How to Frame a Canvas with a Canvas Floater

There are a number of different ways that a canvas can be framed and most choices that you make are based on personal preference. In this tutorial we will show 3 different ways to frame a canvas with a canvas float frame, otherwise known as a floater frame.

Note that in this tutorial we use wood frames, but we also offer metal canvas floats as well. Let’s get started:
measuring canvas thickness

First, measure the thickness of the canvas. This is important because we offer a variety of canvas float frames that also differ in depths, so choose a frame that has a depth that is appropriate for your tastes (some people prefer the canvas to sit into the frame and not stick out further than the depth, while other people might prefer their canvas to stick out). A note about measuring to order the frame: When measuring the canvas, be sure to measure for the folds. The areas where the canvas is folded over (usually at the top and bottom) can sometimes add up to ¼” to the overall measurement. If you measure the stretcher bar before the canvas is attached, the finished canvas will not fit inside the float frame properly. If you’d prefer a relief around the canvas, be sure to measure your finished canvas plus add in the additional amount for the relief on all sides. Example: if the canvas measures 12 ¼ x 12 and you’d like a ¼” relief on each side, the frame size you would need to order is: 12 ¾ x 12 ½.
float frame with predrilled holes

The float frame will come with predrilled holes so the canvas can be attached.
predrilled holes

Here is a closer view of the predrilled holes.
place canvas into front of frame

Place your canvas into the front of the frame. Normally when framing, the materials are put in from the back, but when using a canvas float the canvas sets in from the front.
drill pilot holes

Flip the frame on its side while holding the canvas into the frame. Drill pilot holes through the predrilled holes. Be sure to drill into the canvas stretcher bar, but don’t drill so far that the canvas is punctured.
secure screws with a screwdriver

While holding the canvas tightly against the back of the frame, use a screw driver to secure screws into the back of the canvas float and stretcher bar. Continue doing this until all the predrilled holes are finished with screws. We recommend drilling the hole and then immediately securing it with a screw. Then, drill the next hole and secure that one.  If all the holes were drilled first without securing, misalignment may occur.
view from the back of the frame

The second option for framing with a canvas floater (or canvas float) is to have a relief surrounding the canvas. Just be sure when measuring that the relief isn’t too big because the predrilled holes need to be covered by the canvas.
center canvas within frame

First, move the canvas around in the frame until there is even spacing on all sides.
add shims to keep spacing even

Once it’s centered in the frame, use shims of cardboard, Styrofoam pieces, pieces of wood, etc. to keep the canvas in place while attaching it from the back. After adding the “spacers” double check that the canvas is still centered and adjust as needed.
canvas flipped on its side

Carefully flip the canvas on its side.
drill pilot holes and secure screws

Again, drill your pilot holes and attach your screws. Continue going around the frame, watching not to move the canvas out of place.
view of the back of the frame

This is how it should look from the back.
comparison of 2 frames

Here they are for comparison! The one on the left has no relief while the one on the right has a large relief.

Consult our other canvas articles for more information:
Why Should I Frame My Canvas Painting?
Using Linen Liners for Art and Framing
How to Choose a Frame for a Stretched Canvas
Canvas Clips and Offset Clips
Calculating the Float with a Float Frame
Do You Stretch Large Canvas?
What Frames Are Best With Linen Liners?