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4 Options for Stretching Canvas Prints in 2024

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There are a variety of ways to stretch a canvas print. However, not every method is appropriate for every kind of piece.

If you are looking for information about how to stretch a canvas print, you have come to the right place. In this article, we will explore four different approaches to stretch a canvas print over a frame

Explore the frequently asked questions section of this post for answers to questions about stretching canvas prints.

1. Outsourcing

If you are new to framing or aren’t comfortable with how to stretch a canvas, call the pros. You can always take your prints to a local frame shop to get stretched.

The Pros: You’re guaranteed a professional stretching job, with none of the hassles associated with stretching canvas.

Your prints can be dropped off for framing and then picked up at a later date when they are ready. Framers have the tools and equipment to stretch any print you bring to them. Your prints do not need to be a fixed size.

The Cons: Outsourcing is by far the most expensive way to stretch canvas prints.

Your cost to stretch canvas can range anywhere from $8-$20 per linear foot ($50-$150 per print). These numbers depend upon the size of the image and the thickness of the stretcher bar you choose.

Professional framing is an inherently lengthy process. It may take several days before your stretched prints are ready to pick up.

Not all framers are familiar with gallery wrapping canvas prints without a frame. Often, a framer will not maintain a stock of 1.5”-2” deep bars. You will need to find an experienced framer who is capable of producing the look you are after.

2. EasyWrappe 

Even if you are unfamiliar with the stretching process and lack the necessary equipment, EasyWrappe makes simple framing possible.

EasyWrappe allows you to create a professional gallery wrap in minutes. This enables you to eliminate outsourcing, ensure greater control over the process, and enjoy substantially greater profits from selling canvas prints.

The Pros: You or anyone (unskilled labor) can do a professional gallery wrap.

You will significantly lower your cost when compared to outsourcing. EasyWrappe only costs approximately $3.50 per linear foot – which is a 60%+ savings.

Produce your own canvas photo frames, and enjoy the benefits of printing and stretching on demand.

The Cons: Custom stretcher frames will require your time and attention when taking on canvas stretching.

Also, since EasyWrappe bars are only available in fixed sizes, you must plan your stretching jobs in advance. Stocking specific sized bars and adjusting your print size may be required.

If you produce a large amount of stretched canvas prints regularly there are cheaper (though more time intensive) stretching options available.

3. Pre-Notched Stretcher Bars

If you are trained in stretching a canvas print, you can easily lower your framing costs. Using the appropriate tools with pre-notched stretcher bars is the key.

With pre-notched stretcher bars, several wood options are available such as pine wood (most expensive) and fir wood (least expensive).

The Pros: Similar to EasyWrappe, printing and stretching on demand offers you full control over the stretching process.

However, if you are using inexpensive fir wood, pre-notched stretcher bars can lower your cost even further. Expect costs of about $0.95 per linear foot.

This would save you approximately 50%+ over EasyWrappe. Cheaper bars means you can maintain higher quantities and more sizes in stock.

It is not necessary to own professional equipment like a saw and an underpinner.

The Cons: Skilled labor and some tools are required.

If you lack professional equipment, such as a canvas stretching machine, stretching a print may take longer than by using EasyWrappe.

If you plan to use equipment, keep in mind that buying professional stretching equipment can be expensive (over $3,000).

Similar to EasyWrappe, pre-notched bars are available in fixed sizes. This means you will need to plan ahead by stocking bars in specific sizes and adjusting your print size to accommodate.

Pre-notched bars are often sold in bundles, which may require you to stock more than needed.

4. 10-12′ Stretcher Bar “Sticks” 

This frame for stretched canvas is usually only utilized by full scale production studios that stretch many canvas prints every day. At production studios of this size 10-12′ “sticks” are purchased and then cut to any size as needed.

They also join the bars using an underpinner (joining machine) in order to make the stretcher frame. This approach literally puts the manufacturing process in your hands.

ANNOUNCING: Breathing Color is now offering 12′ Stretcher Bar length molding! The stretcher stick product page will have more information about our high-quality pine sticks. Feel free to contact us anytime with any questions.

The Pros: The quality of wood will determine your total costs. You can expect costs between $.50-90 per linear foot (40%+ savings over pre-notched).

With the benefits of speed and low costs you can compete with large production studios.

A large volume allows you to provide a design profile to your wood supplier. They can then create a unique stretcher bar, tailored for your business.

The Cons: Skilled labor is required. Multiple employees and management are required. Various investments in equipment are required.

Waste from the unused stretcher bars tends to be hard to track and can therefore obfuscate an accurate cost analysis.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you stretch a canvas after painting?

Stretching canvas print over a frame after painting is possible, but can be challenging. Paint cracks may form during the stretch. This is why it’s recommended to stretch ripple free, pre-primed canvas before painting.

Can you frame a canvas print?

A stretched canvas will have sides that are either blank, extended or wrapped. If you are happy with the look of the side of the frame, leave the canvas unframed. However, if stapling the frame or bleeding cause unsightly edges, you may want to cover with a wood frame.

Does the frame usually show through stretched canvas prints?

While the frame does not typically show through stretched canvas art prints, a variety of factors may make the frame visible. This includes the material and thickness of the canvas, the layer of paint application, the type of frame, and more.

How do you stretch a canvas print?

The best approach to tighten a canvas is to shrink it. This will stretch canvas print over a frame without damaging it.

Use on painted, or printed canvas that sags on the stretcher bars. Apply a light, warm water mist along the back of the unpainted canvas. With a flat hand rub the moistened canvas in a uniform direction. Finally, let the canvas air dry or apply warm air with a hair dryer.

What is the difference between stretched and unstretched canvas?

A stretched canvas is a finished product where a canvas painting or a canvas print has been stretched around stretcher bars. Unstretched or rolled canvas is not affixed to stretcher bars and is easier to transport or ship.

Does gesso shrink canvas?

Canvas can shrink when you apply gesso. Account for this shrinkage when deciding how much to stretch a canvas print with some extra canvas on all four sides.

Add at least an extra 0.5″ of raw canvas on the width and length to compensate for the shrinkage. For best results with fine art we recommend Acrylic Gesso for Artists by Breathing Color.


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