Why use a floating frame for a canvas?

floating frame

In the world of framing, there are two main ways to do it: adding a conventional frame or adding a floating frame (also called an American box frame). The latter is particularly well suited to contemporary, Scandinavian, industrial, minimalist and modern decors. Simple and chic, it will enhance the beauty of the artwork to be immortalized.

What is a floating frame?

A floating frame is a frame that surrounds the sides of the piece already mounted on a stretcher frame (the wooden structure on which the canvas is stretched). The space between the painting and the frame gives the impression that the painting is floating in the air, creating an attractive three-dimensional effect due to the play of shadows it creates. Typically, the space between the work and the frame is ¼”, but it can vary depending on preference.

The purpose of the frame is, of course, to draw the eye to the art piece, not to steal the show, as we demonstrate in this video :

The floating frame: wood, aluminum or resin

When the floating frame for canvas is quite thin, professional framers prefer solid wood as well as aluminum. The same goes for luxury floating frames, which offer different ornaments or embossments. For those who prefer a wider frame, resin gives a spectacular effect (it can, if desired, imitate wood with its veins), while remaining more affordable.

What are the advantages of choosing a floating frame for a canvas?

One of the main advantages is of course the style it gives to the painting or drawing on canvas, compared to a work that would be displayed without a frame. When framed, the work also looks bigger (not to mention grander!). 

The floating canvas frame provides the canvas with protection on the sides, without the paint or medium coming into contact with the frame (as is the case with traditional frames). This way, there is no risk of damaging the work or creating a color mismatch between its sides and its surface. It is important to understand that traditional frames hide part of the work: the part exposed to light will change color over time, while the colors of the hidden part will remain intact. 

Since the floating frame technique is simpler, a floating frame is generally less expensive than a traditional frame, which requires more time and materials (such as a mat or matting). 

What about the disadvantages?

Although there are not many, there are two main disadvantages to the floating canvas frame. The first is that dust will get between the canvas and the frame, requiring regular maintenance. 

Also, the presence of this type of frame could highlight any asymmetry in the stretcher frame. If the frame has warped over the years, your framing professional may advise you to have your work stretched over a new stretcher frame to achieve an aesthetically pleasing result, or to opt for a traditional frame instead.

To learn more about traditional framing, check out our article here.

How to choose the best frame for your painting?

There is no right or wrong answer here, as it is primarily a matter of taste. As previously explained, there are several widths of floating frames. The important thing is to respect the harmony between the style of the frame and that of the work. But nothing says that a more contemporary frame could not be suitable for a baroque work, for example. The finish of the frame and its color can echo those found in the painting or drawing and create a well-balanced mix of styles. 

Not sure? Ask your framer for advice: a professional will be able to guide you towards the options that will enhance your work.

Where can I find a custom floating frame?

You can entrust your painting to a professional framer, like those at Atelier Daniel, to install it in a custom-made floating frame. Remember that framing protects your artwork while enhancing it.

If your work is of great value, ask about our preservation framing technique.  

How to install a canvas in a floating frame?

Here are the steps to install a canvas in a floating frame. 

  • Making the bottom support (the 4 sides are fixed together by a special wood glue and then stapled).
  • Making the outline support (the 4 sides are fixed together with wood glue and then nailed).
  • Sanding everything in order to polish and level the surface.
  • Painting the frame (if the wood used is not already painted or stained).
  • Fixing the canvas in the frame with special material. 


Can I frame a picture in a floating frame?

Of course you can! However, the process will be slightly different from framing a piece of art mounted on a stretcher frame. The first step is to laminate the photograph to a thin plate to stiffen it. The “laminate” is then attached to a wooden frame, which serves a dual purpose: to further solidify the photograph and to lift it off the bottom of the frame. Finally, this assembly is attached to the frame. The framer makes sure that the space between the laminate and the frame is equal throughout.

Why does the stretcher frame have to be of high quality?

In order to guarantee a satisfactory and durable result, without warping, the stretcher frame must be of high quality. It is the skeleton of your work. Its thickness, the presence (or not) of cross braces (i.e. these pieces of wood placed transversally to solidify the structure), the finish of the assembly, the wood used as well as the origin of the stretcher frame are all factors that influence its quality. The larger the work, the more crucial it is that it be stretched over a stretcher frame that has been checked for strength before being framed. Most of the time, a stretcher frame is ¾” or 1.5″ thick. 

Your professional framer will be able to tell you if your canvas is mounted on a quality stretcher frame. If it is not, he may advise you to replace it.

How much does custom framing cost?

The work of a professional framer requires extensive knowledge and experience, manual dexterity and meticulousness… as well as a lot of time. A custom frame is made by hand, one at a time, with top quality materials, which explains the difference in price with the mass-produced frames (and predefined sizes) sold in superstores. 

The price of a custom frame will vary depending on the size of the work to be framed, the style of frame chosen (floating or traditional) and the material desired (solid wood or aluminum, for example). Generally, it will cost a few hundred dollars to have a medium-sized work framed.