How To Tighten an Art Canvas

A Guide to Tightening a Canvas with Canvas Keys

A Pack of 8 Canvas Tightening Keys

Professional artists have a number of cool tricks that they use to make their lives simpler; this article covers just one such tip.  If you're interested in learning more, consider enrolling in an online arts program.

Paintings on canvas or blank canvases sometimes tend to become loose as the canvas material relaxes over time. One way of tightening a canvas is to spray the back of the canvas material with a fine mist of water and letting it dry. However, if this method is ineffective because the canvas is too loose, it can easily be corrected with the use of tightening keys which are provided with most types of art canvas.

Canvas tightening keys are the eight small wedges which usually can be found in a small plastic bag stapled to the inside edge of one of the stretcher bars, or they may be already positioned into the four corners of the stretched art canvas. On good quality stretched canvas the keys are made of wood, but they may also be made form plastic on cheaper canvases.

Using the Canvas Tightening Keys
  1. Inserted Canvas KeysIf the Tightening Keys are not already fixed in position, gently slot them into all four corners of the art canvas. Using only a moderate amount of force, wedge them deeper using your thumb to apply the pressure.  Do this to all four corners of the canvas in turn. It is essential that the same level of pressure is used on each of the eight individual tightening keys as uneven amounts of pressure will cause the canvas to warp.
  2. Turn the stretched canvas around and check to see if the canvas material is sufficiently tight. In most cases it will be, but if the canvas material is of a heavy weave or if the stretched canvas is fairly large, tightening the canvas may require further pressure to be applied to the keys with the use of a small mallet or hammer and a piece of wood.
  3. Tapping Canvas Keys With HammerWith each of the eight tightening keys in turn, place the wood on the outside edge of the tightening key and gently tap with the hammer. Care should be taken if you resort to this method as it can result in the stretcher bars splitting if too much force is applied. If this happens the painting would need to be re-stretched on a new stretcher frame.

Having a tight blank canvas to paint on helps you to focus more on creating the painting, and the improvement of the appearance of a finished painting makes the small amount of effort involved in tightening a canvas worthwhile. When canvas keys are used correctly it can make a big improvement in the appearance of your painting or make an art canvas considerably easier and more enjoyable to paint on.  You can learn other professional painters' tips by taking online classes in art.


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