Our Frame of Mind

A collection of tips, framing techniques and artist insights.
Choosing the correct frame for your stretched canvas

How to Choose a Frame for a Stretched Canvas

Selection of canvas floater framesSelection of canvas floater frames
Selection of wood canvas float frames

Choosing a frame for a stretched canvas can be a simple process, once you decide on the type of frame that you wish to use. By the type, we mean back loader, front loader (float aka floater), or metal.

The back loader is the typical frame that is usually used for framing. The canvas is placed into the frame from the back and held in place by various means.

A front loader, float, or floater frame, receives the canvas from the front of the frame and it is held in place, usually by screws through the back of the frame and into the stretcher bar.

Metal frames receive the stretched canvas by sliding the stretcher into channels in the sides of the frame.

Here are a variety of canvas float frames. The canvas is loaded from the front and sits on that bottom lip. Pre-drilled holes are drilled into the bottom lip and the canvas is secured into place with screws. 

Metal and wood canvas depth frames Metal and wood canvas depth frames
Standard metal and wood frames with varying rabbet depths

Canvas stretchers come in a variety of thicknesses as well. The thickness of the stretcher bar will play a role in determining which frame to choose.

Stretched canvas can come in different depths due to the stretcher barsStretched canvas can come in different depths due to the stretcher bars
The differing thicknesses of two stretcher bars

First, measure the thickness of the stretched canvas.

Measure the depth of your stretched canvas to get the correct canvas depth picture frameMeasure the depth of your stretched canvas to get the correct canvas depth picture frame
Measuring a canvas

Next, find the rabbet depth of the frame. This can be found by measuring from under the front lip of a frame to the back of the frame. If browsing on our website, the rabbet depths can be found under each frame, listed as R: 5/8” or other dimension.

The rabbet depth of your canvas frame should be greater than the depth of your stretcher barsThe rabbet depth of your canvas frame should be greater than the depth of your stretcher bars
Measuring a frame

Let’s run through a few scenarios:

1.) In this scenario, the stretcher bar is thinner than the rabbet. There is still room in the back of the frame to secure the canvas with Framer’s Points.

A canvas sitting in a frame A canvas sitting in a frame
A thin canvas in a deep frame

2.) This canvas fits snugly inside the channel of this metal frame. Since the canvas fits inside so tightly, no spring clips will be needed to secure the canvas in place. However, if using a metal frame that has a rabbet that is deeper than the thickness of the canvas, spring clips will need to be used to hold the canvas in place. Note: if using a metal frame, the stretcher bar must be thinner than the rabbet.

A canvas in a tight fitting metal frame A canvas in a tight fitting metal frame
A snuggly fit cnavas in a metal frame 

3.) In this example, the canvas is thicker than the depth of the rabbet, which causes the canvas to stick out of the back of the frame. This is totally doable, but here are some things to consider.  Once hung, the frame will be pushed away from the wall and will not sit flush against the wall. If viewing from the side, the canvas will also be seen. This canvas can only be secured by canvas clips or offset clips (but not with framer’s points).

A canvas sticking out the back of a frame A canvas sticking out the back of a frame
What happens when the canvas is thicker than the frame 

The following are some examples of canvas floaters with varying stretcher bars:

A canvas poking out the front of a frame A canvas poking out the front of a frame
The rabbet of this frame is smaller than the depth of the canvas
A canvas that is thinner than the frame A canvas that is thinner than the frame
This canvas is thinner than the rabbet

Since canvas floats are loaded from the front, the canvas will stick out of the front of the frame when the rabbet of the frame is smaller than that of the canvas.

When the opposite happens, the rabbet of the frame is larger than that of the canvas, it means that the canvas will be recessed in the frame.

How to Use Spacers

This time, we are using a very deep frame. Again, the canvas is recessed in the frame. Depending on the look you are trying to achieve, you can secure the canvas in place as is or use spacers to bring the frame more towards the front. 

Below you can see how the canvas would look if spacers are added to the back to push the canvas forward.

A thin canvas in a deep frame A thin canvas in a deep frame
Without spacers
The thin canvas sitting at the front of the deep frame The thin canvas sitting at the front of the deep frame
With spacers

There are many different options when choosing a frame for a stretched canvas. Most of the choices you make depend on personal preference. Do you prefer the canvas to fit inside the frame and secure it with points or do you not mind that the canvas sticks out the back? As long as you know your measurements, there are tons of frame options out there!

June 6, 2014
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