Art & Decor Trends

How to Stretch An Oil Painting Canvas

Stretching your own oil painting is easier than you might think and can be cheaper than having the painting stretched by the framing company.

In order to stretch a canvas you’ll need the following supplies from an art store:

  • Four stretcher bars.
  • A staple gun and staples (or carpet tacks and hammer).
  • Clamps

Steps to Stretch:

  1. The first step is to join the stretcher bars. Lay them out on a flat surface, and push the corners together by hand. If necessary, tap the corners gently with a rubber hammer. Check that they form a right angle with something that is fairly accurate, such as a book.
  2. Staple the four corners of the stretcher bars together forming a rectangular frame.
  3. Roll out your canvas, put the formed stretcher bars on top of it, and wrap it around the bars. The canvas should fold over the outside edges of the wooden bars.
  4. The most important things to remember when stapling your canvas to the stretcher bars is to work from the middle outwards and alternating opposite sides.
  5. Starting in the center on any side, staple the canvas to the back of the stretcher. Put in about three staples, approximately two inches apart. With your first few canvases, you’ll probably put in more staples than you need; practice will give you a feel for this.
  6. Move to the opposite side, while pulling the canvas tightly with the clamp, and staple the middle in place. Repeat with the other two edges.
  7. At the corners of the canvas you need to fold the canvas over creating a nice corner and stapling it in place.
  8. If you feel that the canvas was not stretched properly, don’t try and fix it. My advice to you is to take all the staples out and just start over again.


  1. Stretchers are sold in standard sizes, check the size of your art and then go to your local art supply store and ask for the appropriate size stretcher bars.
  2. Get a friend to help you by holding the canvas in place if you don’t have clamps.
  3. If your local art store doesn’t sell stretcher bars, buy it from an on-line supplier, just check for the size of the bars first.
  4. Some online galleries stretch the painting for free if you purchase the painting framed. If you don’t feel up to stretching it yourself, it might be a good idea to have it framed by professionals.

About the Author

Amitai Sasson of is an art world traveler on a mission to seek out the beauty and passion of the art world. As an avid enthusiast of art and oil paintings, he contributes to as Chief editor and writer.