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Float Frames: A Modern Take On An Old Tradition

With the growing popularity of unique print mediums such as metal, acrylic, and wood, we are stretching the boundaries with new ways to display them.

While many of these mediums can be installed without a frame, framing your prints or originals not only protects them but elevates their aesthetic. Most of us are familiar with traditional frames, which include mats and glass, but are you familiar with float frames?

Calm Waters © Peter Cram Photography – stretched, framed canvas
Calm Waters © Peter Cram Photography – stretched, framed canvas

What is a float frame?

A float frame is designed to present your artwork so it appears to float within the frame. This framing technique gives the illusion of depth and brings a 3D effect to your art. Since there is no glass in a float frame, the texture and beauty of your piece is easily viewed without glare.  Float frames come in a variety of finishes and sizes and can be used to frame stretched canvases, prints on metal, acrylic, wood and even paper.

An example of stripping:
An example of stripping

Float frame history

Float frames evolved in the mid-20th century out of a process called “stripping” where thin strips of wood were attached to the edges of stretched canvases to protect the sides and give them a more finished look. The current float frame is an L-shaped profile that allows your art to be supported from the back so there is space between the art and frame providing a floating effect.

When should I use a float frame?

While float frames have traditionally been used to frame stretched canvases, we have also found them to be an excellent solution for framing alternative print mediums. You may want to use a float frame when:

  • You want to showcase the texture of your art or print. If your piece doesn’t need a protective covering such as glass or acrylic, a float frame is a great way to present and protect your piece without the obstruction of reflections from clear glass or acrylic glazing. Original paintings are a great example of this but we also love to float resin pours, face-mounted acrylic pieces, ChromaLuxe metal prints and direct prints on wood so you don’t lose any of the art’s texture.
The Flats, © Peter Cram Photography- stretched canvas
The Flats, © Peter Cram Photography- stretched canvas
Misty Sunset On The Chattahoochee © Tracey Rice Photography – ChromaLuxe Metal Print
Misty Sunset On The Chattahoochee © Tracey Rice Photography – ChromaLuxe Metal Print
  • You are tight on space. Most float frames are less than 1” wide on the face so they don’t take up as much space as traditional frames with mats and glass.
  • You want a modern, minimal look. Because of the narrow profile of a float frame, your art remains the center of attention.
  • Your art is oversized. With traditional frames, you can be limited by the size of the glass or acrylic, but with float frames, you can easily accommodate oversized pieces. Float frames can also be spliced to float mediums up to 18 ft x 9 ft.

Tips for framing with float frames

  • To achieve the floating effect, the art must be spaced away from the inside edge of the frame. We call this the float space or float reveal. Most float reveals are ¼” but can go up to ½” or 1” depending on the desired look.  
  • To protect the art, we recommend selecting a float frame that is deep enough so the art sits just below the face of the float frame. A recess of approximately 1/16” to ¼” is customary. 
  • When framing for a public space, you can add a hard backer to canvases to help protect them being punctured or damaged.

Designing with float frames

Float frames can be as simple or as complex as you like, so get creative. We recently worked with a client who needed something really special for an upcoming exhibition.

We printed the 40” x 40” art on paper, then mounted and laminated it so that it would not require glass or acrylic glazing. Together with the artist, we selected a modern black cap frame for her black and white artwork and then layered that within an elegant float frame, with a silver face, to give it a little extra depth and dimension. 

Exposed 3 & 4, © 2021 Elyse Defoor – laminated paper
Exposed 3 & 4, © 2021 Elyse Defoor – laminated paper
Cap Frame, Layered with Float Frame
Cap Frame, Layered with Float Frame

We believe a frame should be just as beautiful as the artwork it surrounds. Whether you’re framing a sentimental photograph for your home or specifying hundreds of framed canvases for a hotel remodel, start with the art and the right frame will reveal itself when you work with an expert custom framer to design your project.

With decades of combined experience from a team of experts and a state-of-the-art production facility, Colorchrome works with you to find the perfect framing solution for any size project.

If you’re interested in seeing more of Colorchrome’s collaborative efforts on custom framing click here. If you have an idea that you think Colorchrome can help you bring to life, let’s start a conversation.