DIY Canvas Frame: How To Stretch A Canvas at Home for $20

DIY canvas frame

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Need an inexpensive alternative for spending hundreds of dollars to have a canvas print or painting professionally stretched or framed? In this guide, I’m going to show you how to DIY a canvas stretcher frame for a painting or print. Here’s how I stretched or wrapped a canvas print myself at home for less than $20.

Several months ago while browsing Pinterest, I stumbled on a photo of a woman creating a beautiful painting on canvas. I immediately fell in love with the painting and knew I had to have it for my home office space. I found the Etsy store of the talented artist, and although my budget would not allow for the original painting, I was able to snag a similar printed version for myself.

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Yang Yang

What I did not consider, however, was how much it would cost to have the canvas print professionally stretched, wrapped, and/or framed. And after getting estimates of between $150-$200 to have this done, the canvas sat rolled up under the bed for some time before I finally decided that perhaps I could try to DIY or wrap the canvas print on a frame myself at home. 

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It looked simple enough. And after watching enough canvas wrapping tutorials on youtube, I felt pretty confident that I could pull off this project. With the helping hands of my crafty boyfriend, here’s how to DIY wrap a canvas print or painting.

Building a Canvas Stretcher Frame From Scratch 

In order to display the canvas, you’ll need something to stretch and secure the canvas fabric. You can build a canvas stretcher from scratch, but here are some things you should consider. 

  • Unless you are willing to sacrifice some of the edges of the painting or print, the stretcher or frame needs to be a perfect size so that extra material, intended for the fold, does not show. 
  • When you stretch the canvas fabric over the frame, this will put a lot of pressure on the frame. For that reason, it’s super important that your frame be very sturdy. You may consider reinforcing the frame for extra support. 
  • The edge or corner of the frame on which the canvas fabric will sit should have some curvature. If the frame has sharp edges, it could damage or indent the canvas fabric. 
  • Generic art stores like Michales do not sell canvas stretchers (my local one did not). They instead encourage you to have their framing department do it for you. Michales quoted me around $150 to stretch my 30x40inch canvas print. 

DIY Canvas Stretcher Frame

Another alternative you have to build a DIY canvas stretcher frame from scratch is buying one already pre-made.

For my 30x40inch canvas print, I was able to find a pre-wrapped canvas painting of the same size at a local thrift store for just $7. I would simply need to remove the installed canvas fabric and replace it with my desired canvas.  

This method is what I will detail in this guide. 

What you will need:

Stretching a canvas with a pre-built canvas frame is very easy to do and you only need a few tools to do it yourself at home. Here are the tools I used to get the job done. 

  • Stretched canvas painting (Thrift store for $7)
  • Screwdriver (To lift the old staples)
  • Plyers (To remove the old staples)
  • Industrial staple gun (To secure the new canvas fabric)
  • Staples

How To Stretch Canvas Painting or Print

Step 1:

The first step of DIY project is to remove the old canvas fabric from the pre-built canvas frame. I did this by using a screwdriver to lift the old staples. Then using pliers, I to pulled up and removed the staples from the back of the frame completely.

Step 2:

Once the old canvas fabric is completely removed from the frame, it’s time to line up your new canvas fabric with the stretcher frame.

You do this simply by laying your canvas fabric flat on the floor and placing the canvas stretcher frame on top of it. You then line up the corners of the panting/print to ensure there is no white space that will show from the front.

If you’ve chosen a canvas frame that is the exact dimensions of the canvas fabric you will install, you may realize that it’s very meticulous to align it perfectly with the stretcher frame. Stretch one side at a time to ensure you stretch each side enough that there is no white showing on the front side. You’ll also want to make sure there’s not too much of the design over the fold either. Otherwise, when you go to stretch the opposite side you may not have enough fabric to stretch.

Step 3:

DIY canvas wrap staples

Once your canvas fabric is perfectly aligned with your frame, it’s time to start securing the canvas fabric to the actual stretcher frame. You do this by stapling one side at a time. I found it easiest to staple from the corners first and then worked my way inside.

Step 4:

DIY canvas wrap corner
DIY canvas wrap

Once the canvas fabric is completely secure to the stretcher frame, it’s time to fold neatly and secure your corners. Some professional framers like to cut away the excess fabric before securing the corners. I choose not to do this so that in the event I make a mistake, I can easily start over without any permanent cuts to the canvas fabric.

Take Away

Many of the YouTube tutorials that I saw online by professionals required that you use a canvas stretcher tool like this one. I did not use this tool, nor did I feel I needed it in the end. This could be perhaps because of the type of canvas fabric that I used was rather stiff and appeared to the stretched tight by hand. You’ll need to use your judgment to decide if it’s necessary for you to use such a tool.

 And there you have it — your very own DIY canvas stretched or wrapped on a canvas stretcher frame. No stretcher or expensive tools needed. Be sure to check out the accompanying youtube video I filmed during the process.