What Are Floating Frames and How to Use Them

Written by Mark Rogers

Framing a photograph or piece of art is almost as important to the display as the image itself. While the actual picture is what you want to display, without a good frame, the art will not be shown to its best advantage. Picture frames create visual space around a photo, separating it from its surroundings and drawing attention to the artwork itself.

Choosing a picture frame can be a creative project on its own, and a distinctive framing choice can set your artwork off and garner more attention for it. A type of frame that is gaining popularity for its unique look is the canvas floater frame.

What is a Floater Frame?

Designed for artwork that is printed or painted on canvas, floater frames give art the illusion of floating inside the picture frame without touching it, which creates an interesting visual detail and a sense of three-dimensional depth in the overall display.

Materials and Sizes

A floater frame can be made out of metal or wood, the same as standard picture frames. They can be made to any size and with different frame widths, although many floater frames are narrow for the best display of the photo. Different finishes are available, including metallic finishes as well as matte colors. Because these frames are designed to work with photos printed on canvas or other canvas-based artwork, they need to be matched with the stretched canvas frame, which is then attached to the back of the floater frame to create the illusion that the canvas is floating inside – but not touching – the main picture frame.

Ordering a Floater Frame

To get a floater frame sized correctly for your artwork, you need to make sure you order based on the right size of your stretched canvas photo or art piece. Check with the seller of your frame to make sure you understand how they size their frames and what dimensions they require in order to create your frame. Often they will want the actual size of the stretched artwork and will build the floater frame with increased dimensions to create the needed space or “moat” between the edge of the artwork and the frame itself.

Printing and Mounting a Canvas Photo

Floater frames are designed to work with photos printed on canvas, which will probably require some extra steps for most people. Many photo services offer specialty printing on canvas, so if you have a photo service you use regularly, you can ask about their canvas-printing services.

It's also possible to print your own photos on canvas by buying special printable canvas that you can feed through a desktop printer. If you want to print your own canvas photo, make sure you check that the canvas you purchase will work with your type of printer.

A photo printed on canvas also needs to be mounted on stretcher bars or a stretcher frame before it can be attached to a floating frame. Lay the canvas face down on a clean surface and lay the stretcher bars on top, making sure to line the bars up with the photo.

Fold down the canvas at the center top and staple it to the frame, then pull it taut at the center bottom and add another staple. Work around the edges of the frame to staple the entire canvas on, being careful to stretch the canvas evenly as you go. When the photo is mounted on the stretcher frame, it can be inserted in the floater frame to complete the mounting.

Floater frames mimic the look of fine art displayed in a gallery, where these types of frames are the preferred way to display art. They enable galleries to mount a piece of artwork in a frame without the surface of the art touching the frame itself, preserving the image from potential contact or damage.

For home display of images, they provide an alternative to traditional matted picture frames. The depth of a floater frame creates a greater three dimensionality to a piece of art hung on a wall, and the floating image provides the same effect for art that is displayed on a desk or shelf.

A floater frame is a beautiful way to display the most precious photos or priceless artwork in your collection, giving them a presence that matches their importance.

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10 thoughts on “What Are Floating Frames and How to Use Them”

  • Elizabeth Morewood
    Elizabeth Morewood October 11, 2017 at 3:59 am

    Dear Sirs,
    I would like to try your floating frames. I have a picture on stretched canvas measuring 401.5 by 300mm.
    Also one measuring 406 by 510mm.
    Never even heard of floating frames I am curious to know if you can supply me . Please reply and then I can tell the colours I would like,
    Yours sincerely
    Elizabeth Morewood

    • Mark Rogers

      Elizabeth, you can checkout our choices and colors here:

      To order a floater frame just click on one of the frames, select your color and enter your size.
      401.5mm x 300mm = 15 - 3/4 x 11 - 3/4 inches
      406mm x 510mm = 16 x 20 inches

      For the first one you will need to select "customize this preset frame size", but for your second one you can just select 16x20 preset size.

      I am afraid we only ship to the US right now.

  • Maria Avery

    Hi Mark,

    I loved the article. I have a number of pieces that I would like to get framed.
    My question is, can floater frames be hung or just display on an easel, etc.
    Thank you

    • Mark Rogers

      Maria, yes floater frames are hung just like traditional frames and ours include the hanging kit. You can also put the on an easel but of course you have to be careful with the larger ones.

  • Brad Smith

    These look great. How is the stretched canvas attached to the back to float like that? Is there a cutout for the canvas?

  • Jim Hamel

    Thanks for the good article. I've seen this concept applied to metal prints as well, so that there is a metal print floating inside a frame. Any advice for doing that? I'm challenged as to what you mount the metal print to.

  • Marcia

    I want to stack a large (60 x 36)framed piece of art inside a float frame. I've tried looking for examples and can't find any. Seem to me like it would add stability and interest. What is your opinion?

    • Mark Rogers

      Marcia, it is called frame stacking and is a very cool way to make a very unique presentation. Probably not real common due to the cost (double the cost of the frames) and the design complexity. Even before the the "floater" frame was invented I suspect framers were sometimes stacking frames where you frame the artwork in one frame and then put that inside of a larger frame. In the case of using a floater frame it is fairly easy since the original frame can be secured into the floater the same way you would secure the stretcher frame a canvas is typically wrapped on.

  • Angela

    I bought canvas art not framed from Wish. Do I need to stretch it before framing it?

    • Laura W

      That's up to you and your aesthetic. You can stretch it and frame it with a floater frame, or leave it without stretching it and mount it with a normal frame.

  • Darlynn Babb-Sharpe
    Darlynn Babb-Sharpe September 18, 2019 at 8:44 am

    When float framing art on canvas with a high gloss resin finish is it best to use a high gloss frame...or matt finish?

    • Laura W

      It's really up to how you'd like the final product to look. The matte finish would be a nice contrast to the high gloss resin, but again, it just depends on what the project is. We have samples available of all of the floater frames if you want to see the finishes next to your art.

  • robyn hove

    I dont know who to ask about this so Im hoping you can help me.
    Im painting on cavases that are not flat. They are stapled onto a wood frame. Just regular canvas in different sizes.
    I also paint on flat canvases that are super easy to frame. My question is what kind of frame do I get for a regular canvas that has wood and is stapled to the canvas? Thanks for any help you can give me. I was thinking floating frames but I really have no idea.
    Thanks again

    • Laura W

      Hi Robyn - The Canvas Floater Frames are built for the stretched canvas artwork. The canvas sits into them and then you attach the canvas to the frame with some hardware on the back that is sent with the frame. Thanks!

  • Linda

    What is the proper depth of a floater frame? Is it ok if the painting is level with top of frame or can it be slightly recessed or stand slightly higher than the frame? Are there a proper and improper depths to hang?

    • Laura W

      Hi Linda - There's not really an improper way to do it. Whatever you think looks best! I will say, we mostly see canvases that are level or slightly recessed in the floater frames, but nothing officially in the rule books.

  • Kathy

    Are you still taking orders for floating frames? I have a 15 3/4” x 20 1/2” canvas painting that I would like to order a frame for.

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