Monday, 16 April 2012

DIY Framing: Framing a Canvas

Canvases are not difficult to frame. The main practical problem is sourcing the specialist hardware; canvases are usually deeper than the recess in the frame and so need some sort of angled clip to keep them in place.

The first thing you need to do is to select your frame. Readymade frames are available in some standard sizes; I have bought them from the craft superstore Hobbycraft in the past. But it seems that many apparently standard sizes of canvas aren't catered for in this way; the next option I explored was ordering online. This takes a little longer and is a little more expensive (a 30 x 40 cm frame cost me £30), but it's still significantly cheaper than getting the whole job done commercially.

The actual choice of frame can be tricky. Because you're not using a mount - i.e. the painting butts right up to the frame - it's usually a good idea to go for a wider frame. The frame is supposed to complement the painting, so a lot of people like to echo a colour from the painting in the frame. A gallery owner suggested to me that Cannon Heath Down 6 (shown below) required a broad, whitewashed wooden frame (picking out the clouds, I think).
The canvas is deeper than the recess in the frame

Obviously, I have taken this advice on board... I just haven't bought it a decent frame yet. It's still wearing its too-thin, plain pine frame.

Once you've chosen your frame, you need a way of making the canvas stay in it. Obviously, it's nice if you can remove it again - say you've made a poor choice of frame or the painting needs varnishing (both will apply to Cannon Heath Down 6).

There are a number of ways of doing this; one of the best solutions is to use spring clips:

One of Cannon Heath Down 6's spring clips

Spring clips are less easy to buy in art'n'craft superstores, but are readily available online (UK Picture Framing Supplies will sell them to you, along with the picture cord and the D-rings or screw eyes required to attach the cord; framers such as Moonshine will also be able to supply such hardware). You'll need 8 clips, two on each side; a single screw fixes each clip to the frame, while the springiness of the metal holds the canvas in place.

The photographs above show how you might use the clips on a skinny frame - but I believe they are intended to sit more fully on the internal frame of the canvas, as they do on the rear of Cannon Heath Down 1 (shown right). I gave that painting - a gift - a broader frame, made of oak (warning: oak is very hard and you definitely need to predrill your holes).

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