Canvas Stretching & Framing

Many of our blog posts arise from common questions we get asked by our customers. One we get asked occasionally is “Why is canvas stretching so expensive?” Sometimes this is followed by a statement of “I only paid 20 bucks for the canvas from Bali.”

So expense can be relative! We frame any canvas with high quality stretcher bars and finishings regardless of the value of the canvas.

Some people have even considered trying to DIY canvas stretching. But there are some differences between having a professional picture framer stretch your canvas onto quality stretcher bar and popping to the local Bunnings to buy some timber to give it a red hot go yourself!

Heres why.

  • It’s tricky – getting the tension right, folding the corners, not ripping the canvas. We have special tools and pneumatic staplers to make it easier. It’s too easy to make a simple mistake which ends up costing you time, energy and hassle.
  • Stretcher bars are not square – THIS IS IMPORTANT!! The top face of stretcher bars slope downwards. This means that the face of the canvas only comes into contact with the rolled edge of the stretcher bar. If a square piece of timber was used, the sharp 45 degree inside edge of the timber would eventually become visible underneath the canvas.
  • canvas stretching
  • The mitres touch – our saw allows us to cut the lengths of stretcher bar on the 45 degree angle and our pneumatic v-nailer allows us to join the timbers with ease.
  • It’s not one size fits all – Stretcher frames should be suitable for the size of the canvas, getting bigger as the size goes up. Cheap stretchers can warp easily and sadly we see too many of these.
  • Bracing – we brace larger canvases (anything over 1m) and heavy weight materials you need to brace the frame at the back, it shouldn’t touch the canvas and its main role is to stop the main stretcher from bowing inwards. Often larger frames have a number of braces.
  • I got it on holidays, I love it… – Often these are fabulous mementoes that end up being not cost effective to frame, “The canvas cost me just a few dollars, the stretcher frame costs heaps more!” Yep that happens… The other thing to consider is the material that the painting was done on, often lightweight calico, not really designed for stretching much, or lasting a long time. Then there’s the roller blind type material, this seems quite robust, but not the same as a good quality canvas or linen. I guess this one is more about supply and demand than a quality issue from the producers point of view. The quality of the canvas can effect how well we can stretch it.
  • Corner folding – Some canvas manufacturers who supply pre stretched canvases and some well meaning but possibly ignorant framers, will simply fold the canvas around the stretcher and then cut any corner excess off. This is not good and on low cost and lightweight materials that can lead to a rip happening at the corner. When done properly the excess material is neatly folded so it does not show on the sides but the double thickness of the canvas is often out of sight on the top and bottom. If it needs to be restretched at any stage, the rectangle of canvas remains in tact.
  • How tight? – Picture framers can have a tightness gauge to set the tautness of the final canvas, most however use experience for how tight a canvas or linen will be. The aim is not to have a canvas where you can see sagging or floppiness in the end product. Nor do you want it to be as tight as a highly tuned drum, this can lead to rips happening too easily.
  • But I wanted a frame around it? – This can be done, either using a float frame or any number of traditional picture frames. Generally a frame on a canvas will not include glass across the front, and in most cases the frame is designed more to complement the image and provide physical protection to the sides of the canvas.

That’s the basics folks, we hope it gives you a greater insight into canvas stretching and framing and how to make sure you get a quality result.

If you would like to watch our youtube video about this topic, click here.


Steve Gray & Shakyra Clark

Picture Framer

The Picture Framing Shak

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