Every time I stretch canvas and show sneak peeks of the process on Instagram I get a ton of questions. Most of the questions pertain to what I’m doing, or why I do things a certain way. Most of the questions revolve around very Googleable (it’s a word, don’t even pretend it’s not) questions. Questions that either Google can answer for you, or that I have already answered in this Resources post.

Occasionally though I will get questions that I really like. For example….

WHY, would you stretch your own canvas when you can buy stretched canvases at an art supply store?

The main reason is size. When I get into a really big size canvases most art supply stores do not sell the exact dimensions I need, or I’d have to order it online and pay an exorbitant amount in shipping for a pre-stretched piece. The main reason I like to stretch pieces is because of the manhandling. Stretching a big painting usually takes a few hours from the assembling the frame, to measuring and cutting the canvas, to actually stapling and drilling the thing together. The canvas and I have already gone through battle together before I’ve even started painting, and I won. It helps me relax when I’m painting knowing that I’ve already conquered the canvas on some level. And even though after stretching I’m usually left with aching hands, a sore neck and back and blisters on my fingers, it’s worth it knowing that I showed that canvas boss, and I’m going to do it again when I paint it.

Don’t you have to be strong to stretch canvas?
I like to think so. I used to not be able to stretch my own canvas and always enlisted the help of my husband because I was afraid I would get too many wrinkles, or that I wouldn’t pull tight enough. All that is lies, I can stretch a piece on my own without assistance because yes I am strong enough and you probably are too. It’s more about technique than strength.

What are the benefits of stretching vs. buying pre-stretched?
There are several benefits. I can order stretcher bars for ANY SIZE CANVAS and stretch it. The customization is unmatched. You can really do whatever size you want. You cannot order whatever size you want pre-stretched. Not every shape and size exists unless you stretch it yourself. Stretching your own canvas also means that you can pick the materials, primed or raw canvas, regular wooden bars or steel bars etc… The options and accessories are endless and you can’t get that with store bought. Another benefit of stretching your own canvas is you can prep the bars properly.

Do I still buy pre-stretched canvas? Absolutely if there is a sale going on or if the piece I’m making is a standard size that is small. I usually buy small canvases pre-stretched. But for the bigger stuff I like to do it myself. Where do I get my materials?