How do I Frame a Painting Done on Canvas?

How to frame a canvas.
If the frame isn't deep enough, you'll see the canvas if you look at the side of the frame. Image: ©2006 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Question: How do I Frame a Painting Done on Canvas?

"So far, I have been using canvas on cardboard, but am thinking of switching to painting on canvas. But how do you frame a finished work done on stretched canvas? Or do you remove the finished piece from the wood stretchers in order to frame it?" -- Molly N.

Answer

It is very easy to frame a stretched canvas. You don't need to remove the canvas from the stretchers to frame the painting.

The frame sits on the edge of the stretched canvas, like it would on a canvas board, and there is no need to protect it with glass. If, for some reason, the canvas stretchers have become warped, you can remove the finished painting and remount it, either on new stretchers or on a rigid support.

Firstly, you should know the outside dimensions of your painting and the type of frame that will look good with it. Standard sizes are the most economical; you will have to pay more if you purchase a custom frame. You want a frame that will complement your painting and not compete with it. Make sure to buy a frame that is made for the size of your painting if it is a standard size. If the frame isn't as deep as the canvas, you'll see part of the edge of the canvas if you're looking from the side.

To frame the canvas, you simply slip the painting into the frame from the back as usual. You can get canvas frame clips (Buy from Amazon) or offset clips (Buy from Amazon) for attaching a frame to a canvas from a hardware or frame store, or online.

 Artist Brian Rice uses bent pipe clamps, instead of buying offset clips, to secure a frame to a canvas. Simply drill the offset clips into the frame and your canvas will be secure within the frame.

It is not necessary, but sometimes a piece of paper is stuck on the back of the framed canvas using brown paper attached to the frame with double sided tape  to 'tidy up' the back of the canvas and stop dust collecting in it.

If you do this, be sure to cut a hole in the back to allow the canvas to breathe so it can adjust to changes in ambient temperature and humidity. 

You can also use a floater frame (occasionally referred to as an L-frame) to frame your painting.  With these types of frames there is a gap between the edge of the canvas and the frame such that the painting appears to be floating in the frame. The painting is inserted from the front and rests on a ledge of the frame to which the painting is screwed in through the back to the stretcher bars. These frames are available in various sizes and depths, including ones suitable for deep gallery-wrap canvasses.

Further Reading and Viewing

Updated by Lisa Marder 9/29/16