Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Making your own Canvas Panels

This past week I received an email from Victoria Webb, about how to create your own canvas panels. I've used my own for many years, but it seems lately I don't have time to both stretch my own larger canvases and also make these panels. If I'm ever able to hire an assistant, I'll definitely go back to them. Its so nice to have control over the surface as well as the support. It seems that with commercial ones, you either lack one or the other.
These days I'm using either Pintura canvas panels or Raphael linen panels. I prefer the Raphael, as they are the closest thing to my own, but they are a bit expensive.
Anyway, once you make your own you'll be hooked!
So, heres the process.

Step One.
First I purchase a higher quality, furniture grade 1/8 - 1/4" poplar, oak or maple plywood. You can get it in 4 x 8' sheets at most hardware stores. I've also used masonite too, especially when I want to keep the cost down.

Step Two.
Then, using a table saw, I cut the plywood to the sizes I want. I usually make an assortment of 6 x 8 on up to 16 x 20. I have gone larger, but I usually stop here and stretch canvases for anything bigger.

Step Three.
Using 9oz or better canvas or linen, I trim it to about 1/2" to 1" around each panel. Its not necessary to be exact here, you'll trim off the excess later.

Step Four.
Using a 2" soft gesso or varnish brush, I liberally gesso the panel. Quickly, before the panel starts to dry, I also gesso the canvas. I then "glue" them together. I set the glued panel aside, upside down and place an old printers weight on top on it. Anything heavy will do. I continue processing each one, stacking them with the others and weighing them down. Remember here, that if you are using anything lower than 9oz canvas you'll get bleed through and the panels will stick together. When I've finished, I leave the weight on top and let the stack sit for a few days.

Step Five.
After the panels have dried I use a utility knife to trim the excess canvas from each one. I then gesso the front of each panel to my liking. About 2-3 coats, sanding between each one.

Thats it. Not too hard really, just time consuming. And as I mentioned, once you make your own, you will never want to paint on anything else.
Good luck and happy painting!


  1. Hi Deb,
    Thank you for the "how-to" on making canvas panels! How do you keep the panels from sticking to each other as you stack them up?
    Again, thanks!

  2. Hi Susan!

    It sounds like you are getting bleed through. Check the thread count on your canvas. The higher the better.
    If you've already bought some and are committed to using a lower thread count, you can cut a buffer piece to lay in between each one. After they have dried, store these away for the next time you make panels.
    You'll end up with some irregular texture bumps on the surface of the panel, but you can sand these away later. (Or keep them that way for some interesting areas in your painting.)

    Let me know how it goes.