This week I FINALLY checked off a longstanding To-Do, and it was so great! I’m lucky to have a super-talented photographer for a husband, so I’ve long wanted to print one of his photos and make it a focal point on our dining room gallery wall. We built the ledges offset to make sure there’d be space for a huge piece, and we’ve finally filled it!
I love work on canvases because I think it brings a great depth- especially to printed photos. But I’ll be the first to admit that an unframed canvas can feel very unfinished. Maybe a little inexpensive. I know it’s popular to get family photos printed on large canvases, and I think a floating frame is the perfect way to make them feel more artful. I got the idea from this helpful art post by Emily Henderson.
It started with this incredible photo from a trip Ben took to Ireland with his uncle several years ago. This tree growing through a old abbey is found in Killarney National Park, and I’m rull obsessed with it. When he showed me this photo, my first thought was that I wanted to get married in exactly that spot. (And I looked into it! But getting married overseas is quite a production, and -fun fact- wedding ceremonies must take place indoors for them to be official in Ireland)
Because the outer perimeter of the photo is dark, we wanted a finish on the frame that made it really pop. I loved the idea of adding the chartreuse on the interior to bring out the bright green from the middle of the photo. The white frame brings such a nice contrast and unifies this piece with a lot of the other frames on that wall.
The best part is that this is a simple DIY, and it’s totally customizable to your project and your space.
Lumber: poplar hobby boards to your preferred proportions. I did a 2.75″ board for the back, and 1.5″ boards for the sides. I used 4 of both widths for this project, because my canvas is so large, and the boards are 36″ long.
Small clamps: for making each side
Chop Saw or Miter Box with Handsaw
Staple Gun (not necessary, but useful!)
Nail Gun (or a hammer and short finishing nails)
Large clamps for putting the entire piece together, OR *Extra Credit* Strap Clamp: it is the best for building up square projects
Finishing supplies per your design (I used leftover white latex paint from another project, and the chartreuse acrylic paint is a throwback to some projects I did in grad school)
The steps are easy-peasy:
Glue up your sides. I placed the 1.5″ boards on top of the 2.75″ boards and used a bead of wood glue, plus three clamps, to make each full side. (Sorry about the clamp-less photo, I removed them before I remembered to snap a picture for you!)
Once all your sides are constructed and dry, start cutting your miters. I’ve found that it’s easier to pre-make each side and cut the angles at the same time, instead of trying to match the pieces up later.
The most challenging part is getting the size just right for your sides, based on the size of your canvas. It all depends on how much space you want the canvas to “float” on. I wanted at least 1/2″ around the entire canvas so that the color pop would be prominent. You can also tightly wrap the canvas so it’s much less of a float space. Instead of pre-cutting each side based on my measurements, I did one corner at a time.
I cut the first corner and laid the canvas down to mark how much space I wanted around it, which showed me where to mark the angled cuts for the next corners. I found this was an easier way to work around the canvas, because measuring for angles and extra space got me all twisted up in the game. Maybe I had to buy a few new boards because I cut it too short the first time. MAYBE.
Once all your sides are mitered, pull out your frame-making MVP: the strap clamp! It’s not necessary for this project, but it is SO. HELPFUL. Especially if you’re doing this as a one-person project, you don’t have to do a bunch of fiddling with angled corners that keep slipping. You can use larger clamps to force each corner together, but the challenge with miters is that you need to push the pieces inward and together, instead of just together. Does that make sense? Clear as mud?
I used wood glue at each corner while I clamped it up, and then beefed up the strength of each corner by using the staple gun on the back of the frame, right across the seams. This step is especially helpful if you’ll be hanging your frame, instead of setting it on a shelf or ledge.
And then is the best part (as always!) finishing! I actually really loved the look of the raw wood, but we had a specific plan for this frame, so I busted out the brushes and my leftover paints. A few notes on this photo: the painter’s pyramids and the paint saver container are straight up lifesavers. By lifting the frame up off the table with the pyramids, I can paint the sides without worrying that they’ll end up sticking to the table. The container is amazing because it seals your brush up and prevents it from drying out when you’re in the middle of a project. Or when you forgot that you had paint on the brush. Whichever. 😉
I couldn’t find the same paint saver I have, but here’s another option.
I used the white as a base over the entire frame, and once it had properly dried, I made my edge with painter’s tape to add the inside accent.
After letting it all dry, we got out the mounting supplies. If you don’t have a pneumatic nail gun, you can use a hammer and finish nails, but the nail gun definitely made this quick and easy.
We set the canvas inside the frame on the front and measured to make sure the float space was equal all the way around. Then, to keep it in place, we used paper tape to secure the canvas to the frame, and very carefully turned the frame over.
Making sure that the canvas was still centered, I used the nail gun to go through the new frame into the canvas frame.
And that’s it! So easy- and it makes SUCH a big impact having it fill that space on our wall. I loved getting to make something that was a true combination of Ben and I. I get the heart-eyes every time I look over.