Do you paint your canvas edges? Have you noticed the increased popularity of wrapped canvases during the past couple of years? Though the deeper canvases, commonly called gallery wrapped canvases, are slightly more expensive for the artist, they do save us the expense of a frame. Also, as the styles of painting trend toward more abstract, mixed media and contemporary, the gallery wrapped canvas conveys a more modern design that works well in most home and office interiors.
As I have wandered through galleries inspecting the painted edges of numerous paintings, I have been quite surprised by the wide range of care – from poor to exquisite – artists have taken in painting the edges of their gallery wrapped canvases or deep panel boards.
After unsatisfactory online research for resources about painting canvas edges, I embarked on my own trial and error journey to figure out how to achieve the quality of presentation I wanted. A clean professional look of my canvas edges is important to me. Below I outline my process.
Step-by-Step Demonstration of Painting Canvas Edges
One caveat: because I do not like the manufactured texture of canvas, I gesso all of my canvases/boards irrespective of the edges.
1. After I apply the first layer of gesso with a brush and it has dried, I then paint the edges and overlap the front of the canvas with an acrylic middle-gray paint. See photo below. By the way, this middle gray makes it easier to paint the final color of the edges after the painting is finished, be it darker or lighter.
2. For this particular canvas, I wanted the edge to literally ‘frame’ the painting, so I wanted the gray to overlap the edge onto the painting surface about 3/8th of an inch. (See example at end of post of a finished painting using this overlapped framed idea.) To give my eye a guide, I drew a pencil line 5/16th of an inch from the edge using a favorite matting tool I have as demonstrated in the photo above.
Why is the space wider than my desired 3/8th? Pencil lines can often show through paint, so I wanted the line to get covered up with the next layer of gesso.