How to Stretch a Round or Oval Canvas

When stretching a round or oval frame, we recommend starting with unprimed cotton or linen canvas as they are much more flexible and can be stretched flat around the sides without creating unsightly pleating.

Use either an air-powered or hand-held stapler with 3/8" staples.

  1. Cut your canvas to allow enough to cover the sides plus at least 2 inches at the back, or as much as the full width of the strainer frame bars if you are stretching a large frame.
  2. Center the assembled round strainer frame, with the "canvas edge" down, on top of the cut canvas.
  3. Pull one edge of the canvas to the back of the frame and secure it with a thumb tack.
  4. Move to the opposite point from where you just added the tack and, giving the canvas a little tension, tack again.
  5. Assuming the tacks you just added represent '12' and '6' on a clock, do the same at '9' and '3'.
    How to Stretch a Round Canvas - tack canvas
  6. *If you are working on a larger frame, over 36", it is helpful to add more tacks at the center points in between the existing ones, always adding them on opposing sides as you move around the frame.  Add as many tacks as needed until you have no more than 12-18 inches between tacks.
  7. Start at any point between two tacks and, using either canvas pliers or "hand-tightness", add a little extra tension to the canvas and staple on the back of the frame, about an inch from the cut edge of the canvas.
    How to Stretch a Round Canvas - hand-tension or use canvas pliers
  8. Grab the edge of the canvas about 3-4 inches to the right or left and pull upward and inward toward the center of the frame so the canvas lays flat along the edge of the frame. Staple about an inch to the side of the first staple.  Pleating will be created in the canvas at the back when doing this but you want to try to keep the sides as smooth as possible.
    How to Stretch a Round Canvas - pull flat along edge and staple
  9. Move around the circumference of the frame, tensioning the canvas as you go.
  10. If there are minor wrinkles remaining on the edge of the frame when you are finished, these can be minimized or even eliminated by spraying the wrinkles with a little water.  An iron set to "Cotton" or "Linen", as appropriate, can also be used on raw canvas after spraying with water.
    Applying sizing and/or gesso to the canvas front and sides will also cause the canvas to contract, helping to remove wrinkles and adding additional tension to the canvas.
    How to Stretch a Round Canvas - some minor wrinkles can be removed by spraying with water