Top 10 Things to Know Before Framing Your Art
When it comes to framing an original painting, an antique portrait or a cherished photo, some believe any old frame will do. Yet this would be a big mistake.
The wrong frame can literally ruin a work of art. When using untreated, non-kiln dried wood, for instance, the frame will eventually warp and split apart at the corners. A carefully chosen frame, on the other hand, will enhance and improve the overall presentation of the artwork.
Before settling for a frame from one of the national discount chains or big box craft stores, it’s important to understand the benefits of having your art framed by an experienced custom frame designer.
Custom framing offers an extension of the art it surrounds.
Every piece of art offers a unique experience to the viewer. The frame is a crucial part of that. A well-chosen frame and mat complement the artwork in material, color and style. This, in turn, allows you to showcase your personality while enhancing the art’s appearance and increasing your enjoyment of it. With fine art, it may even boost the value of the artwork.
Custom framing provides protection for a work of art.
Would you really place the only surviving photo of your great-great grandmother in a cheap frame made of plastic or particle board? How about a prized jersey signed by your favorite football player? Or a pricey painting worth more than the current value of your car?
A high-quality frame cocoons your art, keeping it safe from dust, dirt, fingerprints, sunlight and other environmental elements. It also supports the weight of your art, so it doesn’t warp. A second-rate frame may not be able to hold up under the weight of your art, and it can crack or fall apart after just a few years. Non-treated wood could also develop mold and possibly a powder post beetle infestation that will ruin the frame and possibly the artwork.
When you make an investment in high-quality custom framing, you’ll get decades of enjoyment from your art. To ensure a successful experience, here are 12 elements to consider before you entrust your art to a custom framer.
1 – Age
Old or antique paintings and prints require special care. If you want your art to last for generations to come, it’s important to use a frame that will hold up over time and a glazing or protective coating that will prevent fading and keep out environmental elements. If the artwork is ripped, cracked, peeling or faded, you may even want to consider having it retouched or restored first to prevent further deterioration.
2 – Value
Is your artwork an original painting, limited edition print or irreplaceable family photo with sentimental value? If so, a high-quality frame will protect it from wear and tear. It can also enhance the visual experience and even increase the overall value of the artwork. If the art in question is an inexpensive poster or easily replaceable snapshot, you can probably opt for a lower quality frame.
3 – Substrate
The material your art was printed or painted on has a bearing on the type of frame you need. Was your art created on canvas or board? If so, you’ll need a heavier frame to support its weight. Was it printed on rice paper or vellum? Then you may be able to get away with a lighter option.
Along with a high-end frame, printed material generally needs glazing to protect it. For paintings, however, varnish is recommended to protect the art. Paintings are not typically covered with glazing because they will dry out if covered, causing the paint to chip and peel.
4 – Size
How large is your art? A custom framer will need to know the length and width as well as the depth of the art. Some frames are shallow, so knowing the thickness from front to back will allow the custom framer to devise a suitable solution to house your art. If the art has depth, it will require a shadow box treatment to frame it.
5 – Location
Where do you plan to display your art? On a large wall in a bright living room? In a hallway with no windows? Perhaps in a child’s bedroom? All of these impact what type of frame, mat and glazing to use. To ensure the safety of your art and guarantee its longevity, it’s best to avoid rooms like kitchens and bathrooms or spaces near fireplaces or heat ducts. Moisture-laden spaces or areas where temperature fluctuations are common can cause wrinkling and mold growth. Most importantly, keep your art out of direct sunlight to avoid damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays.
6 – Lighting
Fading is a big issue when it comes to your artwork, whether it will be exposed to indoor lighting or sunlight. Even if your art is covered with UV-protected glazing, this only slows the fading. Your safest option is to keep your art out of direct sunlight altogether.
Reflections caused by light can obscure the view of your art. It’s important to describe your lighting environment to your custom framer, so he or she can suggest glazing options that reduce reflections and minimize damage caused by exposure to UV rays.
7 – Frame Material
Wood used to be the number one choice for picture frames. With advances in manufacturing, you now have many options in metal and plastic as well.
Wooden frames provide a traditional, elegant look with “warm” tones. They work well for portraits, landscapes, still life paintings and more. Metal frames offer a bolder look and work well for contemporary and industrial images. Plastic frames are typically lighter and may not be able to support the weight of certain pieces of art. As such, they aren’t recommended for high-end art or art created on a heavy material. They also have a less sophisticated look, so your art’s presentation may suffer as a result.
The back of the frame is just as important as the front. The dust cover, which keeps out dirt, bugs and other environmental elements, needs to be completely sealed with no tears in the paper.
The hanging devices also must be carefully selected. If you use the wrong screw eyes, the weight of the art will make them rip out of the wood. This will cause your artwork to fall to the floor, potentially damaging it.
