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How to: canvas offsets and how to use 'em

A set of step-by-step instructions for how to use offsets to mount your canvas in a front-loading canvas frame, as well as instructions for fastening your hanging hardware. For the accompanying video, click here.

Hardware and Tools You Will Need

  • A Front-loading canvas frame!
  • A stretched canvas to frame!
  • Extra matboard (optional)

(see pictures below)

  • Offsets (A) - at least 1 per side
  • Woodscrews (B) - one per offset, plus whatever you need for your hanging hardware
  • Ring Hangers (C)
  • Hanging Wire (D)
  • Bump-ons (E)
  • Wall Mount and Nail (F)

How many offsets?
You will always need at least one offset per side. For larger works, it is a matter of preference and strength when you decide to use more than one per side. If your canvas is particularly large or heavy, you will want to consider more than one offset per side.

Offset size: Each offset, when viewed from the side, looks a bit like an "S". Offsets are measured by the height of their trunk - how high the top of the "S" rests above the bottom of the "S". This height must correspond to the thickness of the back inner edge of the canvas frame where it holds the canvas, to keep it from falling out of the frame.

Framing your Canvas

1. Prepare your work surface

It's good to have a relatively sturdy, spacious and clear work area that will not mar the surface of your canvas frame and that will stand up to the force of screwing in wood screws. When in doubt, you can use your floor, but it's a good idea to take any precautions necessary to protect your work, such as laying down some cardboard or a light towel.

2. Arrange your canvas and frame

Place your work face down on your work surface. Place the canvas frame upon it so that the frame surrounds your work. Depending on the thickness of your work, the front of the frame may or may not be flush with your canvas.

3. Plan your offset locations

Determine where your offsets will go. Space them as evenly as possible. When you have a loose idea of where they will go, one-by-one, mark the place you will screw them in by following this sequence for each one.

  1. Hold one edge of the frame and canvas together so that they are snug.
  2. Place an offset on your canvas and frame so that the part of the offset with the hole rests on the back of your canvas, and the part of the offset without the hole rests on the back of the frame. You should leave a little bit of room between the offset and the frame edge (offsets are not perfectly square, so their curvature should provide this room without you trying).
  3. With your pencil, mark a dot on the back of your canvas where the screw will go.

Important Note: Don't just "eyeball" the offset positions - the distance from the offset screw to the edge of the canvas is very important to get right. If you screw your offsets in too close to the outer edge of the canvas, they will prevent the canvas from fitting in the frame!

4. Screw in your offsets... almost

You should now have all your offset locations marked on the back of your canvas. Lift the frame away and set aside. For each screw location, follow the following sequence:

  1. Place the offset against the stretcher bar, hole-face down and lined up with your dot.
  2. Use the screwdriver to screw in a wood screw until it is almost tight - you should be able to turn the offset around the screw with little to no resistance.
  3. Do this for all your marked offsets.

5. Fasten canvas to canvas frame

Place the canvas frame over the canvas again, rotating the offsets away as needed – they should not be caught between the frame and the canvas.

When the frame is positioned, rotate the offsets so that they overlap the back of the frame. Again, make sure the canvas fits snugly into the frame. Do this for all the offsets, then tighten the screws until it is difficult to rotate the offset.

At this point, your canvas should be securely fastened to the frame!

Applying the Hanging Hardware

1. Fasten ring hangers

Ring hangers should be placed about 1/3 from the top of the frame. If you require accuracy, measure from the top of the frame on both sides to where the screws will be located. Whether you want to be accurate or not, make sure you lay the ring hangers so that the screws will be as close to the outer edge as possible*

When you are confident in your positioning, fasten them with wood screws.

*Canvas frames have different areas where the wood is thick or thin. For example, the inner edge of the frame can be quite thin. If you were to take a woodscrew and compare its length to your frame's thickness at the inner edge, you might discover that your wood screw could go right through the frame and into your canvas! In contrast, the outermost edge of the frame has the most depth. So the closer you place your hanging hardware to the outer edge, the more secure it will be.

2. Fasten the wire

Tie the hanging wire to one ring hanger first. Then pull the wire through the other ring hanger until you have it fairly tight. Tie that end.

The goal here is to make sure the wire is not so slack that it hangs above the frame (well, unless you want that look - it's your call). Also, wires loosen over time, so it's a good idea to start by tying them tightly.

Also, though we did not do this here, consider knotting the wire about 1/3 up its length so that the knot does not rest between the wall and the frame or canvas. Because we did not do this, our framed canvas currently sits a little suspended off the wall.

Trim wire with wire cutters if you feel like it. I like having the extra wire in case I feel like I need to undo my knots and retie – the extra length makes it much easier to tie the knots. Also consider wrapping the ends of the wire with masking tape to protect your wall.

3. Apply Bump-ons

Peel 'em off, stick one on each corner of the back of your canvas. These protect your wall from being scratched by the frame and allow for air circulation behind the canvas.

4. Hang it up!

Find some place where everyone will gush over your work, and nail the hanger into the wall.

You're done!

Tips & Tricks

Use extra matboard to secure loosely fitting canvases.
Sometimes a stretched canvas will fit very snugly into the corresponding front-loading canvas frame. But sometimes, it will be a bit loose. When it is loose, it can be a challenge to make sure it is perfectly centered in the frame. Having extra mat board allows you to cut small pieces to wedge between the canvas and the frame, equally on opposing sides, to ensure that it is snug and centered.

Use a deep frame with a thin canvas to get shadows
You can use a 2" thick canvas frame for your 3/4 inch canvas to add extra shadow to the edge of your work. Make sure you check carefully what offset size you will need. To see how to do this, you can watch our video

Need Offsets? Need Frames?

Check out our online store:
Opus 1-1/4" canvas frames - for 3/4" stretched canvas.
Opus 2" canvas frames - for 1-3/4" stretched canvas.


...and for a backloading frame what should i use to affix a stretched canvas? Just bought an Opus Savary frame and the frederix canvas clips i had intended to use won't work because the canvas stretcher bars are too narrow. thanks for your help on this.

I have a similar problem I think... Using a 1.5 inch cradle board and a front loading frame. The width of the cradle board is only about 0.25 inches and, when place in the frame, there is only about 0.125 inches of width available for the offset - which is not enough. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you.

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