What You Need to Know about Tightening a Stretched Canvas

There can be any variety of reasons that a stretched canvas will wind up baggy, loose, wrinkled or dimpled, but all is not lost.

Sagging can occur during transportation because of environmental conditions in various environments, specifically humidity. This does not suggest the canvas is defective or unusable.

Methods to tighten stretched canvas

These days, many artists (hobby or professional) buy stretched canvas instead of pulling their cloth. Buying a pre-stretched canvas seems fast and simple nevertheless there are numerous brand names of pre-stretched canvas offered.

Just like many things in life, you get what you spend for. A real professional quality stretched canvas will be tight and prepared to paint on the right out of the shrink wrap, no prep essential, however, you will be paying more for this quality.

Economy canvases can be sufficient (even for an expert artist) however it does require some preparation.

Shrinking Loose Canvas

Canvas is 100{c433cc586b2397ecddfb116cd666068711d2b9ba1ea607184716f61734d309f7} unbleached cotton, which shrinks like no one’s business. The shrinking technique deals with any cotton canvas but works best on canvas that hasn’t been painted on yet.

Consider the following general steps:

  1. Use a spray bottle, mist hot water over the whole back surface area of your canvas. Do not soak.
  • Utilising a flat hand, gently rub the moisture beads into the weave

and heat dry. A hair dryer would be perfect, or you can hang it out to dry under the sun.

  • Although this technique helps a bit with flattening a dimple, it’s not the very best long-term solution for fixing a dimple.

Using a canvas tensioning solution

A liquid canvas tensioner is a purpose-designed item that decreases the appearance of sagging, ripples and dimples in stretched artists canvas leaving a tight and flat surface.

When used to the back of a canvas, it triggers the canvas fibres to diminish somewhat without affecting the appearance of the material. Re-Tensioners can be applied only to the issue area or equally across the entire back surface area. This can be expensive especially when you treating a large area but often creates the best results at a fraction of the time.


When all else fails,  you can continuously get rid of the canvas from the frame and re-stretch it. This can be made with any stretched canvas (painted or not) with visible staples at the back. It’s a straightforward operation, but it requires a medium to the heavy-duty staple weapon, staples, and an extra pair of hands is practical (or workbench with C-clamps).

If you got the handyman skills and good with your hands, then there is no reason not to consider the DIY approach for stretching canvas. All you need is the base material as well as some tools and you got yourself the means to produce an inexpensive supply of stretched canvas.

So there you have it — how to stretch loose canvas! As an artist, one can hope that your current medium remains tight as a drum. If it doesn’t, then the information above should prove useful in guiding you on what you can do about it.