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Splined vs Back-Stapled Canvas

splined vs back-stapled canvas

If you are thinking of starting a painting hobby, then note that you will also be choosing the kind of canvas that you will be using aside from the paints. For the most part, you will be choosing between splined vs back-stapled canvas.

What is a Splined Canvas?

A splined canvas is a method of stretching the canvas over the frame. In this case, the canvas is stretched over the front and sides of the canvas and pulled toward the back. There is a small groove in the stretcher bars where you can see the canvas being inserted and then secured using thin rubber gaskets. Unlike other canvas stretching methods, the only stapled parts of the canvas are the corners.

Benefits of Splined Canvas

  • Easy to re-stretch whenever the time comes
  • Easy to re-install
  • Promotes ease in framing when necessary

What is a Back-Stapled Canvas?

Just the same with splined canvases, a back-stapled canvas is a type of canvas stretching technique. Similar to splined canvases, the canvas is stretched over the front and sides but secured at the back using staples, a lot of them. This allows the canvas to be stretched over the frame significantly tighter compared to the other framing methods.

Benefits of Back-stapled Canvases

  • Cheaper compared to other stretched canvases
  • Takes a long time to loosen, proving durability

Key Differences Between Splined and Back Stapled Canvas

differences between splined and back stapled canvas

Here are the specific areas where you can differentiate the two:

Ease of Re-stretching When Needed

One of the key differences between the two canvas stretching methods is that splined canvases are easier to re-stretch once the time comes that it is required. Both splined and back-stapled canvases will loosen and sag over time, and they will need to be re-stretched over their frames.

With stapled canvases, you will need to remove more than a dozen staplers that are keeping the canvas in place. You also need to remove them carefully to avoid ripping the canvas.

With splined frames, you just need to remove the rubber gasket and the four staples at the corners. Re-installing the canvas is also easier since you secure an entire side of the canvas at a time.

In addition, because splined frames do not have that many staples on them, they are easier to frame when needed. On the other hand, since even the sides of the canvas frame are primed, you do not even need to use a frame on splined canvases if you do not like to.


As mentioned earlier, splined canvases sag sooner compared to back stapled canvases. This means you need to have the canvas re-stretched after a couple of years. This usually happens when the rubber lining that is keeping the canvas is stationary. Meanwhile, back-stapled canvases can last for decades without even sagging.

Back-stapled canvases take much longer to loosen compared to splined canvases. This is due to the dozens of staplers that are holding the canvas in place. Spline canvases only have a rubber strip holding the canvas.

However, this does not mean that splined canvases sag quickly. It will still take years for you to even notice that the canvas needs re-stretching.

Note, though, that back-stapled canvases also have their own set of disadvantages. For instance, if you live in a place that gets a bit humid, the staples can get quite rusty and eventually break.

Also, when you do need to re-stretch a back-stapled canvas, it will take a bit more time and effort.


The biggest selling point of back-stapled canvases is that they are a lot cheaper compared to other stretched canvases. If you have a bit of carpentry know-how, you can even make your own.
If you are just a beginner in painting, you should choose the more affordable choice, which is the back-stapled canvas. Essentially, one splined canvas costs roughly the same as two back-stapled canvases.

This is justifiable since the splined canvases contain more materials. Also, the way that they’re constructed is much more complicated.

  Splined Back-Stapled
Ease of Re-stretching Takes around 30 minutes May take more than an hour, depending on the size
Durability; Number of Years Before Re-stretching 3 to 4 years More than 5 years
Cost Around $50 for a 4-pack (16” x20”) Around $40 for a 5-pack (16” x20”)

If you are on the fence about which canvas to choose, back stapled vs splined canvas, and you’re just a beginner at painting, it would be better to choose the back-stapled canvases, just because they are the cheaper choice. On the other hand, if you are looking for affordable canvases, I would suggest that you choose side-stapled canvases.


Other than cost, there is no short-term difference between a splined vs back-stapled canvas. You will get the same painting experience out of both. So, which of the two stretched canvas options should you choose? It will depend on which one is readily available and fits your budget.