What Are Floater Frames and How to Use Them

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. 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.

About the author

author

Mark Rogers is an amateur photographer and the founder of Frame Destination, Inc. In 2004 Mark realized the framing industry was not keeping up with the evolution of photography via new digital technology and started Frame Destination in his garage. Now his company has thousands of do-it-yourself framing customers across the US that it helps with its 11,000 square feet production facility in Dallas, TX.

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