It’s a time of celebration: you’ve been accepted into that group show you’ve always wanted to be part of, or maybe you even have the fortune of preparing for your first solo show! How do you prepare that work so it’s “gallery ready?” Is there a right or wrong way to frame your art?
Hi my name is Carrie and here on Artist Strong I help artists like you build your skill and develop your unique artist voice. Today we are talking about 5 different ways to frame your art.
The first step to consider is where you are hanging your art. If it’s in a gallery setting, they may have certain rules or expectations for the show in terms of how certain artworks are framed, as well as what hanging hardware is used on the back of the frame to actually hang the art.
Typically speaking, if you use canvas that has a gallery wrap, which means the canvas is neatly wrapped around the entire frame and stapled on the back side of the canvas frame, you might only need to paint the sides or keep them clean. You don’t always have to frame work on canvas. If you choose not to frame your canvases, you’ll need to place hanging gear on the back side of the frame.
Typically speaking galleries discourage use of sawtooth hangers, like the one you see here:
The nails are placed through the holes on either side and then attached to the back side of the frame, like I show in the following image:
In this photo I have yet to place the nails in the holes of the hanger and hammer them in, but that’s what we’d do here.
Some hanging systems work with them, some don’t. It’s best to ask the gallery if their system works with sawtooth hanging hardware.
I personally use sawtooth hanging hardware for smaller paintings I’m selling to collectors outside of a gallery venue. It makes them easy and ready-to-hang for the collectors.
Typically speaking, galleries usually allow acrylic and oil paintings on canvas to be unframed. Usually watercolor and gouache works are framed behind glass to help protect the paper and preserve the color, though I have in the past mounted my watercolors on canvas and sprayed them with UV protection spray. I’ll be creating a post showing you how to do that and when I do, I’ll be sure it’s linked below this video for you.
Whether a work is framed or unframed, this is the kind of hanging hardware usually used for gallery events:
There is a string, or hanging wire, attached by some kind of hooks on either side of the frame or canvas bars. Here’s a close up of this hanging hardware, called screw-hooks:
I’ve also seen this kind of hardware used too, arranged in the same way as the previous screw-hooks:
These I’ve seen referred to as D-rings.
For any of the hardware you use to hang the work, it’s important to see how much weight they hold if you have a framed artwork with glass, or a large heavy canvas. Not all screw-hooks and d-rings can handle the same amount of weight. Same goes for the string or hanging wire you use to string between the hooks.
In the past I’ve used heavy duty deep sea fishing line and strung it multiple times between my hooks and found that supports heavy paintings when I couldn’t find hanging wire. Your local hardware store should have all of the supplies you need. And of course, if you work with a professional framer, they will do all of this for you.
What if using a professional framer isn’t right for you. What are your options? Well people inside the community came back to me with all kinds of great ideas and that’s what I’ll share with you now.
1. Gallery Wrapped Canvas
We already touched upon this, but I want to emphasize you can buy and use canvas that is gallery wrapped so you don’t have to add a frame. These canvases can sometimes be a little more costly, but they are much cheaper than buying a ready-made or custom-made frame.
2. Thrift Shops
A wonderful alternative to buying new frames or seeking out frames from a professional framer, which can be cost prohibitive, is to look at thrift shops for old frames. Someone in our community mentioned she does this and that sanding them down if needed and adding a little paint can look really good.
3. Garage Sales
Other people mentioned they go to flea markets and garage sales to look for frames. They will sand them, use wood putty if they need to and spray paint them.
4. Buy moldings
You can also go purchase moldings for home interiors and ask them to put them together for you. Another example from the community, one of our members wrote: “I once bought 4-inch solid oak moldings, they put the frame together, it was three feet by six feet – cost was $40. It made a very nice frame. The person who bought the painting still has the frame on it.”
5. Use Door Jamb Wood
And yet another person told me: “I make basic frames using door jamb wood (thin finished pieces used for framing doors). All I need is a miter box saw glue and finishing nails.”
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Now, let’s start that conversation: ask your burning framing questions or tell us your best framing tips and tricks in the comments below.
Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time here on Artist Strong.
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You make an excellent point when you mention how you should consider how much weight your hardware can support when hanging large and heavy art. My wife would like to find a way to hand her self portrait in her office, but she is worried that the canvas may be too big to hang safely above her computer. Maybe we should find an art framing service that will help us ensure that her artwork is safe.
Hi Eli! The good news is much of hardware I find at places like Lowes or Home Depot have weight limits listed on their box when you purchase them so you can safely ensure the gear is appropriate to the work.
Looking for the link on how to add watercolors to canvas as you mentioned in the video.
I made a post on social media that walks through the process. You can find it on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BwaTTKcBbJp/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
Thanks for reminding me, I will go in and add this to the post!