How to Choose the Right Stretcher Bars

WHAT DO I NEED TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING STRETCHER BARS FOR MY ART CANVAS?
WHICH PROFILE IS BEST?
HOW MUCH CROSS BRACING IS REQUIRED?

The right stretcher bar profile and adequate bracing are important to ensure ease of use and the stability of the frame during canvas stretching, priming or other preparation of the painting surface, and the long-term protection of the painting. Upper Canada Stretchers has eight different profiles (width and thickness of stretcher bars) to cover most needs. We can make any other options, as required, for special orders.

The choice of profile and configuration of any bracing depends on the size of the frame and what is being stretched (whether a finished painting, pre-primed canvas, or raw canvas to be gessoed).

Bracing is used to support the longer bars to keep them from bending in towards the center under tension from the stretched canvas. It is also required to keep the bars from rotating inwards toward the canvas which would cause the frame to buckle and not sit flat against the wall. Proper bracing allows the frame to use the lightest possible bars and still be strong and stable under tension.

Many professional artists and conservators also like to include at least one brace on any frame with bar lengths over about 24” just to protect the back of the painting from being hit accidentally during transportation or while in storage.

 

Assess the likely tension:

To decide on the correct profile and bracing for your project, you need to assess the maximum tension the frame may be under at any point in its life.

Tension on the bars comes from several sources:

  • The initial stretching pressure applied by the canvas pliers as you are stretching the canvas before tacking or stapling. (Note: This tension does not have to be great – reasonably tight is good enough. Any slight looseness can be taken up by tapping in the keys a bit after the canvas is completely stretched and stapled in place.)
  • Raw cotton or linen canvas shrinks when wet with gesso or rabbit skin glue sizing and puts a VERY LARGE strain on the stretcher bars and staples (and hence on the canvas itself where it is stapled). This is by far the most strain a frame will ever have to bear, unless it gets wet again somewhere in its life. (Note: Raw linen, when wet with gesso or ESPECIALLY rabbit skin glue, typically creates much greater tension on the stretcher bars than raw cotton canvas does. This may necessitate heavier-duty stretcher bars or bracing to accommodate. If these are the materials you plan to use, please call us at 1-800-561-4944 for assistance in judging the best frame for your project.)
  • Pre-primed and pre-painted canvas puts much less stress on the frame, therefore requiring less bracing than frames stretched with raw canvas.
  • The weight of the canvas and paint layers to be added also need to be factored in (which is much greater for large canvases.)

 

DESIGN RECOMMENDATIONS

* The size  recommendations for the following profiles assume the maximum tension (raw canvas to be gessoed).

 

Basic Stretcher Bar Profile

  • Economic choice for small & medium-sized canvases
Buy Basic Stretchers Online

RECOMMENDED SIZE RANGE:

6 – 36 inches
(15 – 92 cm)

Basic stretcher bar for small to medium sized stretched artist canvases

Standard Stretcher Bar Profile

  • Very popular profile used for small & medium canvas sizes
  • Adding our 1/2″ x 3″ braces for bars over 36″ provides very strong and stable support for canvases
Buy Standard Stretchers Online

10 – 60 inches
(25 – 153 cm)

Standard stretcher bar for small and medium sized stretched artist canvases

Professional Stretcher Bar Profile

  • Thicker profile provides extra fall and more “set-back” between the canvas and stretcher frame. This feature is ideal for larger canvases and for artists who like to press hard on the canvas when applying paint.
  • 3/16″ rebate on the back of the stretcher bars allows for installation of a protective backing
  • Adding our 1/2″ x 3″ braces for bars over 36″ provides very strong and stable support for canvases
Buy Professional Stretchers Online

10 – 72 inches
(25 – 183 cm)

Professional stretcher bar for medium and large sized stretched artist canvases

Gallery Stretcher Bar Profile

  • Economical choice for “Gallery Wrap” display of prints on canvas
  • Uses the unique single-key-per-corner design
  • Very easy to stretch
  • Adding  our regular 1/2″ x 3″ braces for bars over 36″ provides very strong and stable support for canvases
Buy Gallery Stretchers Online

