Monday, February 27, 2012

How to Make a Canvas {stretch and gesso}!

I recently talked to one of my artist friends who has never stretched her own canvas.  I was eager to show her how to do it, because I really think an artist should be involved in all aspects of the creation and also because the store bought ones usually suck.  It's actually really easy!

All you need is:
stretcher bars {I buy mine, but have made them too!} any sizes you want 2 one size and 2 another
staple gun
canvas as big as your frames plus 2-3 inches on each side {available for cheapest at SAS fabrics in phoenix, shop around, don't buy it at an art store they charge too much!}
gesso {I buy a lot and add water, lasts forever! and by forever I mean a few years}

And this is what you do {I'm pretty sure I just used all my paid google storage uploading all these full size images...oh well}:
cut canvas to the proper size for your frame, mine was 18x24 so my canvas is about 24x30
Pull fabric gently over the frame, make sure to leave enough fabric on the opposite side to grab and pull.
staple in the middle.
pull opposite side, directly across from first staple and staple that spot. 
now you should have 2 staples like the above image.
next, start on the non-stapled sides one in the middle. 
repeat on opposite side, make sure to pull tight.
now all 4 sides should have one staple each. 
next add two staples, one on each side of the first staple. 
repeat, by stapling one across from the recent two.
and then on the 3rd side do two next to the center staple. 
and repeat across, 2 more. remember to pull tightly on the fabric each time! 
you're literally, stretching the fabric.
repeat by adding two more to the top, and bottom and sides, each time rotating directly across from the most recent staple. example, if you add one to the top add one to the bottom or in our case,  if you add two to the right, add two to the left. 
repeat this process until you get to the corners, then you'll need to do some origami... 
above: before folding. 
above: follow the edge of the side of the canvas as you plan to display it,
above: tug fabric so it doesn't have any slack on the side of the canvas. 
above: pull down and staple in place. 
leave that extra fabric there, your going to fold it over after tucking the fabric away. 
above: with thumb and index hold fabric, fold it over the slack to tuck unwanted fabric away.
above: fabric is tucked properly. 
above: pull tightly and secure with staple, below: 
you can hammer the staple deeper into the canvas and frame at the end if desired. 
repeat on all four corners. 
from another angle... 
once all the corners are folded the canvas is stretched!
if you did it right you  will have a little give when you poke the canvas...
the gesso will need a little give otherwise it can warp the frame.

next, is the gesso...  
lay flat on painting surface.
I like house painting brushes for this, but you can also use a cheap craft sponge brush also pictured. 
just go to work! cover the whole canvas with even amount of white paint.
you can thin the gesso slightly by adding some water to the bucket, no more than 1 part water to 1 part gesso. 
once completely covered, paint the sides. 
above: before side gesso 
above: after gesso from behind 
above: after side gesso from the side and front view. 
and here's my 12x12 inch canvas, lots of staples for small canvases because I feel like it's more noticeable if not properly secured. 
and after gesso.  allow to dry completely before painting!

and you don't have to gesso every canvas, only the ones you want the paint to last on :)
it really is the most important thing for painting on canvas!!

So, there's a lot of information for an actually not that difficult task, I'd just rather over explain than not explain enough.

Good Luck! Happy painting!

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