Buying and Mounting Paintings for a Fraction of the Price

woman hanging painting in wood frame
  • 4 hours
  • Beginner
  • 100
What You'll Need
Table saw
T-50 Stapler
Small eyelets
Wood strips (Dry and Straight)
#6 x 1-1/2 inch screws
Cordless screwdriver
What You'll Need
Table saw
T-50 Stapler
Small eyelets
Wood strips (Dry and Straight)
#6 x 1-1/2 inch screws
Cordless screwdriver

Every so often, most people need to freshen up some of the rooms around the house by adding a fresh coat of paint, some new furniture, or simply shifting the furniture around in the room.

For some of us, there is an innate desire to change and improve our surroundings because it’s in our nature to get bored with always looking at the same things the same way day after day.

When creativity kicks in, you start considering and comparing the colors and patterns of wallpapers, upholstery, curtains, drapes, and artworks for the walls to help coordinate the overall appearance and aspects of specific rooms. And this is where the costs abruptly collide with the budget!

Using Artwork to Enhance a Room

A well-chosen piece of art can do far more than just add a finishing touch; it can transform the look of a living space, improving the quality of the space by adding texture and warmth.

A carefully chosen and meaningful piece of artwork can help you take a moment away from your busy life.

Complementing a room with your personal artifacts humanizes and adds character to that room, making it more personal and certainly more comfortable.

paintings hanging in multiple frames

Paintings and canvas prints can do just that but also much more, making your space unique while reflecting your likes and also parts of your character that defines your inner-self.

There are all sorts of paintings out there for sale for everyone’s taste. You can find them in a wide range of prices, as either framed or rolled canvases.

As paintings have been traditionally done on stretched canvases, there is a new trend now where the subject is painted or applied to a canvas material without being stretched or framed.

Proceeding in that manner gives the artwork greater flexibility for transportation as the canvas can be simply rolled up and packaged in a special tube for shipping.

Without the extra added labor and materials required for stretching the canvas and the reduced size of the package, the painting can be made available at a much lower price and lower shipping costs.

Such pieces are readily available online and are sold as “framed,” as a rolled canvas, or offering either option. You’ll notice the difference in cost where it is offered in both formats. If you choose to buy it as a roll, here’s how to stretch it on a frame.

Building a Frame to Hang the Canvas

This article was actually based on five canvases, of which three measured 16 inches x 16 inches (41 cm x 41 cm), and the other two were 8 inches wide by 32 inches high (20 cm x 81 cm).

The project was completed using an old discarded pine door casing, ripping 1-inch (25.4 mm) wide strips from it.

The lumber wasn’t first grade but was deemed suitable for building a light, sturdy hidden frame from 3/4 inch x 1-inch (19 mm x 25 mm) material.

For larger paintings, however, 7/8 inches (22 mm) or thicker lumber ripped 1-1/2 to 2 inches (38 mm to 51 mm) wide should be used to provide more rigidity as you pull the canvas tightly on the frame.

The inside face was painted white, and it had a few defects, but in a job like this, all and every component is going to be covered by the canvas and hidden against the wall.

So that being said, all you have to do is to look around in your pile of old wood and lumber to find straight and true boards, and if it has at least one straight edge to rip from, it’s a double win.

If, however, you don’t have any old material to salvage it from, you can go to your lumber supplier since most of them usually carry at least a Common grade of dry pine board for sale surfaced on 4 sides (S4S). The Common can be ideal for making a canvas frame.

Getting Your Paintings and the Framing Supplies

Step 1

Choose a painting or a series of paintings to your liking that will actually bring out the colors in your room, or simply accentuate your particular taste. Make sure it is of the right size for that particular placement—you will often find them online in different sizes and at different prices.

You will also find that if you buy it online, you’re often offered a tab under the pricing marked “Framed” that will activate the actual price to show up if you should choose to order already framed.

This price will likely be much higher than for just the canvas(es) since it would represent the extra time and material required to frame one or multiple canvases of a set, and also the cost of shipping it to you, which would be much higher considering the much larger packaging required to ship the item(s).