6 – 60 inches
(15 – 153 cm)

Gallery wrap stretcher bar, economical choice for gallery wrapped canvases


Heavy Duty Basic Stretcher Bar Profile

  • Economical choice for medium to large-sized canvases
  • Laminated design produces very reliable, straight and stable support for canvases
  • Uses heavier 3/4″ x 3″ braces to provide necessary frame support for bars longer than 36″
Buy HD Basic Stretchers Online

24 – 84 inches
(61 – 214 cm)

Heavy Duty Basic stretcher bar for medium and large sized stretched artist canvases


Heavy Duty Standard Stretcher Bar Profile

  • Most commonly used large format stretcher profile
  • Laminated design produces very reliable, straight, and stable support for canvases
  • Uses heavier 3/4″ x 3″ braces to provide necessary frame support for bars longer than 36″. In some cases, our 1-1/8″ extra-heavy-duty braces may be recommended.
  • Bars and braces longer than 96″ (240 cm) are often made in one or two sections using splice joints that are assembled with flush-mounted bolts. This makes it possible to ship large frames by courier and also allows for paintings to be folded for easier transportation once stretched.
Contact us for a quote

72 – 120 inches
(183 – 305 cm)

Heavy Duty Standard stretcher bar for large stretched artist canvases


Heavy Duty Professional Stretcher Bar Profile

  • Ideal for very large frames or smaller frames where very high tension is required
  • Laminated design produces very reliable, straight, and stable support for canvases
  • Thicker profile also provides extra “set-back” space between the canvas and stretcher components, a feature favoured by artists who like to press hard on the canvas when applying paint
  • Uses heavier 3/4″ x 3″ braces to provide necessary frame support for bars longer than 36″. In some cases, our 1-1/8″ extra-heavy-duty braces may be recommended.
  • Bars and braces longer than 96″ (240 cm) are often made in one or two sections using splice joints that are assembled with flush-mounted bolts. This makes it possible to ship large frames by courier and also allows for paintings to be folded for easier transportation once stretched.
Contact us for a quote

up to 144  inches
(up to 366  cm)

Heavy Duty Professional stretcher bar for large and extra large stretched artist canvases


“L-shaped” or “T-shaped” Extra-Deep Stretcher Bar Profile

  • Our L & T-shaped stretcher designs were developed for artists wanting extra-deep frames
  • We custom make these stretchers in thicknesses ranging from 2″ to 6″ (5 cm to 15 cm)
  • The ‘L’ & ‘T’ shapes creates a lightweight yet strong and straight stretcher
Contact us for a quote

12 – 84  inches
(30 – 214  cm)

L-shaped Standard stretcher bar for stretched artist canvases with an extra deep or extra thick edge

Extra Heavy Duty Standard / Professional Stretcher Bar Profile

  • For extra-large  stretchers over 120″ (300 cm) in length, we use a 3-ply laminated bar with 1-1/8″ x 3″ extra heavy duty braces to provide the necessary structural strength to provide the necessary structural strength to support a well-tensioned canvas
  • Bars and braces longer than 96″ (240 cm) are often made in one or two sections using splice joints that are assembled with flush-mounted bolts. This makes it possible to ship large frames by courier and also allows for paintings to be folded for easier transportation once stretched.
Contact us for a quote

10 – 20 feet
(3 – 6 meters)

Extra Heavy-Duty Standard:

Extra Heavy Duty Standard stretcher bar for very large stretched artist canvases


Special Large Projects

  • For  frames larger than 20 feet or for projects requiring a custom design, Upper Canada Stretchers uses extra-thick bars and braces or the addition of aluminum to strengthen the frame. Please phone 1-800-561-4944 or  email us  to discuss your unique project requirements.
Contact us for a quote

20 feet & up
(6 meters +)

Examples of custom solutions using wood and aluminum components:

aluminum-wood-stretcher-bars-1aluminum-wood-stretcher-bars-2