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I'd like to order a canvas painting of dignified men walking in a boulevard. I was told that solid colors on the sides of the canvas won't look good. I saw many samples of canvas on the web where the sides are just continuation of the scene, however I considered having blurred background on the sides (same texture as the edges of the painting, but blurred). Another option was a mirrored reflection.

Just to clarify - with canvas sides I mean the actual canvas fabric that is stretched over the sides of a wooden frame.

Are there any guidelines to this? Which style is the most appropriate for such painting?

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    Can you please clarify what exactly you mean with "the sides of the canvas" (since you also use "the edge of the painting")? Do you mean the actual canvas fabric that is stretched over the sides of a wooden frame? Or do you mean a mat aka passepartout that is inserted between the canvas and a picture frame?
    – Elmy
    May 30, 2023 at 4:43
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    And could you also explain what kind of guidelines you want to adhere to? It seems you don't want what you think looks best, but what is considered aesthetically pleasing in the public's eye, but then you need to narrow your question down.
    – Joachim
    May 30, 2023 at 10:00
  • @Elmy - I mean the actual canvas fabric that is stretched over the sides of a wooden frame
    – BornToCode
    May 30, 2023 at 20:22
  • @Joachim - I don't know what will look best in reality so I'm looking for guidelines that will help me decide what style to ask from the seller to make
    – BornToCode
    May 30, 2023 at 20:26
  • This is entirely subjective. There is no right or wrong answer. Since it sounds like you are ordering a printed canvas I do not think the other aesthetic aspects like what gets printed on the edges will be a big factor impression wise. You choose by what works for you.
    – rebusB
    Jun 13, 2023 at 14:40

2 Answers 2

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I agree that a solid colour on the sides of a canvas looks bad. The reason we started hanging paintings on the wall without frames (since the second half of the 20th century) was to accentuate the paint, the process, the craft, and often leaves the evolution of the painting visible. Covering it up again makes it look like a very cheap alternative to the frame.

A continuation of the scene on the sides of the painting can often be seen when an artist finds out at a later stage during the process that there is a better composition or crop available. Part of the painting gets eliminated this way, but at least remains visible.
This also emphasises the process. If a continuation is painted onto the sides after the framing, however, this will likely be visible. So not something you should (be able to) choose for, in my opinion.

I don't know what exactly you are talking about when you say "blurred background on the sides (same texture as the edges of the painting, but blurred)", but I think this will again seem like a cheap trick, and I would advice against it.

Similarly, a "mirrored reflection" is quite a vague description to me, but idem dito.

The bottom line: if you want to have the edges remain visible, stretch the painting unto a stretcher the way the artist intended, and leave the edges as they are.
If that is not to your liking, you can add a frame to the painting.

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  • What I meant by blurred background is something like this: m.media-amazon.com/images/I/61mHb9oCbsL._AC_SL1000_.jpg Do you consider such thing as a cheap trick? Some painting can't be stretched properly (e.g. due some detail on the edge of the painting that won't be visible as a whole when looking from the front if stretched to the side) so I'm searching for an alternative
    – BornToCode
    Jun 1, 2023 at 20:48
  • @BornToCode That's not a painting though, but a printed image. Nevertheless, the concept of hanging them on canvas is taken from the medium of painting, so is imitation, and I would still consider it sub par. Were you talking about a painting, or a print (of a painting) all along?
    – Joachim
    Jun 2, 2023 at 8:13
  • I'm taking about a painting, the above link I wrote was just something I could find online where blurred background was added on the sides.
    – BornToCode
    Jun 2, 2023 at 9:05
  • I feel that how it's currently made it's not ideal for stretching because the left side of it has some details on the edge that won't be visible when looking on the front if stretched on the sides (so painting would look 'missing' when looking from the front). Adding mirrored background on the sides felt a bit non-natural to me so that's why I thought about continuation with a blurred background (with similar texture to the sides)
    – BornToCode
    Jun 2, 2023 at 9:09
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    @BornToCode Yes, cutting off the door in the painting would mess up the composition. But, to be fair, the current composition seems to have the painting's edge exactly at the door's left edge, so having part of that side be folded around the frame would only improve the composition, as the eye isn't drawn to it as much as it is now. Is that an option?
    – Joachim
    Jun 2, 2023 at 11:43
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Maybe as an addition to Joachims answer I'd like to highlight the different processes how the edge of the canvas gets it's paint. You'll see that it can be an indication of how the artist worked and the overall subjective quality of the painting.

  • Bare edges indicate that the canvas was stretched on the same frame while it was painted and the artist simply didn't paint the edges. This has a tendency to look unclean because you cannot stop painting perfectly at the edge. IMO it indicates the work of a hobbyist who didn't think about the edges while painting. It can also be an artist's choice if more of the canvas is left bare (think of abstract paintings that only have some paint splashed at them).
  • Solid colored edges are the next step many hobbyists take because the bare edges look weird. It can look good if the majority of the background has the same color, but looks weird if the scene is painted all the way to the edge.
  • Mirrored edges are an indication of a print. Digital artists create the image just as it should be on the front of the canvas, but usually neglect to extend the image to allow the canvas to wrap around the frame. The typical workaround to avoid bare edges is to mirror the content at the edges.
  • A continuation of the background around the edges is what we typically associate with a handmade, high quality painting. Traditionally the artist stretches the canvas on a frame to paint it, then it's left to dry flat and finally stretched on a slightly smaller frame so no bare parts of the canvas are visible. At the time of painting, the artist doesn't know exactly where the edge of the final frame will start. Alternatively the artist does paint on the final frame and deliberately extends the painting around the edges.

Ultimately, if you want to hire an artist to paint a canvas for you, you should speak to them about such details. They'll be able (from experience) to tell you what they're able to achieve and what looks good.

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  • I do have a painting that sounds like it fits the category of "Digital artists create the image just as it should be on the front of the canvas", I had a feeling that mirrored edges would look less 'natural' than a blurred background with similar texture to the main picture. Does this make sense?
    – BornToCode
    Jun 1, 2023 at 20:51
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    @BornToCode If I were making a digital print on canvas, the easiest method (least effort) to fill the edges with color is to mirror the content. Any image manipulation software can do that and I don't have to create new content that's missing from the original. If I were to paint this on canvas with brushes and paints, the easiest method is to extend the content down the edges, but leave the details out (= blurred background). I can see where the sky and the street and the house wall would be if the image was taken from a wider angle and I already have the correct colors mixed.
    – Elmy
    Jun 2, 2023 at 6:01
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    I can only choose one accepted answer so I chose Joachim's answer, but I have to point out that I see this answer as an inseparable part from the accepted answer as it adds important info that was very helpful to me in making a decision.
    – BornToCode
    Jun 5, 2023 at 8:28
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    Link to the "painting" is dead.
    – rebusB
    Jun 13, 2023 at 14:36

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