Canvas stretcher keys are a unique design feature that bring stability and longevity to your artwork, but what else do you need to know about them? If you’re used to getting your stretchers at a craft store or buying economy grade art supports, you might be unfamiliar with keyable stretchers and the value they add to your works.

A keyed stretcher enables you to adjust your canvas tension over time.

In this post, we’ll share some of the questions we’re asked most often about keyable stretchers, with links to videos and resources where you can learn more.

What is a keyable stretcher?

A stretcher key is a critical stretcher frame design feature that allows you to adjust the tension of your canvas in small increments.

Why use a keyable stretcher in the first place?

Keyable stretchers safeguard your paintings and canvas photo prints from wear that occurs in all canvas over time. Canvas will absorb moisture over the years, causing it to expand. When your canvas is allowed to stretch and sag, the resultant damage to the layers of oil paint can be dramatic.

Is it more difficult to assemble a keyable stretcher?

Not at all! You’ll need the same tools you use to assemble any other stretcher frame: a measuring tape, carpenter’s square, staple gun and mallet (or a regular hammer and a mallet head).

You can see exactly how simple it is to put a perfectly square, keyable stretcher frame together right here:

How do canvas stretcher keys work?

Stretcher keys are precisely manufactured to fit in the mitered tongue and groove joints of a properly constructed canvas frame. When you adjust the keys (called ‘keying’ your frame), your frame expands slightly to pull the canvas tight again.

How much do keyable stretcher frames cost?

Considering the headaches and expense caused by economy-grade standards that fail over time, you’ll find keyable, professional-grade stretchers surprisingly affordable.

On each of our stretcher bar profile product pages, you’ll find an Instant Quote calculator that will price out your bars, according to the dimensions you input. For example:

Instant Quotes on canvas stretchers tool


It’s a quick and easy way to price out your art supports. You’ll find an Instant Quote calculator for each of our stretcher bars:

You can also cost out your floater frames using the Instant Quote tool for those here.

Want to learn more?

Explore our most Frequently Asked Questions, and read the How to Choose the Right Stretcher Bars guide here.