Canvas Stretching
Preserve it and prepare your artwork for framing. We can stretch your canvases, both painted and unpainted!

We can stretch any size canvas, both traditional and digital, and we do the work on-site.

The purpose of stretching a canvas is to preserve it and prepare it for framing. We stretch a lot of canvases, both painted and unpainted. Depending upon the size of the canvas, we have a number of different sizes of wood stretcher bars we use (light-weight, medium-weight, heavy-weight as well as 1 1/2" or 2" deep "gallery wrap" styles). We also believe in using cross bars to prevent canvases being stretched from developing an hourglass shape. Prior to the invention of the stapler, canvases were stretched using copper tacks (they don't rust). Nowadays we, usually, use a pneumatic stapler and can either staple the canvas on its edge or on its back, depending upon how much canvas we have to work with. If the canvas is valuable or the client has a specific preference, we are happy to stretch the canvas with copper tacks. It is a little more labor intensive, since it takes two people to do this properly, so the labor cost is a bit higher.

Inevitably, questions come up about stretching. Here are a few:

How Much of A Spare Edge Do You Need For Stretching And Stapling?

We prefer to have at least 1" beyond the amount of canvas it takes to cover the edge of the stretcher bar. That way, we have something to grab with the canvas pliers so that we can stretch the canvas tightly with a minimum of wrinkles. This means we prefer 2-3" from the edge of the painting. In that way, we can staple the canvas on the back. If you are stretching on a 1 1/2" to 2" deep Gallery Wrap stretcher, you will need an extra 2 1/2" to 3" all around.

I Bought This Painting On Vacation In The Carribean And Brought It Back Rolled Up. Any Problem With This?

There is no problem with the canvas being rolled up. Hopefully, however, the paint was not applied so thickly that it didn't crack in the process. If the canvas comes in rolled up and stiff, we will warm it up first before unrolling it and stretching it to soften the paint a bit. The most common problem we run into with canvases from The Third World, is that they were painted on stretchers that were not square to start with, on canvas that may be something as inexpensive as bedsheets, curtains or spare fabric that have been gessoed over. In addition to not being square, they may not have left you much on the edges to re-stretch the canvas. We will not build a crooked stretcher, however, to restretch the canvas. It becomes unframeable because of that issue. If they have cut off the extra canvas on the edges, we can mount the canvas to an acid-free board  and trim it square so that it can be framed.

How Big A Canvas Can You Stretch?

Typically, the longest, heavy duty stretchers we build can be just under 10 feet long. We buy heavy duty stretcher bar in 10 foot sticks. You must allow for miters at the corners, so the stretchers cannot be 10 feet long. However, remember that there are logistical problems with a canvas that size, such as getting it through a doorway and transporting it, usually requiring a straight truck with a big box on the back of it. In some extreme cases, we have gone so far as to stretch the canvas on-site, since it cannot be transported any other way.We have stretched canvases in excess of 20 feet, but only on-site using hybrid wood and aluminum stretchers from Jack Richeson & Co. They have splicing panels and crossbars made specifically for daisy-chaining long runs of stretcher. They also have corner bracing hardware for keying out the corners when needed. Contact us for a quote if you have a special, oversize canvas project.

Why can't I just build my own stretchers out of 2 x 4's?

You can, but the problem is that stretcher bars are shaped especially, so that the canvas only rests on the rounded outer edge, with the main, flat portion falling away and tapering in thickness so that the stretcher doesn't touch the back of the canvas. Over time, if it does touch it, a line begins to appear in the painting. So, unless you are handy with a lumber milling machine or an electric router to make your own stretcher bar from scratch, we recommend you let us do that for you. For some clients, we cut the stretcher bars, when very long, and bring them on-site and stretch the canvas there for them. However, they pay a lot more for that privilege, including travel time.

Is It Expensive To Stretch A Canvas?

No, it is not expensive, relative to what it will cost to frame it. We charge for the stretcher bar it is going to be attached to and the amount of labor it takes to staple it onto the stretcher. It is somewhat labor intensive, but the canvas looks great once it is attached, all smooth and taut. Like frames, bigger canvases take more time to stretch and cost more than smaller ones. The main point here, though, is that it must be stretched before it can be framed. In a few minor cases, we have (with the customer's permission) dry mounted  the canvas to board and framed it with mats under glass. However, this is fairly rare.

Some of the time, people will call for quotes and then tell us that "I have gotten other quotes somewhat cheaper from other framers and you are a little high." Our answer is that you get what you pay for. We are experts at what we do and have decades of experience and PPFA certification to prove it. Also, we cannot speak to what the overhead costs or expense structure is for other framers, so we really cannot price our services according to what it costs other framers to do business. Our prices are fair, very competitive, but reflect what we need to charge to stay in business.