Resizing Stretched Canvas Art (+ DIY Painting Details)

Resizing a stretched canvas art project for rehanging in a new location
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Resizing stretched canvas art projects can give new life to stored creations. Here’s the scoop on how we successfully resized my giant abstract painting for a smaller position at our new home. I’ve also included the DIY details from making the original artwork at the end of the post.

Painting Size vs. Available Wall Space

In our last home, this custom abstract spatter painting held pride of place on our bedroom wall. The dominant blank space stretching up to the 12 ceilings needed something big. Big is an understatement, really it needed something huge. And to make things trickier, it also had to be affordable and lightweight. Lightweight was extra important for safety in our quake-prone region. 

I created a huge DIY semi-stretched canvas for a custom painting by yours truly. See how my original giant painting was custom created at the end of this post. But soon it was moving time once again. Would we have a place for it? I really liked my painting, so we brought it to our new home. It languished in moving wrap for months. We didn’t know what to do. The colours and style were still perfect. The size was definitely not. 

Since it was my own painting and not otherwise of any real value, I decided to take the risk to resize it for rehanging on the much shorter wall above the bed. It worked great and was much easier to do than we anticipated, too! Of course, the abstract nature of the painting helped make the task extra easy. For anyone brave and foolish enough to consider the same, here’s how we did it.

CAUTION! Before You Modify Artwork

If the piece is an original artwork and you are not the artist, modifying size may be detrimental to value (whether now or with future appreciation) and/or could violate the artist’s intellectual property rights. Intellectual property rights for visual artists vary by region and jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, they protect creative works not only from unauthorised reproduction but also from modifications, particularly where these are potentially detrimental to the artist or their reputation. 

If you are both the owner and artist, like me in this case, then no worries. It’s your creation to alter if/as you please. If not, but you really want changes, you can try to contact the artist and obtain permission first. Not sure? Seek expert advice on your specific issue and the applicable restrictions for your specific artwork.

Evaluating Artwork Prior to Resizing

Check the Condition of the Artwork

Before attempting any modifications, assess the finish of the artwork. Check whether it has the integrity to withstand being loosened and re-tightened on a resized stretcher frame, if applicable. Can the artwork be safely handled and manipulated without creasing, peeling, cracking, flaking, or otherwise deteriorating? This is especially important for paint and other applied materials.

Consider Options for Resizing and Appearance

Determine what resizing is needed and how the piece could be modified for the best aesthetic result. This will affect the approach for detaching the canvas, where any cuts are made, whether the frame is partially reused, and if the offcuts are of any importance for retention and/or use. Getting nervous? Pause and reassess. If in doubt about any aspects of DIY, consider consulting a professional rather than risk your artwork. 

Converting from Stretched Canvas to Framed Art

The easiest way to alter a basic canvas is arguably by removing or cutting the canvas loose from its existing framing, adjusting size if/as needed, and then fitting the altered canvas art into a ready-to-use frame. Other than the no-going-back plunge of removal and trimming, it is then no different than any other framing.  

Resizing as a Smaller Stretched Canvas

If you still want a stretched (or semi-stretched/taut) canvas, you will need to either resize the existing frame or use a new stretcher frame. 

We made the simple wooden frame that was used as the stretcher for the original painting. Detaching, cutting, and reattaching was straightforward and required only basic hand skills (unscrew, measure, cut, square, pre-drill, screw). Mitred, dovetailed, and/or shimmed stretcher frames are a little fancier, but you can easily “hack” to do a resize. Methods depend on the make and size of the frame. If its not suitable or salvageable, you can, of course, use a new wooden frame for the stretcher instead of recycling from the existing frame. 

If reusing framing it might be possible for part of the art to remain undisturbed whilst the necessary areas are detached, cut, and reattached. This requires more careful handling during the modifications, but less handling of the art on disassembly/reassembly.  We used this approach (details below), with the bottom and lower parts of each side remaining fixed during resizing. This method worked well for us, especially since we were working with a very large artwork for handling. We opted to fully retain the dark bottom and remove some of the lighter upper to best suit the modified art and our space. This may not be viable for small pieces and/or if you need to resize from the middle, in which case, all sides can be detached and either the detached frame reassembled in a modified size or a new stretcher frame used. 

How We Resized My Painting for New Use

The basic steps for resizing and rehanging my painting as a stretched (or semi-stretched/taut) canvas were as follow, with notes and tips above if you are considering attempting a similar DIY project:
 

Preparation for Resizing the Canvas

  • Assess the suitability of the piece for resizing (see above). Determine how the piece can be resized for the best aesthetic outcome vs. the desired measurements for the finished piece. Plan  and double check all measurements in advance.

Detaching the Canvas

  • Carefully place the canvas face-down on a soft, clean, protective surface to avoid damage.
  • Detach hanging wires and/or hardware if/as needed.
  • Carefully detach the necessary portions of the canvas from the backing. This is often stapled. If the staples are too difficult to cleanly remove, you may find it easier to carefully slice a small section of the canvas at the staple point so it can be pulled free with the staple still in situ.

