First select the size of individual stretcher bars that you want for your painting. Individual stretcher bars can be purchased easily from most art retail outlets e.g. Currys, Dick Blick, Dan Smith, at a very reasonable price in many different lengths.
Assemble the individual stretcher bars together and then smooth off the corners with a file so there are no sharp edges.
Seal the wood on all sides that the paper will come into contact with using the varnish. This will prevent any chemicals from the wood affecting the paper in any way. I use a roller to apply the varnish quickly and evenly but you can use a brush if you would rather.
Cut a piece of acid free foam board exactly the same size as the stretcher bars. Use some double sided sticky tape to secure the foam board to the stretcher bars as in the photo below.
Make sure you have a staple gun ready filled with staples (you don’t want to run out half way through the process) and a large bowl of water and a brush
Cut your paper to size. I use Arches 140lb cold press. It will need to be 4 inches bigger than the stretcher bars both in length and width for the Standard 7/8" Profile stretcher bars. This is to allow for enough paper to fold over the side of the bars and onto the back. (If you are using the deeper gallery style stretcher bars, profile approximate 1.5" depth and width, allow 6 inches extra paper.) On the back of the paper mark a line two inches in on each edge for the standard 7/8 profile stretcher and 3 inches for the gallery style’. This will give you a guide for where to place the stretcher frame once your paper is soaked.
Place the stretcher frame on top of the paper lining it up with your markings. Because the paper has stretched the rectangle you created on the back will be slightly larger than your frame so just place the frame evenly within these guideline markers. Fold over the two long sides and secure in the middle with a staple.
Repeat with the short sides. This will just help to avoid uneven stretching of the paper. When you fold the edges over pull tightly but don’t over pull (the paper will shrink during the drying process and do the tightening for you)
Generously staple along both long sides
Carefully remove the staple on one of the short sides and fold the edges as in the photo below
Fold over and staple the short edge.
Repeat the above folding and stapling steps with the other short side.
Alternatively you can make a small cut in the paper and fold as shown in the photo below
Then staple the side as before.
Once all sides are stapled turn the ‘canvas’ over and use some paper towel to soak up any excess water.
Then have fun. You will have all the joy of painting on the paper you love that behaves as you expect it but the finished look of a canvas without the need to mat and frame under glass or acrylic. Don’t forget to paint the sides too for that real gallery wrapped effect.
Once you have finished your painting and the paper is completely dry, fix the painting with a fixative such as Prismacolor fixative and allow to dry as per instructions on the can. (make sure you use well ventilated room for this or preferably fix outside as the fumes from the fixative as very overpowering)
Then varnish the paper with an acrylic varnish such as liquitex satin varnish. You usually need to apply about 2 or 3 coats of varnish to create a smooth varnished look.
Once dry you are now ready to hang your painting. Or alternatively you can frame the painting using a canvas floater frame.
Have fun and please don't forget to share any gallery wrappped paintings you do this way with me. I would love to see them!