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Framing and finishing encaustic art

Framing Your Encaustic Work

To frame or not to frame?

Historically, an unframed painting was considered incomplete. Frames were used to enhance the work, separate it from the wall, and add additional support by preventing the stretchers and canvases from warping. We’ve all seen those HUGE ornate gilded frames in museums.

Traditionally photography is framed in simple black, natural, or white frames so that the frame doesn’t overbear the image. The images are usually matted and placed under glass.

In modern times, this notion of a work being incomplete has faded and as artists, we have an entire array of framing options and artistic choices available.

Finishing Encaustic Edges | Smooth Sides or Wax dripping down the sides?

One of the reasons I’m drawn to encaustic as a medium is that it doesn’t need to be under glass. I love the textured surface and frequently invite people to touch and feel (and sometimes even smell) the texture of the work.

Clare O'Neill Photo Encaustic1I have a lot of students who love the organic feel of the wax dripping down the sides and are quite intent to leave it at that. I personally love this look and feel, but rarely leave my work finished this way.

Paint the sides of a cradled panel

It’s my practice to paint the sides of my cradled boards with a dark brown paint and scrape sides clean of wax when I’m done. I’ve found that it’s a huge hassle to repair the lovely drips if they become damaged, they are more difficult to frame, and many people don’t love the drips as much as the artist does. It feels unfinished to them.

It was during the mid 20th century the display of unframed canvases became trendy and acceptable, which I’m very thankful for as much of my work is unframed.

Framing Options | Floater Frames

When framing work it’s imperative to protect the surface of the wax. Never place a frame directly upon the wax. If you like the more traditional look of a frame coming slightly over the image make sure that there are spacers build into your frame and the frame does not touch the surface of the wax.

Most encaustic painters use ‘floater frames’ which are available in a number of styles, heights, and depths. The art is attached to the back thus allowing for a variable space between the art and the side of the frame. It’s your choice how far back to set your work just make sure it’s far enough to protect the entire face if laid face down on a table.

Encaustic framingEncaustic framing optionsWhen I do frame my work, I use floater frames usually leaving a ¼ inch gap between the frame and the work. This is a personal preference, it isn’t wrong to have the frame almost butt up to the piece.


Honor your work!

Framing your piece (or finishing it) is a way to honor your work. Of course, this means different things to different people. One of the ways I honor my work when I need a frame I invest in having the work professionally framed. Nash Frame in Minneapolis is my ‘go to’ for all my framing. I’d rather concentrate on what I do best, which is create the work.

Framing Encaustic Options | Clare O'Neill Photo Encaustic2One of my all time favorite frames was for a small 5×5 piece done on a thin 1/8 inch board. I really wasn’t sure what to do with it but with the help of Nash Frame we created the most beautiful little floater frame by mounting the piece on a backing board and choosing a frame with a slight ‘swoop’. It’s one of the sweetest little pieces I’ve ever done.

But don’t stop here. There are tons of non-traditional ways to frame and present your work if you use your imagination.


If you liked this post you may also be interested in The Encaustic Iron and Edges another option for finishing the edges of your encaustic painting

About Clare O'Neill

Clare O'Neill is an incurable creative entrepreneur and educator who has mastered the art of photo encaustics.

Her studio and online classes are for those who want to go beyond the digital world and create a one-of-a-kind hands-on image that seems all too elusive in today's fast paced technological world.

You can see Clare's artwork at www.ClareONeill.com or learn more about photo encaustics at www.PhotoEncaustic.com.

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10 thoughts on “Framing Your Encaustic Work”

  1. I just started encaustic wax (have sold my digital designs for years) and I am getting a bit desperate to find out how to sell a card with an odd size of 5.9 X 8.25. I read somewhere that if the wax is thin as these cards are, that framing should not be a problem. Also, my cards are a total mess on the back and I have taken to running some colored paper through my sticker making machine and affixing it on the back to give it a more professional look. How about offering an encaustic card matted? I sure would love you input on this. I’ve uploaded a bunch of designs to a huge scrapbooking place and the response has been very heartening so I’m anxious to start offering the cards for sale.

    I’m problly pushing the enclope here but I have also done some paintings on 1/4″ birch wood panels but don’t know how to offer them either. Could I just glue them to a cradled frame?

    Thanks so much for any help!

    Jean in Mulberry, FL

    1. Hi Jean, by all means you can mat a card. You might also want to use a backing board as well. And yes, you can just blue your piece to a cradled frame. I suggest you use a glue that can be re-positioned if needed. You’ll want to do some research on what glues can do that. Congrats on getting a positive response on your work!

  2. I love this page from your site, I keep coming back…The little 5×5 floater/swoop frame of the naked woman is gorgeous. When you say “attached to the back”…how is it attached? Did they screw into your artwork with tiny screws? I could think that glue would not be a good choice. Curious if you know. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Lynne, the framer uses some sort of adhesive. I’m not certain the name for it…..sorry. The substrate is very thin and therefore there wouldn’t be enough depth for screws or nails. Glad you like the image and how it’s framed! Clare

  3. Perfect timing for me to find you article. Very insightful. What is the “reason” for not putting the wax up against a frame? What happens? It seems to me you could fuse the frame into the artwork.

    1. Hi Lynne, you don’t want to put the frame up against the wax because you don’t want the frame to gouge the wax or leave any marks. Especially if you choose to remove the frame at a later time.

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