Many painters like to paint on wood panels because they are easy to find, they can be cut any size, don’t take plenty of storage space and they are both suitable for indoor or plein-air painting. However, the main disadvantage with wood panels is that they need to be framed.
Today, I will show you how to frame a painting done on a thin wood panel with a floating frame.
The Floating Frame
I like the modern and simple look of the floating frame. This type of frame, unlike traditional frames that hide a part of the work in order to hold it in place, shows the totality of the painted surface and, according to the design of the frame, part of the sides of the artwork.
However, ready-made floating frames are generally designed for artworks on canvas or cradled wood panels of approximately 1 ” (2.5 cm) thick, not for those paintings on thin wood panels of about 1 / 16 “(16 mm). For aesthetic reasons, it is impossible to put a painting done on thin wood panel directly in the bottom of a floating frame. One should find a way to raise the painting from the bottom of the frame (see the previous picture).
Stretcher Bars Failure
At an art supply store, I was advised to mount stretcher bars, glue the paint, and insert both into the floating frame. I tried this idea and it did not work. If you add the height of the stretcher bars to the wood panel and the one coming from a textured paint, the result exceeds the depth of the floating frame. When you look at the side of the frame, you see that the surface of the artwork exceeds from the frame slightly. Neither its sides nor its surface are protected by the frame and the result is unsightly, in my opinion. It is therefore to be avoided. Look at the two photos below.
So I looked for another solution and here is what I found: plywood and silicone-based adhesive. Look below for a complete tutorial…
Please note that if you live outside of Quebec, the depth of the ready-made floating frame, the measurements and the available materials could diverge. However, the principle of this tutorial remains the same.
What You Need
- A painting on a wood panel. Mine has the following dimensions: 11 x 14 x 1/16 in. (28 cm × 36 cm × 16 mm). The painting should be completely dry and varnished if needed.
- A floating frame. I chose a white wooden frame with an “L” shape molding profile. Bought from Hachem.
- A piece of plywood cut ½ inch (1.3 cm) smaller than the size of the paint. For my 11 x 14 painting, I took a piece of 10 ½ x 13 ½ inches x 5/8 thick. Avoid the plywood to be wider than the painting. If it is cut smaller, it is easier to install and it brings all the attention on the artwork and not on the sides of the plywood.
- Sanding paper. I used #80 and #120.
- Acrylic gesso, acrylic paint (white or your choice). Optional: Golden GAC 100 or an acrylic fluid medium to seal the plywood. Additional information in the “Step-by-Step” section.
- Clear all-purpose 100% silicone adhesive. I used the one made by General Electric sold in a tube of 82.8 ml at Rona l’Entrepôt.
- Material to protect the surface of the artwork. Waxed paper, parchment paper or a smooth non-adhesive plastic sheet (polyethylene). Also a towel, a placemat or other.
- Weights for the bonding step. Books, paint pots or something similar.
- Hardware to hang your artwork. Hooks, wire.
1 – Sand the piece of plywood. Start with coarse sandpaper (# 80) and end up with a finer paper (such as # 120). Pay attention to the sides since they will be slightly visible.
2 – Seal and prepare the wood according to your usual method. There are several ways of doing this depending on the short or long-term use of your frame.
The most reliable method I know of is to cover all the surfaces (top, bottom and sides) with two layers of Golden Acrylic GAC 100 to seal the wood, followed by 2 layers of gesso over the sides and the top of the plywood. As for the acrylic paint layers (white or your choice) and the varnish, they are essential only on the sides. Painting the top of the plywood is optional.
I admit that if you think to use the frame only for a short period of time, it may be a somewhat excessive procedure. In that case, two layers of gesso, two layers of paint and one to two layers of varnish should be enough.
3 – Put short lines of adhesive around the opening, at the bottom of the frame. To the corners, and mid-points. See the photo below.
4 – Place the piece of plywood in the floating frame. Make sure that the space between the plywood and the inner sides of the frame is equal everywhere. Press the two together and wipe off any excess of glue immediately with a cloth. Put some weight on the plywood so that it does not move during the drying period (here, I am using paint containers).
5 – Allow the adhesive to dry according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Usually 12 to 24 hours.
6 – Then put a few drops of adhesive, at each corner and mid-points of the plywood. See photo below.
7 – Place the painting on the plywood. Center it well.
8 – Protect the top of the painting with waxed paper, parchment paper or non-adhesive plastic (polyethylene). If the top of your paint is not textured, you can add a piece of light fabric to the surface.
If the top of your painting is textured, in addition to the waxed paper or parchment, I suggest you to put a towel, a placemat or something similar as a protective cushion between the painted surface and the weights.
9 – In both cases, put the weights on the periphery of the artwork to keep the paint in place until it is dry. I used paint and varnish containers. Books would do the trick too. Obviously, do not do this with a painting that is not completely dry!
10 – Install the hardware. When the adhesive is dry, all you have to do is install the hardware needed to hang your framed artwork.
Main Advantages of This Method
Visibility of the entire artwork. In this type of frame, the whole surface of the artwork is visible, including its sides.
Versatility. The simple plain look of the floating frame highlights artworks of all kinds.
Non-permanent. This framing method is not permanent and reversible. If you want to use the frame to highlight another artwork, gently slide a knife under the artwork to detach it from the plywood base and rub off the glue.
For the collector. Another advantage is that if a buyer loves your paint, but does not like the frame, it is not a problem. The painting can easily by detach from the frame without any damage.
Reduced shipping costs. On the other hand, if you send your artwork by mail, it is much easier and cheaper to ship a painting on a thin wood panel than a framed artwork.
Ready-made floating frames do not necessarily have the same depth. Do not forget to take your measurements properly!
Seal the wood of the back of your painting. To ensure that this type of framing is truly functional and protects your artwork, make sure that the wood on the back of your painting is properly sealed to protect it from silicone. Honestly, I have no idea of the negative effects the adhesive might have on the back of your artwork if you don’t do it.
Take care that your painting does not exceed the depth of the frame to protect its surface and sides, a few millimeters lower are enough but keep in mind that if the artwork sink too low into the frame, you will get a shadow on your painting.
For a broader artwork, a plywood board is not the ideal solution because it adds a considerable amount of weight to the frame. I suggest you turn to go for another solution as one of those adopted by the artist Richard Claremont.
As you can see in the picture below, for large sizes, wooden sticks are cut at an angle and attached to the floating frame in order to lift up the paintings. For medium sizes, there is also the option of adding a wooden frame to the inside of the floating frame. However, be sure that there is sufficient depth and that the painting does not protrude beyond the frame.
If none of these solutions work for you, do not hesitate to consult a professional framer!
Thanks for your visit and see you soon,