1. When you order, make sure you include a “bleed.”
If you are a rookie, you may not think of doing this. What is a “bleed” you ask? Well, a bleed means you print ink area of your canvas just a little bit larger than what you need so you don’t have to struggle with having white edges showing on the front of your print when you stretch it. For example, the face of my canvas is 24″ by 36.” I want 1/8″ more ink off EACH side so when I stretch the canvas, I have a little more ink area to work with at that time. The lab I like to use is Redipix.com. (What is nice about this lab is they spray your prints with a special UV varnish that makes your prints look shiny and protects them from UV rays. I haven’t found very many labs that actually will spray varnish your prints, so that is why I like them.) I size the ink area to be 24.25″ by 36.25″ and then I have them leave 2.5″ white edge so I have some canvas to wrap around the back. (When I wanted to stretch my first canvas, I didn’t even know what a stretcher strip looked like, so I thought I would include a picture.)
2. Go get supplies.
You will need a staple gun and staples. (I bought the super cheap one at Hobby Lobby. The staple guns are located in the aisle where you buy canvas.) Then make sure you get a canvas pliers. This tool is essential to being able to stretch the canvas effectively. My Hobby Lobby no longer stocked canvas pliers, so I ordered online from Dick Blick and have been very happy with the canvas pliers I received. Another thing I have found out is that Hobby Lobby is pretty lax about stocking stretcher strips. I just wanted to frame one print one time, and couldn’t find enough stretcher strips in Kearney or Omaha (on the same weekend) to do just one print. So, if you have quite a few prints to stretch, make sure you call Hobby Lobby and order enough so when their truck comes, you will have the supplies you need. (Ask them for “Master’s Touch stretcher strips.)
Don’t forget when you are standing in the aisle with the stretcher strips, you also you need to grab a package of “offset clips.” Offset clips are little pieces of bent metal that are affixed with screws. Offset clips are are what you put on the back of your canvas to hold the canvas tight against the frame. Other tools I use are a hammer (to tap the stretcher strips together), a little flat screwdriver helps pull out a few bad staples, and vise grips also help yank out your staples. I also use a drill for putting the offset clip screws into the frame.
3. Pick out a frame.
I like to frame my giclee prints. I have bought quite a few different frames from Hobby Lobby, but I am pretty happy with their affordable 24″ by 36″ exhibition frames. They have half price sales on them every other week and when they are on sale, you can get one for around $25. Sometimes those particular frames get scuffed up, so look carefully at the one you are buying to see that is looks perfect. Then grab a package of “screw eyes” and picture frame wire so you can hang your picture.
4. Watch this YouTube video to learn the technique of stretching canvas.
What I noticed in the video is it didn’t seem like he was initially stretching those prints very tight. I don’t like when the print has too much give when you hang it. So, in reality, I crank pretty hard when I am pulling the edges tight. Start pulling in the middle, just like he does in the video. Make sure and keep looking at the front of you print often to see if you are keeping things straight. Keeping the print tight is highly important. Most likely you will have to pull a few staples out here and there until you get it perfect, but the more prints you do, the better you get at stretching canvas.
5. Don’t let the corners intimidate you.
There are more videos on YouTube that will show you how to do a canvas corner if you don’t feel confident after watching this one. Just make sure you do them all the same and one edge is tucked under neatly. Then when you are done, put the canvas in the frame and use your offset clips to push the canvas tight against the frame. Then put your screw eyes in the back of the frame and add your picture frame wire. (The angle of this photo makes the wood look like it is bowed, but that is because the picture was taken at a slight angle.)