Recently, I found out that Aliexpress (Alibaba) had a bunch of sellers that created custom canvases. They are even kind enough to offer a demonstration/simulation of what the canvas will look like after the print. The 5 piece canvas look is pretty interesting especially when combined with a landscape photograph so I decided to try them out since they were only $30 for a 5 piece poster set spanning roughly 2x1 metres. A similar poster made locally would cost roughly $500 or more. Of course, this would include the frames, which are not included with this purchase. You can get them made for an extra $90 though. I decided to attempt to make my frames myself.
Below on the left isthe simulation they ended up giving me which I thought was awesome. A friend took this picture of me when we went to Burroughs Mountain for a beautiful hike. Also on the right is the finished product on my wall.
As it turned out the process was very easy and cheap with a staple gun. I personally spent only $10 for the wood used on the frames (48ft of 1''x2''in wood). All that was really necessary is that the wood be relatively straight.
- Staple gun + staples ($40)
- Note that although some staple guns can be found at much lower of a price, they will likely not be able to consistently get staples into the wood. This wastes a lot of time (from my experience), is frustrating and totally not worth it
- Canvas stretcher ($14)
- Sander (I used one at my work)
- Chop saw (Also used from work)
Cut to length
Since we want the edges of the canvas to match properly, the width of the frame must be reasonably accurate (within a few mm). It happens that this set has consistent widths all across, so we need to make 10 identical cuts of wood. This cut should be done with relative care the first time, then using a stop, more identical cuts can be made. Then the length of the perpendicular pieces must be the length of the canvas subtracted by twice the width of the wood. In this case the measured width was 1.5'' meaning 3'' of total length decrease. Note that it is better to be on the short side than on the long side since the canvas can only be stretched a little bit. In the end the frames all look something like this.
The idea is basically that the frames are completely made of straight cut 0.75''x 1.5' (nominal 1''x 2'')' pieces of wood. Staples join the edges, and although they are weak in bending, in tension they are strong. By stapling both sides of a joint, any rotation out of plane is resolved into tension at the joints, making these sufficiently strong and easy to make.
Since the wood I used was rather low quality, I also sanded the edges to make them clean and easy to line up. Below are the pieces once cut to length.
Stapling the joints
Pretty self explanatory after looking at the picture, you simply do this for both sides and the joints are super sturdy. Make sure that the staple is centered and evenly spaced.
Do the same thing a few times and you got your frames really easy :).
Stretching the canvas
There are plenty of canvas stretching tutorials online using the stretcher tool so I won't go into too much detail. The hardest part is lining it up properly. I like to line up all the bottom edges of the photo by putting the canvas face down and the frame on top of it. I make a crease to indicate the corners and staple along the edge.After this initial setup it is easy to get the canvas aligned by stretching and stapling the other side.
A couple pointers
- During the setup of the first edge of the canvas, do not use the stretcher tool and check that the canvas is aligned
- Stretch only roughly 0.1-0.3% of the length otherwise you may damage or deform the material
- Keep a clean table so that nothing dirties the image (I wipe it down beforehand)
- If the canvas is on the large side and above 0.3% of stretch, simply take apart the frame with some pliers and do it again. Do not try to stretch the canvas a lot otherwise it might deform (unlikely to tear but enough to ruin the image)
Share canvases with your friends
Usually the reason people don't have these kinds of posters is that they are extremely expensive for people that "aren't that into art". However, a single frame large poster (25''x 40'') can be made for roughly $10-15 completely custom. All you would need to do is buy approximately $1-2 in wood to make the frame if you have the tools already. This really makes for a great personalized gift for your friends. Here's my friend's canvas after I taught him how to do it!