Resizing the Canvas and Frame

  • Trim the canvas per plan, ensuring suitable allowances remain for refolding and reattaching. 
  • Disassemble, resize, and reassemble the framing per plan (or prepare the new framing).

Reassembly and Rehanging

  • With care and caution, reattach the canvas to the modified frame. Pull taut so that there are no ripples or sags, but do not try to stretch a painted canvas as hard as plain canvas as it may damage the paint. Maintain gentle tension, rotating the working side if/as needed to keep it consistent and the canvas evenly taut. The trickiest parts are the corners, especially with stiff pre-painted canvas (I like angled folds on paintwork, but the more common method is square folding). Don’t forget to make sure to match the same folding method and fold directions for a neat consistent finish.
  • Reattach hanging wires and/or hardware if/as needed and hang the canvas.
  • Store offcuts (if desired) for future use.
Depending on the piece, the offcuts may be useful as art in their own right. I’ve rolled and store mine as the small abstracts would look great framed. Another DIY project on my someday list.
Resizing a large stretched canvas painting for hanging in a smaller location
Resizing Stretched Canvas Art
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Original DIY (Giant!) Abstract Spatter Painting

This abstract art DIY was originally shared on our partner blog Creativity Unmasked. I transferred the instructions here when that blog was retired since it was one of my personal favourite art projects. Framed by a giant window on one side, beautiful old fireplace on the other, the bed head wall viewed from the bedroom entrance was a gigantic dominant blank space stretching up to the ceiling. As explained above, it needed something big, but not expensive. We probably won’t have walls like that in future homes! It also needed to be relative lightweight. Hmm. Solution? DIY!

DIY abstract spatter painted canvas wall art

Unfortunately, it’s tricky to take a picture of that truly shows the painting in all of its glorious context on the wall. The image above and collage below will give you a good idea of the look, scale, and style of the piece (original size, prior to resizing). The ceilings pictured are 12ft high and that’s a super king bed. Not styled for pretty photos, but that’s real life around our place. Lazy dog happily providing additional reference for for scale.

DIY abstract spatter painted canvas wall art

Creating a Homemade Stretched Canvas

Making the canvas was incredibly cost effective compared to buying such a large pre-made canvas. It’s simply by-the-roll art canvas stretched and stapled onto a wooden frame. The basic homemade frame was made purposefully lighter (shakey quakey safety) than might otherwise be used for such a large canvas and custom sized to perfectly suit the wall space at approximately 2.5m wide by 1.5m high. It’s gigantic, but very lightweight. 

Tips: For an oversized canvas, you will need at least two people to manoeuvre the canvas/frame safely and without accidental damage. For extra protection, consider working on a soft surface when stretching and stapling. This canvas was assembled outdoors, so quilts were used to protect the canvas from dirt, scratches, and other damage during assembly.

DIY abstract spatter painted canvas art project

DIY Abstract Art Spatter Painting

I wanted the painting to pull the eye and accent the scale of the room, but still stay relatively neutral, I decided to create a spatter painting with subtle colour shades on a neutral gradient. In my mind, it would have a sort of spacey dreamy feeling that was well-suited to a bedroom. As a bonus, this technique let me use all sorts of dribs, drabs, and remnants of leftover paints from our home renovations and my craft stash. Perfect! 

Creating the Gradient Base for the Painting

  • The base for the spatter painting was created by painting the canvas in a gradient from black at the bottom edge (coordinating with the bed head and other decor) to our wall colour (Resene Half White Pointer) at the top edge.
  • Leftover old spray paint (black and white) was used to dodge and burn the edges slightly to help the gradient blend and bend with the canvas. Base ready!

Applying the Abstract Spatters

  • The preliminary spatter base of black, grey, and into the pale greys/whites was created by mixing slurries of paint and water. I used a spray bottle to incrementally spritzing the canvas with the different slurry colours. 

Tip: Test spritz before you start spraying onto your lovely base!  The spray was applied slowly (avoid mixing by allowing touch-dry time) and carefully from the bottom towards the top (darker shades) and top towards the bottom (lighter shades) so that the main spatter patters echoed the gradient and smaller edge spatter spritzed naturally out towards the lighter/darker areas. 

  • Once the main spatter base was complete, it was time to start adding paint spatters by hand. Spattering was applied by mixing paint with water, gathering a small amount onto a small art brush, and flicking it onto the canvas. 
  • Similar shades of black, grey, and pale grey/whites were custom mixed and spattered incrementally to fill out any uneven areas or plain spots in the base.
  • Slowly, accents of colour were added to the plain base. Just a little!  Moody blues, greens, burgundies, and metallic paints of similar shades along with gold and silver for a subtle effect. 

Tip: Test flick off-canvas to get comfortable with the technique before you start flicking on your base. Fun but messy work.

Masterpiece Complete!

Once happy with the spatter and distribution allow to dry completely before hanging securely in place. For a giant painting like mine, you might need to prepare a space somewhere other than your painting location (which I recommend doing outside) so that it can thoroughly dry before hanging. I moved mine indoors before nightfall and the risk of dew or dampness, and it was a careful two-person task to shift the canvas.

DIY abstract spatter painted canvas wall art
DIY Abstract Art Spatter Painting

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