Homemade Frames for Canvas Paintings

By Wade Shaddy

Handmade frames for painting must be strong, and look good. They will represent your painting. If it is ornate, it can be used for portraits. For landscapes or animals, rustic frames work better. Almost anyone can make his own frames. By making it yourself, you can craft it to match the ambiance of the painting, and you get the satisfaction of doing it yourself.

Internal Frame

There are two types of frames for canvas paintings. The typical painting uses them together at the same time. One frame is the actual framework of the painting itself. The interior frame needs to be very strong and is usually joined together with staples or corrugated nails. It is square or rectangular with 45-degree miter cuts on the ends. The canvas is stretched tight over it and then stapled to the back of the frame. This frame supports the tension of the canvas and should be built with strength in mind. It can be built from almost any kind of wood. It is never seen unless the frame is turned over backwards.

Ornate External

The external frame is what everyone sees when they look at a painting. Some artists prefer highly profiled broad gold leaf frames. For ornate frames like these, it's best to buy the frame material and then use a miter saw to cut the mitered corners. You can then use standard pin nailers to fasten the frames together with plenty of glue. Wipe the glue off the corners while it is still wet.


For most external frames, old wood works great. Older, rough-textured gray wood imparts an old-world quality to the painting. Get your hands on some barn wood or old wood from a razed building. Cut it into 2- or 3-inch-wide strips. Use a miter saw to cut the corners at 45 degrees. Lay the frame out on a flat worktable. Smear white glue on the mitered corners. For the best, most square frame building, use a nylon strap clamp to wrap around the frame. When you tighten this type of clamp, the frame squares itself. When the glue dries, remove the clamp and shoot pin nails into the corners.


Finished hardwood frames can add an element of craftsmanship to any painting. Rip the hardwood into 2- or 3-inch-wide boards. For variety, run a router with a roman-ogee, cove or bullnose router bit along one edge. Cut and build the frame using a nylon strap clamp. By building it this way, the profiled edges come together forming patterns that follow the frame around on the inside, outside or both. Sand, stain and finish the frame before installing the painting.

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