I like to frame my box canvas paintings in a floater frame, this is a frame that has a small gap between the canvas and the frame. However I like to work on large canvases and buying large custom made frames is very expensive. If I were to do this I would need to increase my selling price significantly which I don’t want to do as an emerging artist. This is why I have been practicing making frames for the last year. I have made a lot of mistakes along the way which I have learnt from until I have developed a technique which gives me predictable professional looking canvas floater frames.
Here are some reasons why I make my own canvas floater frames;
- Unless I am painting on a deep box frame or I want to leave the sides of the canvas exposed like when I use silver/gold leaf, I like to present my paintings framed. They just look so much better and finish of the painting nicely.
- When you take part in exhibitions you are often required to frame your paintings.
- Buying custom made frames is very expensive, I would need to pass this cost on to my customers which I don’t want to do.
- Because I can – I did GCSE DT and I am no stranger to a bit of DIY!
If you do decide to make your own frames just be prepared that you will probably make a lot of mistakes and get very frustrated before you get the hang of it, hopefully this tutorial will help.
This is how I make the canvas floater frames:
1: Work out what size wood you need according to your canvas, see my little sketch below. You need one piece for the canvas to sit on, then another piece to go on the side of the canvas this needs to be wide enough to fit in the first block of wood and the canvas, the canvas should be at the same level as the top of the frame. I use pine, hardwood like oak would be better quality but it is a lot more expensive.
2: Glue together the two pieces of wood with very strong wood glue and clamp together with several clamps and leave the glue to dry.
3: Work out what size lengths and widths you need to cut to make your frame. Allow a couple of mm around the frame to make the float effect. If like me you are not very good at maths this is the hardest part, if in doubt cut it a bit larger and see how it fits then trim down accordingly. Cut the wood at 45° angles using a mitre saw, I have an electric one but you could use a hand mitre saw set.
4: Put the pieces together at this point and put your canvas on top just to check it is the right size before you glue it together. Use strong wood glue on the mitred corners and use a band clamp, make it as tight as you can and leave to dry.
5: Leave the clamp on for now and turn the frame over. Then hammer in V nails in the corners. Put some newspaper under to protect the wood. I use a magnetic V nail punch to do this.
5: Paint or varnish your frame. Think about what colour suits your painting best. For my summer paintings I think white is a good choice but I might switch to a dark grey soon. I paint the inside black to accentuate the gap, then I use a chalky matt white furniture paint and seal with clear varnish. I don’t like using gloss paint as it tends to leave ugly drip and brush marks. You could use spray paint for a really smooth finish but be warned it doesn’t go very far and can work out quite expensive. You might want to leave the wood natural and varnish it instead, especially if you are using a nice quality wood.
6: Secure the frame to the canvas by insering small screws through the back of the frame into the box canvas frame. Or you can secure with heavy duty velcro if you want to be able to interchange your canvases. Use your usual canvas hanging fixings so that it’s ready to hang.
I hope this little tutorial has been useful, if it has please leave me a comment.