How to Choose a Frame for a Stretched Canvas
Custom framing for a stretched canvas is the crowning touch, and choosing just the right frame to elevate your piece comes down to making some choices regarding personal preference. There is a wide variety of options for framing a stretched canvas, so we’re here to help simplify the process for you. Let’s dive into some of the steps involved, and you can use the tips and examples provided here to guide your own selection.
Understanding the 3 Types of Frames for Stretched Canvas
When it comes to framing your stretched canvas, do you prefer the canvas to fit inside the frame and be secured with points? Or do you not mind that the canvas sticks out of the back? Do you lean toward a “floating” appearance? Are you perhaps drawn toward a recessed look?
As long as you know your measurements, there are tons of frame options out there, but choosing the right one for you starts with deciding on the type of frame you wish to use.
There are three basic types of frames for stretched canvas, including:
- Back Loader: The back loader is the traditional, typical wood frame for all sorts of framing projects. Your stretched canvas would be placed into the frame from the back and held in place by various means.
- Front Loader: A front loader, also commonly referred to as a float frame or floater frame, receives your canvas from the front of the frame. The canvas sits on the bottom lip of the frame, where pre-drilled holes reside, and it is secured into place with screws placed through the back of the frame and into the stretcher bar.
- Metal: A metal frame receives your stretched canvas by sliding the stretcher into channels in the sides of the frame.
Back loading wood frames and metal canvas depth frames come in a variety of finishes
Measuring Your Stretched Canvas for the Right Size & Fit
Canvas stretchers come in a variety of thicknesses, and the thickness of the stretcher bar will play a role in determining which frame to choose. So it’s important to take a thickness measurement and compare it to a frame’s rabbet depth as you move through this selection process.
First, measure the thickness of the stretched canvas. By having an accurate measurement for the thickness of your stretched canvas, you’re able to choose a frame with the correct depth.
Measure the thickness of your stretched canvas
Next, confirm the rabbet depth of any frame you may be considering for your stretched canvas. Rabbet depth can be found by measuring from under the front lip of the frame to the back of the frame. When browsing products on the American Frame website, the rabbet depth is listed under each frame. It will appear as R: 5/8″ (or whatever the precise dimension may be). In general, the rabbet depth of your canvas frame should be greater than the depth of your stretcher bars.
Then measure the depth of the inside of your frame (called rabbet depth)
Exploring Your Options & Making Key Considerations
To help put some of these elements into perspective, let’s run through a few example scenarios:
Scenario #1: For this case, let’s say the stretcher bar is quite a bit thinner than the rabbet depth. That’s OK, as there is room in the back of the frame to secure the canvas with framer’s points. These are metal pieces inserted into the rabbet of a wood picture frame for the purpose of holding your stretched canvas (or art stack) securely in place. They are used in place of spring clips and are especially suitable when ordinary spring clips won’t compensate for your rabbet being much deeper than the height of your stretcher bar.
These stretcher bars are thinner than the frame rabbet
Scenario #2: In this case, the canvas fits snugly inside the channel of a metal frame. Since the canvas sits inside so tightly, no spring clips are needed to secure the canvas in place. Note that if you’re using a metal frame with a rabbet that’s deeper than the thickness of the canvas, spring clips will be needed to hold the canvas in place. And with a metal frame, the stretcher bar must always be thinner than the rabbet depth.
This stretched canvas fits tightly into the metal frame channel
Scenario #3: In this example, the canvas is actually thicker than the depth of the rabbet, which causes the canvas to stick out of the back of the frame. This can still work, but there are some things you’ll need to consider. Once hung, the frame will be pushed away from the wall instead of sitting flush against it, and when the framed piece is viewed from the side, a portion of the canvas will be visible. In addition, a stretched canvas in this scenario can only be secured by canvas clips or offset clips (not with framer’s points).
This stretched canvas is deeper than the frame rabbet
Now, here are some examples of canvas float frames with varying stretcher bars:
The rabbet of this frame is smaller than the depth of the canvas
This canvas is thinner than the frame rabbet
Since canvas floaters 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. In the opposite case, where the rabbet of the frame is larger than that of the canvas, the canvas will be recessed within the frame.
Applying Spacers for the Look You Prefer
Depending on the look you are trying to achieve, you can secure your stretched canvas in a deep frame exactly as it fits or use spacers to bring the frame closer to the front.
So, for example, with a very deep frame like the one below, you can see two different options. The first is showing the canvas recessed within the frame, and the second illustrates how the canvas would look if spacers were added to the back of the frame to push the canvas forward.
In the end, selecting the right choice of frame for your stretched canvas will depend on the factors outlined here and your own personal preferences for how you wish the final piece to appear. If you have additional questions or desire more direct support, we’re always here to help. Feel free to call our customer service team at 800-537-0944, or contact us to speak with an expert. You can also schedule free one-on-one frame design assistance through our Virtual Showroom.