Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

November 17, 2014

How to Make a DIY Float Frame + Turn Your Photo into an Oil Painting

When I was approached by Artsheaven to choose a piece from their selection of oil painting reproductions, or have one of my own photos turned into a painting, my thoughts turned dark.  Part of me was really tempted to order a copy of some truly famous painting, then convince my wee niece and nephew that I was an art thief and had stolen the original, and what people were seeing in the Louvre was actually a copy.  I'd feed dinner guests who had imbibed a little too much the same tall tale.  In the end, though, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have one of my favorite photos turned into a painting.  It took me all of five minutes to decide which photo (you might remember it from this post):

Budapest Hungary Photo

This photo from Hungary is one of my favorites!  It's a drugstore around the corner from the apartment I lived in while doing research in Budapest.  The building still has the original red lettering from when it had been a home decor store.  I frequented this particular drugstore often, for soap and toothpaste (and chocolate, I'm not going to lie), so the familiarity of it is comforting, but the real showstopper in the photo is the orange moped parked in front.  I love this photo and I knew that Hubby - with his lust for motorcycles (close enough) and penchant for orange - would appreciate this hanging on our walls (plus he spent some time in Budapest with me, and recognizes the place too!).   

I sent in the photo, but asked for these changes:
  • Remove the old dudes who were staring at me.
  • Make the aqua window trim more saturated - I didn't specify how much more vivid
  • Turn the little red car lime green.  This is an homage to my beloved Charlie (but I also thought the red competed with the orange moped).
Here is my photograph turned into an oil painting:

Get a favorite photo turned into an oil painting
How to turn a favorite photo into an oil painting

I didn't know what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised.  It turned out so beautifully!  I'm currently thinking about putting it in one of two very prominent spots in the lakehouse (which is a testament to how much I like it, because some of my favorites - like my framed agate slices - have yet to find a home).  Right now I like my new oil painting in the hallway:
Artsheaven product review
How to build a floating frame for art

It picks up some of the orange and green from my DIY triptych:

DIY art ideas
I hadn't even thought to ask how my new painting would be shipped and was a little disappointed when it arrived un-stretched.  It makes total sense, though, because it's a safe and cost-effective way to ship a painting.  However, even though I've stretched many of my own canvases for my DIY paintings, they've always been gessoed after.  I have always thought that stretching canvas that's already painted looks like a huge pain.  What if the paint cracks? What if I wreck the painting?  How do I get it taught enough when it's so stiff? We Googled and then dove right in.


Here's how to stretch a canvas painting onto a canvas stretcher:

Hubby and I bought canvas stretcher bars from Michael's but because they were out of the size we needed, we bought a size larger and instead of clicking them together with the pre-cut slats, just cut the edges and made mitered corners.  In hindsight, because we could have customized the size, we should have made it a smidge smaller than the painting, which would have made stretching it a snap.  As it was, the task was a little tricky because there was very little wiggle room for getting the painting positioned evenly and squarely.  It took a few tries, and a lot of staple removal, but we eventually got it centred and it really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be - it's a lot like upholstering a chair seat!  The paint cracked a smidge on the corners but it's not seen from the front.  We were able to get it fairly taught, even without canvas pliers (which I really think would be handy).

Our hands were full so it was tricky to take photos, but there are a lot of great tutorials with step-by-step photos and diagrams.   I recommend this this wiki article about how to stretch a canvas for its really clear diagrams, but this article about stretching canvas also has a video if that's more helpful to you.

For the corners, we looked at various tutorials and found many different ways to do it.  In the end, this is what we were able to do, given the thickness and stiffness of the canvas:

How to stretch a painting

Here's the back when it's all finished:

How to stretch a canvas

It was hard to get the corners to be really smooth and flat, but for our first try I think they turned out okay.

Create neat corners when stretching canvas

Once the painting was stretched, a float frame was a snap.  A Beautiful Mess has an excellent post about how to build three different frame styles.

