Gallery Wrapping a Print

I usually sell my artwork either unstretched or using the regular stretching and mounting offered by FinerWorks.com. They do a very good job with their “standard wrap” and “oversized wrap” but unfortunately they shy away from gallery wrapped. Okay, before you roll your eyes, I know photographs look unbearably tacky gallery wrapped but since some of my clients have demanded it, I have had to oblige them. Based upon that, I guess this article is of more interest to artists, although if you are a "tacky" photographer like me, then feel free to read on.

Gallery wrap is the term used when a canvas print is stretched and mounted in such a manner that the image wraps around the side of the stretcher frame to the back. This means part of your picture shows up on the sides, top and bottom of the print. This method has become quote popular, especially with abstract art. You probably have seen paintings displayed in this fashion in art galleries, furniture stores and coffee shops.

Before you decide to have a work gallery wrapped, asked yourself if you are doing it because it seems to be the “in” thing or because your art will really look good gallery wrapped. I know, framing a piece of art, whether a print from a photo or painting, can really enhance the display and only certain types of work will not look good in a gallery wrapped method.

Now that is out of the way, let’s talk about some of the things to be aware of before you decide to have a print gallery wrapped. These are things I have learned from trying to gallery wrap some of my own prints and talking to the people at FinerWorks.com.

First, your print’s size should be larger than the frame it will be stretched around. The total size (width and height) is going to be dependent upon the depth of your frame. As an example, in order to display a gallery wrapped print which, when stretched is 30 x 30” on a 1 ½ “ deep frame (that is how far the print sticks out) you would want your unstretched print to be 33 x 33”. This gives you an approximately 1 ½ inches going around the print. Nothing of importance in your image subject matter should fall within this surrounding 1 ½ inch area. In other words, your main subject matter should stay within the confines of the 30 x 30” area. If you are not careful, then you may find things such as signatures, tops of people’s heads, etc. wrapping around the top, bottom or sides as well.

Sometimes people will want to make this wrapped around area a colored border. This can be a nice effect but you must not forget that canvas does stretch therefore getting it to fit right so that the border fits directly on the sides can be frustrating and may require some print size adjustments.

Before undertaking the task of stretching and mounting your print, make sure you get stretcher strips the right size. This means if you want to stretch and mount a print so that it displays as a 30 x 30, make sure you can find stretcher strips that size. I was told that you really should use thicker stretcher bars (1 ½ “ deep) unless it is a small print but you can use the regular ¾ “ if you want. I have used the ¾” but I imagine the thicker ones look more impressive.

If you are going to have a professional framer do this for you (recommended) then make sure the framer knows what they are doing. When I started thinking about this article, I contacted the production manager at FinerWorks.com and he told me of many instances in which customers have had this done but the framer ended up damaging the print.

Make sure that a good solid finish is applied to the print. FinerWorks.com uses either a acrylic or liquid laminate but I always apply an additional coating as well on my own that seals the print completely. I do this before having it gallery wrapped. This seems to decrease the chances of cracking.

This is where the next tip comes in and something I learned the hard way. When you wrap the canvas around the stretched strips, make sure the stretcher strips are either rounded or well sanded. Be careful with the amount of tensions or else you may see where the fibers of the canvas stretch on the edge, causing cracking to occur. A framer that did some nice gallery wrapping for me told me that she is always careful not to stretch too tight so this does not happen.

I hope this gets you started in the right direction if you plan on getting your prints gallery wrapped.

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