8 – Frame Style
When choosing a frame style, there are three approaches you could take:
Choose a frame that complements your art. Selecting a frame style and mat color that matches your art makes for a unified presentation. Let’s say you want to frame a modern painting. An ornate antique frame will compete with the art and create visual tension that distracts viewers. A contemporary frame is likely your best bet in this case because it will add an air of sophistication and elegance to your art.
Choose a frame that matches your home décor. You may want your art to match the colors, textures and style of your home, so that it blends with your interior. A master custom framer with design expertise can incorporate your home’s hues using colored mats, liners or fillets. If you go with this approach, it’s helpful to bring images of your interior or color swatches of painted walls, furniture or drapes to your custom framer when you pick out your frame.
Choose a frame that reflects your personal style. Are you a minimalist or a traditionalist? Is your style rustic or contemporary? Do you enjoy casual décor or are you after a more sophisticated look? Choosing a frame that matches your personal style may bring you more enjoyment each time you look at your framed art. Just be sure to alert your custom framer of your wishes, so he or she can discuss your options with you. And keep in mind that, in the final analysis, a piece of art has to stand on its own merits to show it off properly.
9 – Mats
The use of matting is a key decision when framing your art. It can add color, texture and spacing to your design. It’s also recommended when using glazing to protect your artwork from environmental elements. In this case, the mat keeps the artwork from touching the glazing, which can damage the art by transferring heat and moisture.
The mat is a compressed cotton board that is typically placed around or behind your artwork to enhance its appearance, make the art appear larger and create space between the art and the glazing covering it.
Mats come in hundreds of different colors and a variety of textures and thicknesses. Working with a custom framer with design experience is a must to ensure you get the look you want.
When choosing a mat, be aware that not all mat materials are good for your artwork. Cheaper versions often contain acid, which can “burn” or yellow your artwork over time. You can avoid these issues by choosing a cotton-based mat, which is naturally acid-free.
To add depth to your artwork, you can use combination mats. This can be done by using the same or different mat colors, depending on the look you’re after. The options really are endless when it comes to custom framing.
The substrate used for your art also dictates how it is attached to the mat. Paper art in particular requires special handling. It must be “hinged” to the mat, not taped all the way around the perimeter. That’s because the art contracts and expands due to temperature changes and moisture in the air. If taped, it can buckle and negatively impact the look of your art. Hinging allows the art to expand and contract naturally without affecting the visual experience.
10 – Glazing
Do you want to protect your artwork from dust, fingerprints and UV light? Then you’ll likely want to choose a glazing or Plexiglas® covering. With glazing, you can choose from clear, anti-reflective, non-glare and conservation options. If the art to be framed is valuable, a limited edition or has sentimental value, you may want to consider using conservation glazing. It blocks up to 99% of UV rays while regular clear glazing blocks 50% or less.
With Plexiglas, you can opt for non-glare or UV-filtering models. It’s also lighter in weight and shatterproof, making it a smart option for art being hung in children’s rooms, oversized pieces or items to be shipped.
If you’re a person who invests in original art, is responsible for the preservation of antique photos or family heirlooms, or collects sports memorabilia or other valuable items, custom framing can help protect your investments and also increase their value.
Most people will keep their high-end, framed art longer than their furniture, and proper framing can ensure it lasts a lifetime.
When looking for a qualified custom framer to work with, here are some questions to ask before choosing one:
How long has the framer been in business? Custom framing is an art that takes years to perfect. The honest truth is that the majority of employees manning the framing counter at the big box craft stores simply don’t have the experience that a custom framing design studio does. In most cases, you’ll get a better outcome when you opt for a custom framer who has been perfecting his craft for years.
Does the framer have experience in art design? This is important to ensure you get a finished piece that is aesthetically pleasing and truly one-of-a-kind. Custom framers with an eye for design can guide you through the process of selecting the right colors, textures and materials for your artwork. They can also offer recommendations on composition, balance and space.
Is the framer versed in the latest preservation techniques? Your art can be damaged if the wrong materials are used. A framer who is trained to preserve your art can build in protections that prevent damage from acid, light, dirt, dust, fingerprints and more.
Can the framer clean and restore your artwork, if needed? Before framing, it’s wise to assess if your artwork needs expert cleaning and varnishing. This is especially true if you’re framing an antique photo or aged painting. These processes are intensive and require artisan-level training. Ensure your custom framer is skilled in these areas before entrusting him or her with your precious artwork.
At A Frame of Art, we can help you with all your custom framing needs. We have been in business for 30 years, and we are renowned in the San Diego area for our expertise in the areas of custom framing, art preservation, art restoration, photo retouching and printing. Please give us a call at 760-295-7788 to discuss your project.
Hundreds of clients have trusted us with their artwork, and we’d love to help you with yours. To hear more about work, please read the reviews on our Yelp page here.