How to built a float frame for a painting:

I like the look of a float frame, so we picked up eight pieces of pre-planed wood from the molding section of Home Depot - they were .5" x 1.5".  All we did was glue them together into an L-shape:

DIY frame for art

We used a miter joint to be put them together, with wood glue and small finishing nails.  We used an air nailer, but the ABM tutorial shows how to do this with no power tools required.  The frame is ever so slightly bigger than the canvas - we left a 3/16 gap between the canvas and the inside of the frame.
Inexpensive framing ideas

Once assembled, I lightly sanded the edges and sanded the surface smooth before applying multiple light coats of Rust-Oleum Universal primer + paint, in Satin White.

How to spend less of framing art

After the paint was dry, we attached the frame to the canvas stretchers from the back, just screwing the back of the "L" to the canvas stretcher bars.  We used cardboard shims to make sure that it was centred in the frame while the frame was being attached to the painting.  The finished piece is hung with screw eyes and picture hanging wire.  This was a different approach than the last frame we made, and it seemed just as easy.  We could have painted/stained the back of the "L" to create some depth/interest but I liked the white on white look.  Plus, because the edges of the painting are white, the unpainted edges disappear in the white float frame.

The cost for the frame was about $20 and the stretchers cost roughly $25 (they could have been cheaper because the size we actually needed was less expensive).

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Build an easy float frame for art
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Szuka doesn't give a hoot and just wants me to stop fussing with this painting and go outside and play with her.

Frame art for less
How to turn your photo into an oil painting

Artsheaven provided this custom painting, but I was not otherwise compensated for this post or encouraged to provide a positive review.  Special thanks also to Rust-Oleum for providing the paint for this framing project.  And thank you, Szuka, for trying to get into every single picture.  You're a cutie and with photos of you included, I know I can just type total jibberish and no one will notice.

Komondor dog


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! I'm so impressed with the work of the painters, they did such a great job.

  2. I love this! You picked the perfect photograph.

    1. Thanks! It's definitely motivating me to do more with the millions of photos I've taken over the years. They've just been sitting on my computer...

  3. This is an absolutely wonderful photograph. What I notice most in your picture of the hallway is how well the aqua in the painting reflects the color of your front door. Also, the size and subject matter look very much like the view from an actual window. It opens up the hall and makes it look wider and brighter. Great job!

    1. Thanks! I've been wanting to see that photo on my walls for years now. It is such a coincidence that the window frames match the door because I just asked them to make the turquoise a bit more vibrant but left it up to them to determine what shade/how vivid. Between you and I, I'm also tempted to hang this painting in the kitchen, where it will add that dose of non-turquoise...

  4. Beautiful picture, painting, frame......and doggy. I love the changes you made from the photo to the painting as well. More turquoise makes anything better.

    1. Haha, absolutely. I was trying to think of a slogan kinda like the "the bigger the hair, the closer to god" saying you hear a lot, especially from American southerners (minus the god part).....but words just weren't flowing in my brain at the moment lol. How about "the brighter the turquoise, the happier the soul"? lollll It's 2 am...give me a break. lol

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. I'm so sorry Anna! I accidentally removed your comment. But I read it! Thanks for your kind compliment :)

  6. I just started following your blog and on Pinterest. I saw this picture in your kitchen and immediately thought, 'she should add more orange to her kitchen like in her picture'. My computer room is turquoise with orange pops of color. I love the color combination! I wish you would sell posters of your picture in your Etsy shop :).

    1. Hi Cheryl! I'm so happy you found your way here - especially if you're a fan of turquoise too! I definitely like orange and turquoise (and turquoise and red), but I was trying so hard to keep the kitchen strictly to blues. But then I liked that painting there and so now I might change my mind. It's a very recent addition and the kitchen might just change a bit. Your computer room sounds so fun!

  7. Beautiful picture, painting as well.


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