Step 33

While holding the corner in position, insert several staples as shown.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 34 - Repeat folding and stapling on remaining corners

Step 34

Repeat steps 30 through 33 on the remaining three corners. Be careful that your folded edges are always on along the side stretcher bars. Your finished assembly should look like this when viewed from the back. Now use your hammer to ensure that all staples are fully inserted.


8 x 10 Canvas Stretching - Step 30 - Inspect and Finished

Step 35

Finished!

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John O'Keefe Jr.
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About the Author...
     John specializes in landscape oil painting done in a style similar to the famous Hudson River School and Victorian era artists. He also specializes in reproduction painting frames, framing supplies and Giclee prints of his landscape paintings.
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