After constructing the frame I begin stretching the canvas. I use unprimed artist canvas #12/72 from Big Duck Canvas Warehouse http://www.bigduckcanvas.com/artists-canvas/unprimed-canvas-rolls.html. I cut a piece of canvas 6 inches larger than each dimension of the frame. Lay the canvas on a clean surface on the floor and place the frame on top, with 3 inches extra on each side. Using an electric staple gun place the first staple mid way along the longer side. Then using the canvas pliers pull the canvas at mid point on the opposite side and secure with a staple. Next do the same at the midpoints of the shorter sides. The canvas will have diamond shaped pulls at this point. Continue pulling and stapling mid way between staples and then moving to opposite sides until just the corners are left. The photo above is labeled with numbers showing the order to follow when stretching a large canvas. The canvas should be pulled tight enough so it does not sag. It is not necessary to apply excessive force because the canvas will shrink once the gesso is applied and dries. When you get to the corners tuck one side under and the other over. If there is too much fabric trimming may be needed. It is also helpful to have the double thickness of the fabric consistently on either the top or the sides of the canvas. This encourages even lengths on opposite sides of the canvas which is advantageous if you purchase a frame for the piece once it finished.
The canvas is now ready for priming. I use Jerry’s Worlds Best Gesso, the one-gallon size. Additional supplies for this step include Chinese White Bristle brush (three inch size), large palette knife, bucket of water, small plastic painters edger with pad and foam roller with an extension handle. The first layer of gesso goes on the front of the canvas. Use the palette knife to put some gesso on the canvas and then after dipping the brush in water and tapping it on a paper towel, spread the gesso on the canvas. Start at one side of the canvas and proceed to the opposite. I use the brush and slightly watered gesso and scrub the gesso into the canvas. I cover the front and sides of the canvas. Use the plastic edger to cover the sides. When this layer is dry I put a first layer of gesso on the back of the canvas with slightly a damp brush. The painters edging tool is useful to get under the stretcher bars and cross bars of the back of the canvas. After the back has dried, two more layers of gesso are applied to the front using a foam roller with an extension pole.