How to buy cheap canvases: what you should be looking for

Written by chris pink on July 18, 2014 in Picture Framing

A while ago, we blogged about how to stretch your own canvas at home. Well, while that’s wonderful for people who have the confidence to have a go, others will feel more confident with buying affordable canvases directly from stores.

The question is…how do you know that what you’re buying is worth it? How do you know it’s going to really last? Here’s how to work all that out, in a few simple steps (note: this is really for when you’re buying your canvases in a physical store, as opposed to buying them online).

1: the canvas has been put together properly and is taught

On first inspection, most canvases look decent. But what about the back? Have the corners been folded neatly and does the stapling look good and neat? Are there enough staples? These are all questions you should keep in mind.

Once you’ve checked the back out, you need to discover if the canvas is taught enough. The best way to do this is to hold it firmly and try to wobble the canvas. Don’t worry about breaking it too much. If the canvas makes a flapping noise or simply does not feel stable, don’t buy it. A canvas will only become less taught with age, which brings us to…

2: you need corner shims, and the canvas should have slots for them

Look at the rear of the canvas – specifically the corners. Are there slots inside the frame? If there are, this is good, because you can hammer wooden wedges into them. If the canvas doesn’t come with wooden wedges, and the frame lacks those all important slots, then you should give it a miss. These wedges (very often found in small clear bags taped to the backs of frames) are vital, and will later allow you to regain the tension the canvas once had!

 3: consider the thickness of the material itself

Lastly, have a feel of any excess material you can get your hands on. How thick is it? Will it tear easily? One popular trick is to make canvases using very cheap material, and try and sell them for a good price. Don’t fall for it! Very thin, paper-like canvas loses its tension rapidly, and no amount of wooden wedges is going to change that fact.

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