Where and How to Frame Your Canvas Art

It’s easy to see why canvas art is so much different than other types of artwork. The canvas texture adds more visual depth to a room and comes with the bonus of improved longevity.

Canvas also presents unique challenges when it comes to framing such pieces and finding a suitable location to hang the art.

Special care must be taken to ensure that the canvas will fit within the frame. Floater frames often work well due to the multi-dimensional appearance of the piece. Traditional wood and metal frames can work just as well, however. The canvas should be kept out of areas receiving direct sunlight.

Many people do not place canvas in a frame, perhaps out of angst regarding searching for a suitable fit.

You’ll see below that framing canvas art is more common than you may think, and it does provide some unique design opportunities. Part of the trick is knowing how to find the magic number for the display height.

Is It Better to Frame a Canvas Painting?

In the case of canvas art, you do have a choice when it comes to whether or not you should go ahead and place the piece in a frame. 

Selection and framing techniques make all the difference when it comes to presentation. In the following sections, you’ll see why this is the case.

Artists are encouraged to do either of the following when preparing canvas art for presentation:

  • No frame at all: if you decide to go without a frame, the recommendation is to paint the cloth that wraps around the stretcher.
  • Frame: Choose a frame that fits appropriately with the piece and that is properly fitted.

What kind of frame is appropriate for canvas art? You are encouraged to pick a frame that compliments your piece of work appropriately. You would never want to border a contemporary abstract painting with an antique-style frame.

It just wouldn’t look right. Some types of frames work better with canvas art in general, as you’ll learn more about in the sections below.

Pros and Cons of Framing Canvas Art

Frames protect the edges and corners.Adds to the price of the work
There is less likely to be significant damage from falls.Framed pieces are heavier.
Frames complete the appearance.It may be challenging to find a frame that fits.

There’s a case to be made that it’s pointless to frame a canvas piece if you can’t find a frame that fits. For example, you may run into a problem where the frame obstructs the edges of the piece, thereby diminishing the overall confidence.

At this point, there are so many different frame styles that it is unlikely that you won’t be able to find something that works.

What Is The Difference Between A Rolled & Stretched Canvas?

A rolled or unstretched canvas is a cost-effective option in which customers receive their artwork in a roll. The difference between stretched and rolled canvas is that a stretched canvas has been placed over top wooden bars called stretchers. This ensures that the work is ready to be displayed without adding a frame.

If the canvas is already stretched, you won’t have to worry about the canvas getting damaged. You also won’t have to go through the sometimes tedious steps of stretching the canvas. You can see the steps involved in this process in the next section. 

How to Stretch a Canvas

To stretch a canvas, you’ll need a set of stretcher bars. Look for wooden stretcher bars with slots for easy assembly. You’ll also need fasteners, typically staples or thumbtacks.

If you’ve never stretched a canvas before, then it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get an assembly kit, like the easy assembly kit found here, which will help you focus on perfecting the steps below.

  1. Slide the edges of the four bars together and make sure that they are square by measuring from corner to corner.

  2. Make sure that the canvas is at least 3″ longer on all sides.

  3. Pull the canvas over the stretcher bars over the four opposite points in the middle of each stretcher-bar. A pair of canvas pliers will help you maintain a firm grip.

  4. Continue stapling and tightening the corners until all the ripples are gone. 

How to Frame Canvas Art

If you have a canvas that has already been stretched, half the battle will already be over. Now you need to figure out which type of frame will look best around your canvas.

Between strip frames, floater frames, wood frames, and much more, there may be some worry over picking out a frame that ends up not fitting the canvas.

Before starting, it is essential to take note of dimensions. Stretched canvases tend to come in one of three thicknesses: ⅝”, ¾” or 1 ½”. That’s why the framing process is covered in full detail in the sections below.

The frame’s groove must exceed the thickness of the stretcher bar at the side of the canvas for the piece to fit inside the frame.

No Need for Glass or Plexiglass Covers

Canvas artworks are susceptible to damage from trapped condensation. For this reason, there is no reason to frame a canvas underneath a layer of glass or plexiglass.

There is also no need to include a foam-core backing, although you will still need to fasten a strong hanging wire on the backside of the piece.

Make A DIY Frame for Canvas

If you go the DIY route, you’ll undoubtedly have ample opportunity to customize the presentation fully. You may well be following a design theme that is difficult to replicate with the selection at the store.

Before starting, it is crucial to make sure that you have a detailed plan of attack.