Since you’re still reading, you obviously decided to do some of the work yourself and receive a tube in the mail a few weeks later, in this case with 5 rolled-up canvases inside.

In this case, the tube was about 3 inches by 20 inches (75 mm x 508 mm) long, which fit perfectly in a post office box slot.

Step 2

Remove the paintings from the tube and check each canvas for sizes and the verity of its quality and accuracy.

You’ll notice that the size of the canvases exceeds their specified dimensions by about 3-1/2 inches (89 mm) overall in height and width.

That excess gives you a wide margin needed to wrap around the wooden frame all around its perimeter to be attached to the back of it.

Write up a cutting list—in this case, with 3/4 x 1-inch (19 mm x 25 mm) size strips—for every component of each frame.

The specified height of each painting will be the full length of its vertical pieces or “styles” running all the way from top to bottom.

The specified width of each painting, however, less 1-1/2 inch (38 mm) for the thickness of both styles against which they will be butting, will be the full length of each of the rails and intermediate rails (see Figure 2).

hands working with painting frame

An intermediate rail is an extra piece added in between 2 long styles—as shown in Figure 2—used to maintain an even distance between the two, keeping the styles parallel to each other.

It prevents long styles from binding in as you pull the canvas taught to attach it to the back of the frame. With your list ready, you can now get your boards.

Step 3

The most important thing when you’re buying your boards is to check and make sure that your boards are perfectly true—no cupping, no twists, no bowing, and also make sure that at least one edge is perfectly straight.

You do want your frames to hang flat to the wall, and a gap in one corner will be very apparent from the shadow it will probably be casting on the wall—after all, you want the painting for cheaper, not cheap looking!

You could find that shorter lengths of boards are cheaper to buy.

You just have to make sure that whatever you buy is as long as your longest pieces to yield you all the strips you need—in this project, that would mean ending up with four pieces at 32 inches (813 mm), six pieces at 16 inches (406 mm) for your ten styles, and then 12 pieces at 14-1/2 inches (114 mm) for ten horizontal rails and two intermediate rails for the taller frames.

Preparing Lumber for Styles and Rails

The next step is to prepare strips of wood to build your frame(s). You will need a table saw for this, preferably with a carbide saw blade to provide a smoother cut.

Before making any adjustments to an electric saw—either a table saw, or a miter saw—make sure it is unplugged, and before starting to use it, you must put on a pair of safety glasses.

Step 4

Depending on the size of your painting, you need to adjust your fence between 1 inch and 2 inches, making sure the pieces will have enough rigidity to remain straight once the canvas is stretched onto the frame.

Since the pieces to be ripped will be quite narrow, get or make yourself a reliable push-stick to push the wood along the fence. You can’t afford to end up 3 inches from the turning blade without any other options!

And finally, make sure that you have enough lumber to rip all that you need for the job at one time to avoid re-adjusting and having pieces varying in thickness when putting the frames together.

Step 5

Before starting the saw, make sure that the table is clean from any tools or wood. Plug the tool in and start the saw.

With safety glasses or goggles on and your push stick handy, you can now proceed to rip all your material to its required width.

Make sure to maintain a steady pressure while pushing the wood through, always keeping your hands at a safe distance from the saw blade.

Step 6

With your stack of longer strips ready, bring them next to your electric miter saw or compound saw.

Unplug the saw and adjust the bevel and the miter angles at a right angle or perpendicular to both the table and the fence. If your saw is installed on a stand, adjust the stopper for the longest length on your cutting list.

Step 7

Plug your saw back in, put on your protective eyewear, and proceed to cut as many long pieces as you need. Readjust the stopper to the next longer length and cut again all the pieces that you need. Keep going until the list is completed.

Step 8

Beginning the assembly with the largest canvas, gather up the necessary pieces and lay the two styles parallel to each other on your workbench surface.

