How to Stretch a Canvas Painting or Prints on Canvas

You’ve bought a beautiful painting while on vacation or had a favourite photograph printed on canvas… but now, how do you get it ready for your wall? Here are a few questions and options to lead you through how to stretch and finish it to get it looking its best.


The first question that needs to be addressed is:

1)  DOES YOUR PRINT/PAINTING HAVE ANY ADDITIONAL BLANK CANVAS AROUND THE OUTSIDE EDGES OR DOES THE ART GO RIGHT TO THE EDGE?

  • If the art goes right to the edge of the canvas, you will have to do what is called a “gallery wrap” edge, which means that the image is wrapped around the sides of the stretcher frame.
  • If you have at least 2-1/2 inches of blank canvas around the outside edges of the painting or print, you can choose whether you want the image to go right to the edges of the frame or be gallery wrapped.

(A)  Gallery Wrap edge:

Example of a gallery wrapped canvas edge
Image wraps around edge of the frame

(B)  Image aligned with edge:

stretching paintings or photos from your travels
Image ends at edge of frame leaving blank canvas showing on sides


2)  DECIDING WHICH SIZE STRETCHER FRAME TO ORDER

 

(A)  GALLERY WRAPPED EDGE  (using 1-1/2″ deep Gallery Stretcher Bars from Upper Canada Stretchers):

** It’s a good idea to measure multiple places on each side of your canvas to check for wider or narrower spots. If there are large variations (1/4″ or more), you will need to use the smallest of your measurements as your starting point.

If your image does not have any additional blank canvas around the edge, measure your full canvas height and width and deduct 5 inches from each dimension. (This represents the depth of each stretcher bar plus an inch to wrap around the back of each one for stapling.) For example, if your canvas is 36″ x 24″, you would order a frame that is 31″ x 19″.

If you have 3/4″ or more of extra canvas around all edges and you choose to do a gallery wrapped edge, measure your IMAGE height and width and deduct 3-1/2 inches. (This represents the depth of each stretcher bar plus an additional 1/4 inch that wraps around the back edge to ensure no blank canvas shows on the sides once the image is stretched.) For example, if your image is 36″ x 24″, you would order your frame at 32-1/2″ x 20-1/2″.

TIP: Keep in mind if you are purchasing your stretcher bars from Upper Canada Stretchers that you can always choose a smaller frame size to take advantage of our stock sizing (and thus, stock pricing!) but be cautious of going much larger than these recommendations as you will need approximately 1″ of canvas on all sides to hold onto when stapling at the back.

Demonstration of how to stretch a print or painting “Gallery Wrap” style using Upper Canada Stretchers’ Gallery Stretcher Bars:

 

(B)  IMAGE ALIGNED WITH EDGE  (for any depth of stretcher bars):

If you have chosen to make your image align with the edge of the frame, measure the IMAGE height and width and deduct 1/2 inch from each dimension. (This is so you can have the image wrap slightly around the front edge of the stretcher bars so that no blank canvas ends up showing from the front.) If the edges of your image are not parallel and squared to each other then you may need to add an additional allowance to compensate for that.

For example, if you are ordering your stretcher frame from Upper Canada Stretchers (any stretcher bar profile), and your image is 36″ x 24″, you would order a frame that is 35-1/2″ x 23-1/2″.


3)  HOW TO FINISH YOUR CANVAS

If your canvas is gallery wrapped, you may like how it looks on the wall just as is. However, if you want a more finished look to your canvas, you could choose to add a floating frame, which is a frame designed specifically for stretched canvases. Available in seven different finishes, Upper Canada Stretchers’ floater frames are an attractive and affordable way to set off the beauty in your painting and make it really stand out.

If your image is stretched to be aligned with the edge of the frame, you have a few options for finishing the look, depending on your preference and decor:

  • leaving the edge as-is with the primed canvas showing
  • carefully paint the exposed canvas edge with a good quality acrylic paint to match or compliment the colours in your painting/print
  • cover the edge with fabric ribbon
  • Upper Canada Stretchers’ floater frames are always a complimentary option!