Tools & materials you’ll need:

  • Table saw
  • The wood type you’ve decided to work with 
  • Clamps and wood glue
  • Nails and a pneumatic nailer
  • Wood filler (to make the surface more even)
  • 120 grit/320 grit sandpaper

Once you’ve decided which size frame you want, start by making the horizontal cuts. Next, you will make the vertical cuts and mark and cut all the 45-degree miter joints for the corners of the frame. 

Strip Framing

The popular choice for canvas art is to keep things simple with a strip frame. You will benefit from a frame where there is no separation between the art and the frame.

There are plenty of strip frames available for purchase. Alternatively, you can make your strip frame in a simple DIY project.

Here’s what you need:

  • A molding material that is easy to work with, such as lattice stripping 
  • A miter saw for cutting the molding material
  • Nails 

Floater Frames

Floater frames work well for canvas art because they give the painting a three-dimensional feel. There are a seemingly unlimited number of options available when it comes to floating frames.

These frames vary widely in size and depth, allowing for maximum customization.

Just as is the case with standard picture frames, floater frames can be made of either metal or wood. Although there is a diversity of frame widths, the narrow frames tend to work better with canvas-based artwork. 

Here are some tips for designing or selecting a floater frame for a canvas painting:

  • Size the frame’s dimensions so that there is room between the edge of the frame and the art.
  • You are encouraged to double-check with the seller of your frame to confirm the size of the frame. 

Metal Frames

Metal frames are a more durable alternative to wood frames. They are typically known for not warping and twisting and tend to travel very well. However, there are pitfalls to metal frames, as they typically come in a limited number of size options.

You’ll want to make sure that you have the sizing down to a tee since metal frames are also less forgiving when you’re trying to slide canvas art into them.

Wood Frames

Choosing a wood frame is not unlike choosing a flavor at the ice cream shop. There are many different types of woods to choose from, each of which has different qualities.

Before stepping in, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to learn more about which wood works best for canvas paintings.

Pine-Most Affordable

Pine is the most affordable type of wood to work with. Thus, it is widely used. Pine is suitable for DIYers since it won’t be too expensive if you have to go through a bunch of trial and error with the frame design.

The major drawback is that pine is not very durable. It is more susceptible to warping than many of the alternatives.

Oak-Durable & Heavy

Oakwood is an upgrade from pine in that it is much more durable and can be more aesthetically pleasing due to its compatibility with staining practices.

It is also much heavier, which can be a drawback. Additionally, it is harder for DIYers to work with since it is more challenging to cut through.

MDF: Optimized For Performance & Affordability

MDF stands for Medium Density Fiber. It is a byproduct of wood chips and sawdust from the mill, then pressurized and combined. It’s another affordable option.

Due to the way that it is made, all MDF frames look the same. One drawback is that it is heavily processed and doesn’t carry the potential for unique features, as you would have with natural wood.

How to Frame Triptychs (Multiple Panels)

For those unfamiliar with the term, a triptych is a unique way to display art. Art pieces are divided into three separate panels showing one continuous piece.

An example of a triptych would be a painting of the Golden Gate Bridge in which the entire bridge takes up three different panels. If you are going to frame a triptych, the type of frame you select will have a clear effect on the appearance of the final piece.

  • Continuous scenes appear best when framed in thin frames with a simplistic finish.
  • You want the frame to be as little of a distraction as possible.
  • Triptychs look great on mantles, where they add another dimension to the room.

How to Frame Canvas Panels

Canvas panels can be more of a challenge to frame versus a standard canvas. There is no way to screw these types of paintings into a frame. The good news is that plenty of types of frames are conveniently designed for canvas panels.

Frames with Wood Backing

Frames with wood backing, such as the one found here, are specifically designed for canvas panels. The panel is inserted underneath the frame and against the backing.

With the help of some silicone gel applied to the corners of the panel, you should have no trouble getting the panel to adhere to the frame.

Point Driver & Standard Frames

If you are using a standard frame, then point drivers are the way to go. A point driver is a tool that is similar to a nail gun. You’ll evenly distribute points throughout the frame and proceed to push the points back whenever you want to add a panel.

This is a good method for framing panels if you plan to switch out paintings at some point. There is no need for any other fastener, such as nails or screws, so removing a panel is as simple as pulling the tabs up to free the piece.

Spacers with a Floater Frame

If you desire a floater frame for your canvas panel, then you’ll need wood spacers between the piece and the frame to fasten the art into place. You can use wood glue, silicone gel, or foam tape to secure the wood spacers.

It may be best to use the latter two if you desire easy removal since wood glue performs the most rigid bond between the three.

After giving the glue plenty of time to dry, you will flip the painting over and add screws to the back of the wood spacers.

Where to Frame Your Canvas Art

If it isn’t challenging enough to find a spot for your aesthetically ideal art, you also have to worry about placing your art in a place that keeps it out of harm’s way.

