2 projects in one. Simple flat, and gallery wrap style canvas mounts with solid wood backers for vigorous painting styles.
TIME: A few hours
This instructable will show you how to build a simple padded canvas mounting board, so that you can paint on canvas, and yet not worry about how vigorously you want to attack the canvas with the brush. I am always paranoid about denting the canvas, especially along stretcher bar edges, and in the middle leaving saggy canvas. This project and its advanced part two will eliminate that fear, as well as providing a cheap method of doing extremely large paintings, which you can remount on permanent stretcher bars later. Here I used 4’x4’ size, but you can adjust for any size you want larger or smaller.
Saw, hammer, screwdriver, pen, tape measure, pot/bowl, blanket (or carpet) to work on
Project #1: Simple mount
4’x4’ sheet of wood (strandboard or plywood)
scrap piece of 1” thick wood for mounts
5’x5’ piece heavy vinyl (to smooth out the wood grain and screws)
5’x5’ piece of (preprimed) canvas
box of brass thumbtacks
roll of duct tape
Some wire or cord to mount
Project #2: Advanced Gallery mount style
(all of the above)
Two 8’ long 2x2” sticks of wood
Small box of screws (14 or so, about an inch long)
Most of the hardware materials I got at my local dollar store for a few bucks, the lumber should be $10-15 dollars at most. The vinyl I got cheap at a thriftstore, or you can rip it off an old couch or something, if you can’t find it cheap at a fabric store. I wanted to reuse the mount several times, so I went with pre-primed canvas instead of messing with priming (pre-primed is about $3-4 a foot so a little more expensive than DIY canvas unprimed). This also has the advantage that remounting it is probably less stressful on the finished painting, since it is not really stretched as much after it is painted.
1. I made a trip to the lumber yard, and picked out a perfectly 48” square piece of wood, so it would fit the eventual stretcher bars exactly, look at everything they have and try to get something perfectly cut, and warped as little a possible. If you have a pesky lumberyard salesmen, it helps to explain your project to him, and why you are examining every single piece of wood in the store. Strandboard is cheaper than plywood, but either will do. Make sure the corners are intact. I actually did the advanced version later, but you can pick up the two 2x2” pieces of lumber there too. Nothing fancy, mine were $2.19 each for 8’ lengths. These tend to warp at the store, so pull them out of the rack and put them on the floor and spin a pair of them back to back, making sure they are straight.
Since the canvas is large, I do all my painting outside in my carport, but any fence, wall or similar will work if you don't have a proper studio. My next mount will be a full 4x8' sheet of plywood for giant paintings. Just remember you need them to fit in vehicles.
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Step 1: #1: Simple Flat Mount
Project #1: Simple Flat Mount
I assembled my mount in my driveway in the carport. I put down a blanket on the pavement to work on so as not to scratch everything.
The mount will be hung on the wall with wire that slips into some down angled wood screwed to the wooden sheet. Take your scrap wood and make two pieces roughly the shape shown. I had a 1x12” piece of wood that I cut the end off of, and just snapped it to get the angle, a garden stake or any piece of wood will work. You could use plastic if need be, or some sort of knob or hook.
Duct tape, all the edges of the wood sheet so you don’t get splinters.
For the wire mount, I duct-taped the wood to the sheet about 5” in from the edges and about a 10” from the top. Make sure they are at the same heights at the bottom where the wire slips into them. I then used two screws from the good side of the sheet to affix them permanently. Make sure you screw them in flat hammer them if need be. I duct-taped the screw heads flat on the good side as well for smoothness.
Step 2: #1: Attach the Vinyl
Lay out the vinyl on the blanket with the good side down. Place the wood sheet good sided down, on top of the vinyl, and measure it so that it is centred on all sides as best you can.
I put all the thumbtacks I had in a cooking pot for convenience so they didn’t end up everywhere and make them easy to reach. Fold up the centres of each end of the vinyl and basically upholster the vinyl onto the wood sheet, working from the centres outward, tacking it 5-6” inches apart, stretching and pulling the vinyl tight as you go. I left the corners loose for the last inch or so, and just cut them off on a 45 degree angle when I was done, they don’t need to be folded over and tacked.
Step 3: #1: Attach the Canvas
When the vinyl is tight onto the wood sheet, put the pre-primed canvas good side down, on the blanket or carpet and put the upholstered wood sheet good side down on top and centre it. Trace the outline of the mount onto the back of the canvas to make the eventual transfer to permanent stretcher bars much easier after you have painted your picture.
Repeat the procedure you used for the vinyl to upholster the canvas to the mount, with thumb-tacks. Work from the centres tightening as you go a little at a time. You can leave the corners loose for now, you can fold them tight on the final stretcher bars later.
String a loop of wire through the mounts and hang on the wall on a couple of nails, ready to paint. When you are done, you can remove the canvas, and put it on stretcher bars ready for the gallery, or rolled up for storage. You can mount another piece of canvas and do as many paintings as you want.
Step 4: #2 Advanced Project: Gallery Wrap Style Canvas Mount With Thickness
Project 2: Advanced Mount, Gallery Style wrap.
Most of this procedure will look the same, we just add some thickness with the 2x2” wood before upholstery. You can precut the 2x2” strips first if you want, I did it after.
Duct-tape all the edges of the wood sheet first and screw in the wire holders from the good side. See previous project.
Step 5: #2 Adding Depth With 2x2" Wood Strips
On your carpet or blanket lay down the 2x2” lengths of wood along the left and right edges of the wood sheet. Put the wood sheet good side up on top of the 2x2”s. Screw them to the sheet from the good side. I used 4 screws on each side, screwing just so the tips made it through the sheet, enough to bite the 2x2”s. Make sure the wood is perfectly aligned to the edges and ends, and finish screwing flush. If you didn’t pre-cut, cut off the excess lengths, being careful not to chip off the corners. Measure the remaining top and bottom edges, cut your 2x2”s to fit (remember they are not exactly 2" wide) and screw them in along the exact edges as well, with a few screws on each side. Hammer any screws sticking up, and duct tape them over the heads. Liberally duct tape all the edges of the lumber as well.
Step 6: #2 Stretching Vinyl and Canvas
Lay out the vinyl good side down onto the carpet/blanket. Lay your wood mount good side down on top of the vinyl and upholster it with thumbtacks starting form each middle and working outward 5 or 6 inches at a time with thumbtacks, tightening as you go. You can leave the corners loose. I put the thumbtacks in the inner side of the 2x2”s for convenience.
Place the pre-primed canvas good side down, centre the vinyl covered wood, and trace the outline of the square onto the back of the pre-primed canvas with the pen to make placing it on permanent stretcher bars easier later. Stretch and tack the canvas over the vinyl Layer as before, starting in the centres of all the bars and working outward 5-6 inches at a time going around and around to keep it even.
Step 7: #2 Paint Your Masterpiece, As Vigorously As You Want.
Paint your masterpiece, and then remove the canvas for rolling or permanent proper stretcher bars.