To float or not to float: What is a floating frame and why use one?
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To float or not to float: What is a floating frame and why use one?

Framing Services / Tray or Floater Frames / To float or not to float: What is a floating frame and why use one?

The floating frame, a modern take on the conventional picture frame, first appeared in the fine art world in the middle of the 20th century. As the name suggests, a floating frame — sometimes referred to as a tray frame — gives the impression that the artwork is floating in space within the frame, rather than being flat against any of its surfaces.

How exactly does this work and when should you float artwork like this?

What is a floating frame?

With a floating frame, the artwork sits flush at the front with a deliberate gap of around 5-10 mm (known as the float) between the print and the moulding. This delicate border around the artwork’s perimeter adds a modern, streamlined look that immediately catches the viewer’s attention.

Floating frames are available in different depths and widths to accommodate paintings of various sizes, from miniature prints to extensive murals. They are well suited to certain mediums, particularly stretched canvas prints or paintings on canvas, but can also be used for pieces mounted on aluminium, Dibond or even Kappa board. However, as glass is not used with a floating frame, photographs may need to be sealed for protection.

Why use a floating frame?

1. To mount canvas art

Our philosophy at Soho Frames is simple: if you love it, frame it. Besides being vulnerable to damage, unframed artwork can also feel incomplete and unfinished.

Yet, what do you do if a standard picture frame isn’t suitable, like art on canvas? A heavy wooden frame isn’t the best choice for canvas art, owing to the added dimensions, but floating picture frames are perfect for displaying your masterpiece. Moreover, floating frames can provide the same structural support as other types of frames, but without compromising the 3D nature of the work.

2. To complement modern artwork

The floating frame gives canvases and canvas prints a striking 3D effect without distracting from the artwork within. Because of its minimalistic design, the floating frame can suit a wide variety of mediums and interior design styles.

That being said, it often works especially well with contemporary artwork and can offer a clean, gallery-like quality to a space. Floating frames are also a fantastic choice for establishing a focal point with artwork since the visible gap between the frame and the canvas draws the eye in.

3. To highlight the artist’s signature

The tradition of the artist’s signature dates back centuries, if not millennia, and is a significant part of the creative process. Vincent van Gogh, for example, who famously signed his works using the tip of a paintbrush handle, only applied his signature to pieces he was hoping to sell. It’s also possible to read the flourish under Picasso’s signature as the artist endorsing a transfer of ownership.

Yet, signatures are frequently obscured by frames since they are located in the bottom left or right corners of the front of the piece. Floating frames eliminate this issue by showcasing the artwork in its full form, making them a popular choice for museums, galleries, and art enthusiasts alike.

Next Steps

At Soho Frames, we’ve been creating bespoke picture frames for over 12 years, and specialise in making tray and floating frames from a huge range of beautiful solid woods, including oak, walnut, maple, tulip, beech, ash, pine, and wenge.

Following an in-person or video consultation, our professional framers will build your frame to your exact requirements. Whether your preference is for a dramatic 30 mm-plus float, a coloured tray that complements your artwork, or a more traditional framing option for your canvas, we’ve got you covered.

We also provide a wide range of customisation options to accommodate your taste and style, including painting to match any RAL code, Dulux, or Farrow & Ball colour in matt, satin, or gloss finishes.

To learn more about our services, please get in touch with us or check out our other printing and framing guides.

Man sat facing art in a gallery
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