Have you ever had a canvas, painted or unpainted that was too floppy, too loose in the stretcher bars? There is nothing more annoying than that when you are trying to paint and the canvas keeps giving under the brush. There is a very simple way to remedy that problem. I learned this years ago from one of my painting teachers.
Take a wide brush, like a small house paint brush, wet it with warmish water and brush the backside of the canvas. Don’t saturate it, just a little water on the brush will do the trick. Because the canvas is raw on the backside the cotton will soak up the warm water and shrink it back to being taut like it should be. This always works even on canvases that are already finished. I would try to do this though before you get the canvas wet with fresh paint. I am not sure how it would act in this case.
Something else to keep in mind if you are painting on canvases with gallery wraps there are some considerations that will make your life a whole lot easier. If you don’t know what a gallery wrap is this is where the canvas is stretched around the back then stapled. The sides are stretched like the top and will accept paint well. With this kind of wrap you don’t have to frame the painting if you plan to paint the sides. I choose these canvases especially when painting surreal type paintings because I want the viewer to enter the picture plane before they are standing in front of the painting. This works very well and adds a new dimension to your work Also keep in mind with gallery wraps you do not intend to frame should have the screw eyes and wire on the inside back of the stretcher bars not on the back. This will allow the canvas to hang flush on the wall.
A couple of things to keep in mind here. Be sure to paint all sides including the bottom. Since all sides will be visible this is necessary. Also, I would not suggest framing a gallery wrap canvas as the side stretcher bars are too thick to fit into a frame. You will have an inch or an inch and a half of canvas on the back of the frame which would look a little strange.
While painting a gallery wrap you have to keep in mind you are running the front design to the sides, top, and bottom. What this can mean is you are going to have some of those wet. If you are like me I sometimes forget and grab the side to tilt the canvas and get them into the wet paint. So, I usually use the sequence of painting the sides and top, then the front from top to bottom, or sporadically work the whole canvas. When the canvas goes to the drying rack, I paint the bottom when it is there. Even with all of that I still forget the sides and top are wet and grab the canvas inevitably with the wet paint. I usually paint on larger canvases which have a middle brace bar to grab hold of to move when its wet. This makes moving the wet canvas much easier. 😊
If you are painting a normal stretched canvas you don’t have these problems, other than maybe the floppy canvas, which is easily remedied. I really prefer the gallery wrapped canvases I think the cotton is much heavier and the stretcher bars sturdier. If you haven’t tried painting on these, check it out. They make a very nice finished product.