I would like to start by saying I’m not new
to stretching canvas and have been stretching my own canvases for a number of
years. However, recently I have encountered a problem that has been causing me
The problem concerns sagging. I previously
used a fairly heavy weight cotton canvas, I would stretch it and staple it to
the stretcher pulling on opposite sides and pulling towards the corners. I was
always taught to paint the unprimed canvas with water to get it tight and
remove any wrinkles in the surface. With the heavy weight cotton canvas it
would go as tight as a drum, become perfectly smooth and then once dried would
still be tight enough to paint on.
I’m now using a far lighter canvas (as I could
not afford the heavy any longer!). I stretched it in exactly the same way and
applied a little water to get the canvas taut, but when it had dried it was
very saggy. For the last ten or so canvases I have stretched I have had to then
go back and re-stretch; on an A3 sized canvas I take in as much as 0.5cm in
My question is, why is this happening? And
is there a way of stretching lighter weight canvas without having to re-stretch?
Am I doing something terribly wrong!?
I understand your problem about stretching canvas and I want to suggest you here that you must use linen canvas because it's a more tighter weave and there has been used superior material. So, if you use this type of canvas for your oil painting then you might be get good paintings with this canvas.
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Do you own canvas Pliers? To pull a canvas tight you need them. Regular pliers don't work as good. They have a lump on the plier so you can leverage the pliers against the stretcher bar and get very strong pressure. Then staple it. If you use tacks then two people work best to get a heavy canvas tight.
There's many demos on stretching a canvas on YouTube.
Canvas pliers are not expensive and you can search on Ebay or the art stores. They have a wide flat jaw with groves to hold the canvas.
Also, for a heavy weight canvas you need heavy stretcher bars because the canvas can warp them. I used to use No 10 cotton duct but there's so many fabrics available these days. My largest paintings are now around 16 x 20 and I mostly use boards and I'm happy.
I've been stretching for years, and all sizes but usually fairly large, 36"minimum. Recently I also noticed the sagging. It may be that the companies we are purchasing from are creating a looser weave. I've always used reg pliers and still have pulled canvas so tight that when they dried they broke the bars, heavy duty bars. So the trick is to practice with this canvas, stretching wetted in hot water and allowing to dry with a little shrinkage but not too tight is a possibility. What I do know is that after I use my SID, if it's still sagging, I can restretch, and would do so to have a good substrate. Boards are nice, yes, canvas has it's own unique feel that is hard to let go.