Stretched canvas can be sensitive to changes in humidity and temperature. This can lead to the cracking of paint layers in the most extreme cases, so be mindful of where you place your canvas pieces.

In the sections below, you’ll find guidance on choosing a suitable home for your beautiful art. Hopefully, this will be of great help if you find yourself in a bit of a conundrum over where to hang that painting which you now may feel that you bought in haste.

Out of Direct Sunlight

It would be best if you tried to avoid placing your canvas art in a spot where it will receive direct sunlight, such as directly opposite a south-facing window.

Exposure to intense sunlight will drain the color of a painting over time. At the very least, you are certainly encouraged to invest in good window blinds, which you should keep closed during times of intense sunlight.

The best place to hang a canvas is in a cool, dry, and relatively dark place. As such, the guidelines of where to mount or store your canvas paintings are very similar to the guidelines of where to store pantry items so that they don’t become spoiled.

Monitor Humidity Levels

The level of humidity in a room does have an impact on the quality of a painting. In many cases, canvas paintings have even been known to develop black mold spots.

The ideal indoor humidity level is around 55%. You can purchase a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels and control the humidity level in rooms with a dehumidifier

Optimizing Placement (With a Little Math)

Many may think that the best approach is to place your painting in a spot where it is perfectly in line with other paintings and other objects, such as windows.

This doesn’t necessarily lead to an appealing look and feel. Hanging the painting too high is another problem, among several other potential mistakes being made, as mentioned below.

  • 6-10 inches: The bottom of the painting should be this distance above furniture if you hang a canvas above it.

  • The Magic Number: Divide the piece’s height by two and then measure the distance from the top of the piece to the D-ring. Subtract this number from the total height. Finish by adding 60″. The final number is the height above the floor from which you should place your picture hanger wire/cord.

Once you have marked out the spot where the magic number tells you to hang your canvas, you may feel that it’s too low.

However, there is a method to the madness since the magic number places the art piece directly within the line of sight for viewers of average height. 

How to Hang Canvas Art

This is the stage of the process where mistakes are often made: the hanging of the frame. This is because canvas art tends to be heavier.

You may find it challenging to keep a piece hung securely on the wall. You must be equipped with the ideal fasteners for whichever type of wall you have.

Traditional hanging wires and nails don’t work very well with canvas art. Instead, it would be best if you opted for a sturdier alternative: D-rings. Below you’ll learn more about why these are superior to traditional fasteners such as nails or screws.

Which Type Of Wall Do You Have?

Techniques vary depending upon which type of wall you’re looking to hang your framed canvas painting on: drywall, concrete, or paneling. In the section below, you’ll learn which method works best for each wall type:

  • Drywall: A simple nail or screw into the wall stud won’t do. You should look for more advanced hanging hardware (such as the D-rings mentioned below.)

  • Concrete/Brick Walls: Use picture hangers for brick/concrete. You’ll need a power drill equipped with a carbide-tipped bit to create a hole for the plug.

  • Paneling: Wood is an ideal surface for hanging paintings. The only hanging hardware you need in this case is wood screws, which you can install with just a screwdriver.

D-Rings vs. Hanging Wires

You might consider skipping the standard hanging wire in favor of D-rings. These are D-shaped brackets that are screwed into the back of frames, always in pairs.

They come in two variations, the stronger of which can take two screws for heavier pieces. Compared to hanging wires, D-rings provide the frame with a more secure foothold against the wall.

For small/medium-sized pieces:

  1. Mark where the top of the frame is on the back.

  2. Mark out the proposed locations of the D-rings. It’s common to place them within the top third of the frame.

  3. Create a sharp indentation in the frame. A sharp nail and a hammer should work fine for this.

  4. String a picture cord or wire between the D-rings. It’s never a bad idea to double-strand the wire/cord for maximum security.

For heavier pieces, you are encouraged to use D-rings with two screw holes rather than one. Pay attention to which element the rings have been platted with.

D-rings are plated with either zinc, nickel, or brass. The zinc-plated rings are the most affordable but won’t hold as much weight. The brass-plated rings are the strongest option.

Final Thoughts

To frame canvas art, you will first need to ensure that it has been stretched properly. You can find plenty of stretched canvas pieces, albeit at a higher price versus rolled canvas.

The good news is that stretching canvas isn’t impossibly difficult, as is evidenced by the instructions in the sections above.

In terms of frame selection, you have many choices. Regardless of which frame you choose, you are encouraged to secure it with a fastener stronger than a hanger wire and a nail or screw.

In terms of display location, you should avoid areas of high humidity and direct sunlight. 

Recent Posts