• Pamela Froman

Break Out of the Box - How to Create a Great Shaped Canvas

You're an artist...and you want your paintings to be fresh, original and to showcase your ideas and talent. But a typical rectangular canvas is just...square. Which is why it is great to change it up with a shaped canvas.

What is a shaped canvas you ask?

A shaped canvas is a painting that isn't a rectangular shape. They can be round, triangular or even an abstract one that you make up. It's all up to you. These works can also have surface features that are three dimensional. In other words they are not just a painting...they are a work of art. They can create movement within your work that goes beyond the traditional.

While it is easier to use the typical rectangular surface for a painting, it really isn't hard to create your own shaped canvas. If you really want to be an artist, truly making your own canvases can be an integral part of your painting process.

To get started you will need the following:


hand saw

miter box



raw canvas



1 x 3 inch pine

3/4 inch quarter round

1/4 inch plywood

You can find all of these materials at your local hardware and art supply stores.

The first thing you must do is sketch out the design for the perimeter of the shape. What do you want it to look like? The possibilities are endless.

Everything should be scaled at a 1 inch to 1 ft. ratio using the ruler. This keeps everything in proportion.

After the design is scaled and measured, use the protractor to determine the angles of your corners.

The next step after using the protractor to measure the angles is to use the saw and miter box to cut the 1x3 pine wood at the desired angles. This is very important! The angles need to fit together smoothly in order to keep the frame balanced.

Lay out the cut pieces on the floor and assemble them in the position of the shape you are striving for.

Using the 1/4 inch plywood, cut the angles to support the corners, then glue and nail all the parts together. The nails may have to go in diagonally to keep the pieces together. Get nails that are not too small, as you need them to help anchor the wood.

Along the outside edge of the structure, cut the ends of the 3/4 inch quarter round to the length of each side and angle the ends to fit together, then glue and nail the quarter round to the structure.

Wallah! You are now ready to stretch the canvas.

Roll out your canvas and lay the stretcher face down on the canvas sheet. Cut the canvas around the perimeter leaving about 3-4 inches of excess fabric. With a staple gun, work your way around the perimeter from opposite side to side, stretching the canvas until it is tight. You may want to invest in a canvas stretcher (again, available at your local art supply store) to make the canvas ultra tight. The tighter the canvas, the smoother the work.

Flip the shaped structure over and paint your canvas with gesso. Let it dry completely (usually takes a few hours) and gesso again. Lightly sand the surface.

It's time to paint!

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