How To Make A Large Canvas

How To Make A Large Canvas

This project actually came from an artist friend of mine who was commissioned to do a very large art piece. The dimensions he needed were 60" x 80".

Below is a quick screen grab of the plans I made for the frame and the measurements I used to cut all my boards.  Feel free to save these to reference while you build.

 

You can find the video I made on this tutorial on YouTube!


 

SHOPPING LIST:

  • A roll of unprimed, cotton canvas (71” x 3 yards) [link]
  • 5 - 1x2s, 6 ft long (I used premium pine boards)
  • 4 - 1x2s, 8 ft
  • A pair of canvas pliers [link]
  • A heavy-duty staple gun [link]
  • & metal staples (these were 3/8 in leg x 3/8 inch crown) [link]
  • Wood screws (2 inches long) and I had a few longer ones that were 3 1/5 inches long)
  • Sanding blocks [link]
  • A drill [link]
  • Wood glue
  • Pencils (for marking your cuts)
  • Tape measure
  • Speed square (AKA a rafter square or carpenter square)
  • Electric hand planer (optional - in hindsight, I could have also used my orbital sander for a similar result) [link]
  • Miter saw [link]
  • Hammer (optional)

 


STEP 1: MEASURE AND MAKE YOUR CUT MARKS

The first step is to carefully mark your measurements for making your wood cuts. This is probably the most boring step of all of them, but the most important. If your pieces aren't cut correctly, you'll end up with a faulty looking frame. Not cute. So trust me on this, take your time and set yourself up to make the most beautiful and accurate cuts possible.


To make this step a breeze, be sure to reference my visual "cut list" that I've provided above.

FRAME PLANKS: *These pieces will all be mitered inward at a 45' angle
  • (2) 1"x2"x60"
  • (2) 1"x2"x80"
BACK SUPPORT PLANKS:
  • (4) 1"x2"x 58.5"
  • (3) 1"x2"x 24.5" *NOTE: one of these 3 planks will need to be trimmed shorter later on in the process.

 

STEP 2: BEVEL THE FRAME PLANKS

You'll next need to bevel one of the 1" sides of your four frame planks. I used an electric hand planer for this - but, in hindsight, I could have easily used an orbital sander for a similar result. Here is what the planks will look like with that inward bevel.

 

WHY IT'S IMPORTANT TO BEVEL:

While a lot of people skip the beveling step - I think it's pretty important. Beveling your canvas frame is the only way to prevent painting from cracking over time. Since wooden frames will naturally be exposed to moisture, they'll almost always experience minor shifts over time. If you have a flat frame on your canvas, those tiny shifts in the frame will be enough to make cracks in your frame.

 

STEP 3: MAKE THE MITER CUTS!

Next, it's time to make your cuts with your electric miter saw.

For the 60" and 80" frame planks, you'll want to make sure you miter each of the boards inward at a 45' angle. It's important to make sure you miter your planks so that the bevelled side is faced up on the miter.

This is how you should place your wood pieces on the miter:

After you're done cutting your frame planks, next it's time to cut the back support pieces. These don't need that beveled angle, so be sure to adjust your miter dial to 0 so that it cuts at a 90' angle.

STEP 4: ASSEMBLE THE FRAME PLANKS

Once you made all your cuts, it's time to begin assembly. The first thing we do is build the outside frame.

Set up your frame on the floor (or on a large table if you have one). Be sure that your bevel sides are facing up.

I secured each frame angle by first making a pilot hole in the middle of one of the mitered ends. Then I added a little wood glue on both sides and used a 2" screw to bind them together.

* TIP: Be sure you do not over tighten the screws when you are first fitting the frame pieces together. I recommend tightening all the screws after you add the back support pieces.

 

STEP 5: FLIP FRAME OVER WITH THE BEVEL SIDE FACING DOWN)

Kind of self explanatory - but important to call out none the less.

Flip your frame over so that your beveled side is facing down on your table or the floor. (This will make it easier for you to install your back support planks.)

 

STEP 6: INSTALL THE 4 BACK SUPPORT PLANKS

Install the four 58.5" back support planks.

Start with the two outer support planks that run flush with the 60" sides. Be sure the outer two boards are well-secured using your 2" screws and wood glue.

Once the outer planks are on, then move to the middle two. To make sure these are accurately placed in the middle of the frame, use the 24.5" vertical planks as guides as well as your tape measure to mark your drill holes (They should land at 26.5" from the outer ends of the 80" side.)

After you've made your marks, go ahead and drill your pilot holes, add your wood glue and secure it all with 2" screws.

 

STEP 7: INSTALL THE 2 "OUTER" VERTICAL PLANKS

First, measure the middle of the 60" frame side and make a mark for the drip holes.

Now install the two 24.5" pieces that will connect the top and bottom support planks. Be sure to first drill pilot holes and add wood glue before you drill in your screws.

NOTE: You will need to use a longer wood screw (3" to 4") on the outside boards as the screws will be traveling through a 1" and 1.5" board. See below for a handy dandy reference guide and where I'd recommend you put your screws.

 

STEP 8: CUT MIDDLE PLANK TO EXACT SIZE, AND INSTALL

Alright, next we add the third 24.5" plank to connect the vertical support planks in the middle.

Before you do anything, measure the gap and mark you piece to the exact dimensions it needs for a snug fit. (It'll likely be around ~24".)

Trim it down using your miter saw.

Next, install the piece slightly off center so you are able to secure it with your 2" screws.

 

STEP 9: SAND THE FRAME

After you've finished constructing the frame portion, sand it down using sanding paper, a sanding block or an electric sander if you have one.

Focus on the corner edges and make sure you remove any sharp edges. This is an important step because you don't want your canvas to rip while you start stretching and stapling it on the frame.

 

STEP 10: PLACE CANVAS FABRIC UNDER FRAME AND CUT TO SIZE

Place your canvas fabric under the frame and cut it down so that the fabric runs about 2" out from the frame.

Getting rid of excess fabric will help keep the back nice and neat and allow your frame to lay flat on whatever surface it's hung on.

 

STEP 11: BEGIN STAPLING AND STRETCHING THE CANVAS FABRIC TO THE FRAME

Now it's time for the fun stuff.


Grab your heavy duty stapler and staples, and start stapling the edges of one side of the frame. Start with 3 or four staples, then move to the other side. Grab your canvas piers and pull the canvas so that it's tight. Then, press down with your thumb to keep the fabric taut while you staple and secure it down.

Be sure to use your canvas pliers to tighten the canvas before you staple.

The only time you don't use your pliers is when you are adding your first 3-4 staples in on a side that isn't secured with any staples on the other side.

Staples should be about 1-1.5" apart from each other. (Don't be shy!)

If your staples are having trouble going all the way in, use a hammer to help. You want your canvas fabric to stay nice and tight.

Be sure to alternate your stapling sides so that everything stays even. Avoid your corners until you're done with the sides.

*TIP: To help with keeping the canvas fabric tight and even, add temporary staples to the corners while you staple down the sides.

 

STEP 12: STAPLE THE CORNERS

Once you have stapled all four sides, it's time to attack the corners.

Keep using your pliers and staple one side to the end of the corner then folder the other side and wrap it around the frame like a present. I like to trim down the fabric once I get down to folding it at the corner's edge. You want to avoid it from getting too bulky in the back if you can.

 

STEP 13: SIT BACK AND MARVEL AT THE NEW CANVAS YOU JUST MADE!

Congrats! Your canvas is now complete and it's ready for some paint! 🎨