Framing a canvas print of Mt Victoria by New Zealand artist Jack Magnus McDonald

How to frame your canvas print

A frame is the perimeter which defines where the art finishes and the outside world begins. It helps focus the eye on the important bits in between its borders, creating a window into the scene.

Step 1 - Choose how you want to mount your print

There are two common methods for mounting a canvas print. You can get it stretched over wooden bars or have it glued directly onto board.

Stretching the canvas onto bars gives your print a deeper profile; often about an inch thick. This method generally suits single, thin frames which wrap nicely around the edges.

Mounting the canvas onto a board gives a much more shallow profile; roughly 3mm deep. This method lends itself to more traditional and prominent frames. You can even layer frames on top of each other to really make a statement. More on that later.

Evans Bay painting print on wall by Jack Magnus McDonald
Stretched on bars (unframed)

starting at $90*

Wellington Giclee Print on Canvas framed
Stretched on bars (framed)

starting at $200*

How to frame a canvas print part 1
Mounted on board (framed)

starting at $200*

*these prices are just a guide to help you with your decision

Step 2 - Choose your frame

Once you’ve decided what method you are going with, it’s time to choose the frame itself.

Standing at the framers, in front of a vast array of colours, sizes, styles and materials, can be overwhelming. It is important to go in with a plan. 

Here are 3 factors to consider:

  • Does the print even need a frame?
  • Does the style of the artwork suit a modern or traditional frame?
  • What are the key colours to consider in the artwork?

Does the print even need a frame?

If you have stretched the canvas over the bars, ask yourself the question, will the print look better in a frame?

One of the prints I have, State of the Nation, is quite a complicated composition. The strong perspective lines naturally draw the eye into the painting so it doesn’t necessarily need a frame.

Does the style of the artwork suit a modern or traditional frame?

Traditional

If either the artwork or the location where it is to be hung has a traditional style, it makes a lot of sense that the frame is traditional as well.

Classic, heavy gilt frames give an air of classiness and timelessness.

Another option with a similar effect is to layer multiple frames on each other. In the photo below, the print of Mt Victoria has a white inner frame and a charcoal outer frame. This gives it a grand presence in the rather plush dining room.

How to frame a canvas print part 5

Mt Victoria print in a traditional frame

Modern

On the other hand, if the artwork or the location is modern then a modern frame would compliment the situation.

Modern frames are sleek, minimalist and don’t distract away from the content of the painting. As mentioned above, State of the Nation is a busy and modern style of realism which works well with a subtle, clean frame.

Print of Auckland CBD by Jack Magnus McDonald

State of the Nation giclee print in a modern, minimalistic frame

What are the key colours to consider in the artwork?

So you think you know the style of frame, but how do you pick the colour? 

Tone

Deciding on whether the frame should be light or dark really depends on the contrast. A light coloured frame emphasises the dark coloured details in a painting. A dark coloured frame emphasises the light coloured details in a painting. And a mid-toned frame is a tad more neutral.

Colour

In terms of the colour, some people are prejudice to black frames as they remind them of the plastic frames surrounding certificates and photos. White frames have similar associations with groovy, funky, plasticy, slightly sanitised things. Personally, I don’t have a problem with either colour and often use variations of these colours such as the charcoal and cream.

 

The best way to make a decision about the colour of the frame is to try it on. A good framer will have plenty of samples so you can get an idea of what it will look like when it is done.

Below are some examples of different framing options for my print of Mt Victoria. 

How to frame a canvas print part 6
Minimalist white frame

Canvas stretched onto bars

How to frame a canvas print part 3
Modern light wood frame

Canvas stretched onto bars

How to frame a canvas print part 4
Medium traditional wood frame (with inner frame)

Canvas mounted to board

How to frame a canvas print part 9
Medium traditional light wood frame (with inner frame)

Canvas mounted to board

How to frame a canvas print part 8
Large traditional dark wood frame (with inner frame)

Canvas mounted to board

How to frame a canvas print part 7
Large traditional charcoal frame (with inner frame)

Canvas mounted to board

A final piece of advice...

If after all that you still can’t decide, ask the framer what they would do. After all, it is their job and they are usually more than willing to help.