Tips from an Interior Designer

To Frame Or Not To Frame? Display Options For Canvas Paintings

Canvas paintings don't have to be framed to be hung on the wall. As long as a painting has finished sides (the industry term indicating the sides have been painted), you can get away with leaving a canvas painting unframed. To a certain extent, the decision to frame a painting is a matter of preference. Some people prefer their paintings to be framed, others can happily do without. However, there are some circumstances wherein framing a canvas painting is a matter of decorum. This is the art world equivalent of knowing when not to wear white after Labor Day. Since framing is an important decorating decision, it's helpful to know when a painting should be framed and when you can leave the frame off. 

When to Frame

Frames have an air of professionalism and formality that transfers to the painting itself. By framing the painting, you indicate that the painting is important, expensive, of good quality or just plain worth looking at. That in mind, framing your paintings is a good idea under these circumstances:

  • You're hanging it in your office. Unframed paintings have a cavalier quality, like something that would hang in an artist's studio or a converted warehouse apartment. For formal spaces like offices and waiting rooms, frame the painting to match the space where it's hanging. 
  • It's a gift. If you're giving a painting to someone as a gift, framing it will complete the package, and prevent the person receiving the gift from having to spend the money framing it themselves. 
  • You're going to enter it into a show. If you made the painting and you're entering it into an art show, framing it will help it stand apart from the other pieces in the show. 
  • It's been painted on thin canvas stretchers. A painting with a thin profile can look cheap and of poor quality. To fix this problem, frame the painting with a thick, weighty frame that helps it stand out from the wall. 

When to Leave a Frame Off

There are times when you can leave a painting unframed. It's okay to leave a painting unframed if it's hanging in a personal, intimate space, like a bedroom or a family room. You might also leave the frame off the painting if you'll be hanging it in a space that has an informal quality, like a classroom. If you're not sure whether or not your painting can benefit from being framed, seek expert advice from a framing professional at a company like Washington Framers' Workroom