Whether you’re a collector or a creator, you may have wondered how to make a canvas frame for your artwork. If you’re working with a finished piece, professional stretching and framing can be expensive, and if you’re an artist who goes through a lot of canvas, your art supply budget may start creeping up. 

In a few easy steps, you can avoid these costly pitfalls and learn how to make a frame for a canvas painting.

How to Make a Canvas Frame

putting cloth on frame
Avoid hiring a professional framer by making your own frames!

Supplies You’ll Need

You’ll need a few supplies to learn how to make a frame for a canvas, all of which are available at your local hardware or art supply store.

1. Wooden Profile with a Ledge

You’ll use four wooden profile pieces to form the frame itself—two vertical and two horizontal. Sizing is up to you; just make sure that the pieces you choose have a ledge so that the frame will not touch your artwork. Often, wooden pieces manufactured for interior trim work are perfect for framing. 

2. Chipboard

To reinforce your frame’s corners, you will use chipboard—a strong, manufactured wood material sometimes called particleboard—cut at an angle. 

3. Measuring Tape and Pencil 

To mark your frame measurements, you’ll need to have a measuring tape and pencil handy. 

4. Hand Saw

Once your wooden profile pieces are measured, you’ll use a hand saw to cut them to the desired length. You may also want safety equipment like work gloves or goggles if you’re new to working with a saw or want to safeguard against stray sawdust. 

5. Sandpaper

Sandpaper will smooth the angled edges of your profile pieces so that they fit together flush. 

6. Industrial Glue

You’ll adhere your profile and chipboard pieces together using industrial glue. For smaller pieces, extra-strength Elmer’s glue will work, but consider using wood glue for larger artwork due to the canvas’s size and weights. 

7. Canvas

You will also need canvas material, which you can buy at an art supply retailer or fabric store. Be sure to choose a canvas material that can be stretched and isn’t too rigid. 

8. Scissors

Have a sturdy pair of scissors on hand for cutting your canvas before stretching it over the wooden frame. 

9. Staple Gun and Staples

As you stretch your canvas, you will need a staple gun and staples to keep it in place over the frame. 

10. Primer

If you’re creating a frame for a new canvas versus working with a pre-existing piece, you’ll need primer to prepare your surface once your frame is in place. You’ll want to use a primer that aligns with your medium of choice—such as acrylic or oil

Step 1: Measure and Cut the Wooden Profile Pieces

cut the wood
First, you’ll need to cut the wooden pieces that will form your fame.

To learn how to make a frame for canvas, you will need four wooden profile pieces: two vertical and two horizontal. If you’re creating a square frame, then these pieces will all be the same length; if you’re opting for a rectangular-shaped canvas, you’ll have two long pieces and two short ones. 

Once your wooden profile pieces are laid out, measure them and use a pencil to mark where you need to cut to create four pieces. Then, use a hand saw to make the appropriate cuts. 

Step 2: Create the Corners

cut the wood at an angle
You will cut your wooden profile pieces two times, once to form the sides of the frame and once more to create the corner angles.

Keeping the ledge of your wooden profile pieces positioned as the outside of the frame, mark a 45-degree angle on each end to ensure that, when you glue your frame together, you’ll end up with a firm right angle. Again, use your hand saw to cut the pieces at a 45-degree angle, then use sandpaper to smooth each edge for fitting.  

cut the corner
You’ll create corner pieces from your chipboard to reinforce your frame.

Next, measure and cut square corner pieces from your chipboard—these will affix to the wooden profile pieces to strengthen your frame. The size of your chipboard corners will depend upon the size of your frame; use the wooden profile pieces that you’ve already cut as a size guide. 

Step 3: Glue Your Frame Together

glue the wood together
Glue your wooden profile pieces and chipboard corners together to prepare your frame for canvas stretching.

Now, gather your four wooden profile pieces and your chipboard corners and glue them together. Using your adhesive of choice, make sure that you put glue anywhere that the pieces will make contact. A solid layer will reinforce your frame and ensure that it doesn’t fall apart during use. 

Step 4: Stretch Your Canvas

attach cloth to frame
As you stretch your canvas over your frame, it should begin to look familiar!

Now you’re ready to stretch your canvas! Begin by measuring and cutting your canvas material so that it’s one to two inches larger than your frame, which will guarantee that your canvas material is large enough to wrap around the wooden profile pieces. You can always trim it down later if needed. 

Place your canvas material underneath your wooden frame and, beginning at the center of the piece closest to you, start wrapping your canvas around the wooden profile pieces. 

Turn the frame onto the opposite side from the piece you are working with, and use your staple gun to affix the canvas to the wooden frame’s backside. Once your first piece is in place, move to the opposite side and aim for a tautness with just the slightest give so that your canvas doesn’t move around as you work with it later. Carefully fold any excess material at the corners and continue stapling your wrapped canvas to the backside of the wooden frame until all four sides are complete. 

Step 5: Prime Your Canvas and Let it Dry

prime it
Once your canvas is primed and dried, you’re ready to create!

The final step in learning how to make a canvas frame is to prime your canvas. Using the primer of your choice, cover your canvas completely and allow it to dry overnight. Once the canvas is fully dry, you can start creating your masterpiece! 

Want to take this guide one step further and learn how to create a floating frame for canvas? Simply cut and glue four more wooden profile pieces to the outside of your canvas frame. You can decorate these pieces with paint or stain or leave them natural—it’s truly as simple as that! 

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Written by:

Sara Glover