How To Assemble Your Gallery Bars For Stretching Prints On Canvas

September 19, 2017

Printing photos on canvas is certainly popular right now; just check out all of the inspirational “photos on canvas” projects on Pinterest and the thousands of Instagram posts hashtagged #photosoncanvas.




But this method of displaying your fond memories is more than a just a passing trend. It’s giving amateur and professional photographers alike a great deal of control over how their best shots are preserved and showcased.

There are plenty of services out there that will let you upload your photos and print them on canvas for you. In a recent blog post, we shared some expert tips to help you choose the right materials and service providers for your DIY photos-on-canvas projects.

In this post, we’ll take a deeper look at the process of assembling your own gallery bars. Stretching your own canvas prints gives you maximum control over the quality of the stretcher, ensuring that your print will stay looking its best for years to come.




Gallery wrapped canvas has a professional, polished look that makes your photos look like they belong in… well, a gallery!

Gallery wrapped Heineken posters on Upper Canada Stretchers frames.

Gallery wrapped Heineken posters on Upper Canada Stretchers frames.

As you can see in the above example, in a gallery wrap, the canvas wraps around the edge of the stretcher and is secured at the back. The image has depth from every angle. If that aesthetic doesn’t work for the photo you have in mind, another way to achieve an art gallery quality look is to use a floating frame, which you can learn more about here.

For best results, you’re going to want to use a keyable canvas stretcher for your photo print. The keyed feature of the frame makes it much easier to properly stretch the canvas since you only need to pull the canvas hand tight when stapling on the frame. There’s no need for special canvas pliers! By keying out the four corners, the frame can then be expanded slightly to apply the proper tension evenly across the canvas. Also, canvas has a natural tendency to stretch over time. Using a keyable stretcher allows you to adjust the tension of the canvas over time, keeping your photo drum tight and looking its best. It’s important that your frame stays square and strong, as well.

You’ll also want to make sure that your canvas print is large enough to leave a 2” border around the edge for stapling to the back of the stretcher frame. You’ll find some photo editing tips to help you choose and prepare your photo in this blog post.




You don’t need any special skills or tools to assemble your own gallery bars into a strong, stable stretcher for your canvas photo print. In fact, all you need is:

  • a staple gun with ⅜” or ½” staples
  • measuring tape
  • hammer
Give your photo prints on canvas depth and an expensive, polished look with gallery wrapping.

Give your photo prints on canvas depth and an expensive, polished look with gallery wrapping.

With your tools and gallery bars set out in front of you, there are just 4 simple steps to assembling the frame:

  1. Place two staples across each corner joint, front and back.
  2. Place the frame upside down and centred on your canvas, leaving at least a 2” border for stapling.
  3. Staple the canvas to the back of the frame, applying even tension to pull it tight as you go.
  4. Tap the keys gently to stretch the canvas to the desired tension.

That’s it! This video will walk you through it step-by-step and is helpful while you’re folding your corners, particularly if this is your first attempt at stretching your own canvas.


Ready to get started?

You can save up to 50% on your gallery frame by choosing stock sized stretcher bars. Each gallery bar order includes one key per bar, and two keys per brace. If you’re planning a class or group project, you can save another 15% with your order of 24 or more stretchers. Visit the UCS Art Online Store to learn more!

Tags: Choose the Right Stretcher Bars DIY canvas Fine Art Education How to stretch canvas Large canvas