How to Display Your Silk Painting: The “Gallery Wrap”

Silk can be displayed in many ways. It can be framed under glass or plexiglass, made into clothing or wall hangings, or wrapped around a shallow box or canvas stretcher bars in a gallery wrap.

Wrapping silk around canvas stretcher bars is a very simple and inexpensive way to display your silk paintings. The object is to put together four canvas stretcher bars (available in art supply stores or on-line) to make a frame. Then you wrap and staple a layer of cotton or muslin over the frame, then you wrap and staple your silk painting over that.  Attach a wire on the back, and you’re done.

Silk painting hanging on wall

Here’s our silk painting, gallery wrapped and displayed on a wall.

Back of silk painting, gallery wrapped

Here’s our silk painting gallery wrapped, viewed from the back side

There are a few supplies you’ll need for this project:

–Your silk painting, ironed
–A piece of cotton or muslin the same size as your silk painting, ironed
–Four lightweight wooden canvas stretcher bars (when put together into a frame, the silk is two inches longer on each side than the frame itself; you’ll need two inches all around to wrap around the bars and staple on the back)
–Staple gun with staples
–Picture hanging wire (cut to be as long as your frame is wide, plus 20 inches)
–Wire cutters
–Two screw eyes (13/16″ or 15/16″)
–An ice pick, awl or nail to put small holes in the wooden stretcher bars to get the screw eyes started
–Small tack hammer (or a regular hammer will work)
–Sharp scissors for trimming excess fabric
–Pencil
–Ruler

Tools needed for gallery wrapping

Tools needed for gallery wrapping

To remove any staples that need re-positioning, you’d need a flat head screwdriver for prying up the staple and a pair of pliers for pulling out the staple.

Here’s the process:

Put together the stretcher bar frame. Make sure it’s square. Place the frame in the middle your cotton.

Wrap the cotton around the frame and staple it to the back of the frame. Start with one staple in the middle of one side, then put a staple in the middle of the opposite side. Then do the other two sides the same way.  Pull against opposite staples with a gentle pressure as you work to ensure that there will be no wrinkles in the fabric.

Working from the center staples out to the corners, finish stapling down one side of the cotton. Place the staples about four inches apart. Stop when you get four inches from the corners. Repeat on the opposite side, Gently pulling the cotton taut as you work. Then do the two remaining sides. The cotton should not have any wrinkles in it; it should be smooth and taut over the frame.

Fold and staple the corners as per the video instruction. The sides of the framed cotton should be smooth, since they’re more visible than the top and bottom when hanging on the wall. The folded edges of the corners should be on the top and bottom of the frame. When beginning a corner, place the first staple at the top or bottom of the frame (where the folded corner will be), about an inch from the edge. Make a tight, neat double fold that won’t show from the front of the frame, then staple it down. It’s a little like wrapping a package.  Take your time and be patient with yourself!

Use your tack hammer on any staples that aren’t flat against the frame.

Wrap and staple the silk around the frame over the cotton, just the same way you did the cotton.

Close-up of corner of finished gallery wrap

Here’s a finished corner all stapled together.

Measure 1/3 of the way down from the top of the painting and make a pencil mark on the two sides. Avoiding the fabric, use your ice pick or nail to make a small hole in the wood on each side as indicated by your pencil mark. Screw the eye screws all the way into the holes so that the “eye” is just above the wood.

Place your wire through the eye screws and wrap it onto itself a few times. Cut off the excess with your wire cutters.

Wire threaded through a screw eye and wrapped around itself

Here’s a close-up of the wire threaded through a screw eye and wrapped onto itself.

If you have excess silk on the back of the frame that is showing or hanging down, trim it neatly with your scissors.

  • Pamela, this is great info. I just framed one of my silk paintings with your concise instructions. Please tell me this painting will last my lifetime…say 20 years from today!

    • pglose

      Hi Karren! What a beautiful piece! Were the circular designs done with wax resist or is that a jacquard fabric? Yes it will last at least 20 years if you keep it out of direct sunlight. In fact, this will probably be proudly handed down for several generations to come! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m so glad the blog info was helpful to you. –Pamela

      • Thanks Pamela, yes the material is jaquard actually from Jacquard Products in Healdsburg, ca. just a little north of us. And Dharma is just south from us.

  • I have several inexpensive 100% cotton, acid free gesso primed canvasses I use for oil painting will they work? The only difference is they are primed with gesso so don’t know how the silk plus gesso will react over time.

    • pglose

      Hi Karren! Yes, they will work. Like you, I’m not sure how the silk will react with the gesso over time. If they are acid free, my best guess it won’t be a problem. If you’re worried about it, you can always take off the cotton and put on new.

      • The reason I asked, I painted a series of feathers on a 14×70 hemmed silk that doesn’t make it as a scarf…design does not show well. I’m thinking of cutting it up in three sections and have a seamstress sew a 4″ border around the sections. For the largest section I have a 18×36″ canvass that would work. Does anyone have any other suggestions? Damn I’m having fun!

        • pglose

          Gorgeous piece! Love the colors. Great idea to sew on a border and displaying it in sections! Please send pics when done? I’d love to see it all put together!

  • Patricia Pope

    I’m not sure how to upload an example of my work I’ve done under your instructions;
    so you have a place on your blog? I do see where others have done so,, but not their work.
    Thanks…and my question I asked earlier and cannot locate the site I put it on..is
    do you use a spray to protect your pieces that are hung open?

  • Tia Sidey

    What staples do you find you like the best? The ones I have used pull a bit. Loved your latest video! Lucky Lady!!

    • Hi Tia, I use 1/4″ 6mm staples. I think they are Arrow brand. They do pull a tiny but but not enough to effect the front of the painting. Thanks for the compliment, yes I am very lucky indeed!

  • watersideweaver

    Do you have a specific size/dimension preference for the “lightweight canvas stretch bars”? So many to choose from.
    I will be mounting a fairly large piece of silk (24″ x 36″). Thank you.