Then place the top and the bottom rails between the styles and flush at the corners holding them temporarily together with a bar clamp (Figures 3 & 4).

clamp on picture frame wood

hand using tools with picture frame wood

Step 9

While the pieces are together, drill two small pilot holes through the style and the end of the rail. Use two #6 x 1-1/2 screws, inserting them into the pilot holes to hold that corner together.

The pilot holes are there to prevent the end rail from splitting while screwing the parts together. Keep the clamp in place and rotate the frame to get access to the other end of the rail.

Step 10

Repeat step 9 to secure the other end of the rail to the 2nd style.

Step 11

Loosen the bar clamp and slide it over to the other end of the frame clamping down the styles to the rail as you did in step 8 and repeat exactly what you did in steps 9 and 10.

Step 12

Releasing the bar clamp, use a carpenter’s square to verify that the frame is at a right angle.

If you don’t have a square, the verification can be done simply by measuring the diagonal distance across two corners compared to the other 2 corners.

The measurements should be both exactly the same. If you get a significant difference, place your bar clamps on the axis with the greater measurement and tighten it until you get both diagonals the same.

Getting two different length diagonals is likely because your miter cuts are not perfect at 90°.

If the defect is not too severe, it can be corrected by adding 90° corners made from scraps at every inside corner of the frame and securing it with glue and screws while the bar clamp holds everything in place.

Step 13

For frames having long styles that might bow while stretching the canvas on the frame, you should add an intermediate rail, as shown in Figure 2.

Using a measuring tape, measure up to the halfway mark on both styles and mark them on the frame, as shown in Figure 5.

hands working with wood frame

Step 14

Center your intermediate rail between both styles aligning it with the center marks on the styles and turning it so that its narrow side is centered within the thickness of the frame (Figure 6).

This will prevent the middle rail from touching the wall on the back side, preventing the frame from resting flat against the wall without rocking, and preventing the bar from nudging against the back of the canvas and showing through.

hands working with wood picture frame

Step 15

Install two eyelets, one on each style and inside the frame to tie the string or a wire across for hanging.

The eyelets should be placed closer to the top of the frame and close to the back edge of the frame (Figure 7).

hands working with wood picture frame (yellow circle marks)

Stretching the Canvas Onto the Frame

Step 16

Clean off your tabletop (or bench) and lay out your canvas on it face down.

Place the frame on top with the eyelets towards the top of the picture on the canvas and center it, leaving an even margin of the canvas all around.

Starting at the center of each stile, wrap the canvas margin around the style and staple it in place in the back of the frame with your T-50 stapler.

Keep folding the canvas and stapling it working your way to about 2 inches from each end on both styles (Figure 8).

hands connecting wood frame corners

Press the frame down against the canvas as you move along to keep it from pulling in certain spots and distorting it.

Note the importance of not stapling at the extremities as it will leave you the ability to fold in the excess material under the fold at the corners, as seen in Figure 10.

Step 17

Once the canvas is firmly attached to both styles, wrap the canvas around the edge at all four corners, as shown in Figure 9, and attach it in place with staples.

hands connecting painting canvas to wood frame

Step 18

As it now presents you with excess material sticking out at the corners (Figure 9), you now need to neatly tuck the excess material under the canvas coming from the style piece, keeping it as tidy and flat as you can. (Figure 10).

Step 19

Repeating step 16, describing the process on the styles, proceed and staple the canvas to both the top and bottom rails.

When you get to each corner, simply fold it as in Figure 10, making sure none of the canvas goes past the corner of the frame by making the final folds into inside angles at every corner, at the top and the bottom of the frame.

Figure 10 shows you how your canvas should look from the back once finished.

hands attaching painting canvas to wood frame

You can now get the pieces for the next frame if you have more to do, as in this example, and follow the same steps for your next one.

Once you're done assembling, you're ready to get your painter's tape and mark the placement of each painting on the wall before hanging them.

You can find more about decorating tips and instructions by clicking on links such as "Attaching Canvas to a Foam Board," "Creative Ways to Add Warmth to a Family Room," or "How to Hang Framed Pictures."