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How to frame a picture: 7 tips from an expert

Oct 29, 2014

by Jo Casley

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

As London Art Month draws to a close, Joanna Pilch (above), Guild Commended Framer and the Operations Director at eFRAME, shares her top tips on how to frame your art like a pro…

You’ve received your beautiful new print. Be it a personalised piece of word art or a treasured family photo – now to frame it beautifully to display it properly. When choosing a frame for photos, original art or a print, start by asking yourself “What am I framing and what do I want this piece to say about me?”

There are 7 elements to consider when choosing the right frame for your art:

1. Size
Size matters. It’s the starting point for any design. Once you know the size of your artwork you can begin to weigh up the frame options available; standard size pieces (such as A4, A3) will fit a ready-made frame, other sizes will require custom framing.

The size will also determine the type of frame moulding (the wooden lengths needed to make the frame); I would never recommend a very large frame that uses a skinny moulding – it wouldn’t have the necessary structural strength!

2. Components
Along with the frame moulding you’ll also have to decide whether to include a mount (that’s the bordered card insert). This can be an exceptionally powerful weapon in your armoury. Mounts give your picture ‘breathing space’ and introduce an intriguing aspect of depth into your design – giving a strong focus on the artwork.

Many top galleries like to have wide mount borders to help draw their visitors’ eyes into the painting at the heart of the frame.

You’ll also have to choose your preferred glazing type; Clarity+ Acrylic or Float Glass. Clarity+ Acrylic has the same reflective properties as glass, is much safer and has a higher UV resistance. Aquariums all over the world use because of its excellent transparency, even when it’s many inches thick.

If you are framing an oil painting, I would recommend not including any glazing as it might end up smudging the art work! A glazeless box frame will be much more effective.

3. Orientation
Traditionally it is best to match the orientation of your picture (whether it is portrait or landscape) to the dimensions of the wall you’re planning to hang it from. If the wall is relatively tall and narrow, we’d recommend hanging something portrait. Likewise, if the wall is quite wide then we’d recommend a landscape image. The end result will feel more logical and comfortable to look at.

If you have multiple framed images to hang, interlock several frames in various orientations to create a picture wall – like a giant game of Tetris!

4. Material
The material you choose can have a profound impact on the overall look and feel of your art and interior. An aluminium frame will look truly contemporary and will work very well in commercial environments and modern homes. Wooden frames are much more varied in style and appearance, offering a range of classic, retro and modern looks, even shabby chic. There are wooden frames on the market which mimic the presence of aluminium and wooden frames that would sit proudly on the walls in the National Gallery.

If you cannot decide, a simple flat black or white wooden frame will suit most interiors and artworks.

5. Colour
When it comes to frame colour you have to take into account lots of different variables. Which colour will complement your existing décor? Which colours will bring out the best in your print? Do you want to make a feature of your artwork or do you want the finished effect to be more subdued? What’s on trend? How would my personality manifest itself in colour? The list goes on…

This also applies to the colour of the mount, although the most popular mount colour is white. It’s an unobtrusive colour that allows your eyes to settle on the picture without distraction. Don’t underestimate the effect a double mount can have on the end result. Introducing multiple layers into the design can really give your design a ‘wow’ factor.

Framing a poppy field? Try experimenting with a red frame or mount to create the feeling that your picture is ‘popping’ out of its surroundings. Striking effects can be achieved by matching colours in your print to the design of your frame.

6. Pattern/Finish
There is endless choice when it comes to the finish of your mouldings; ornate, painted, stained, natural lacquered, distressed, brushed, foiled… For some art the choice is obvious: if you are framing classical or reproduction art, go ornate. Got an Art Deco piece? Go with a lacquered frame as it will complement the art. You can also match the moulding finish to the room you plan to hang your art in; a distressed driftwood moulding might look great in your bathroom but be aware this might limit you if you decide to move your art around!

If you are framing a poster or piece of word art, we recommend using a simple painted or stained wood frame in black, white or bare oak. These simple but classy frames with a simple mount will give any art a classic look.

You can also pair the frame finish to the art itself. A distressed wooden frame would accentuate the a beachy photograph, but beware making your art look too ‘themed’.

7. Location location location
Connection and separation, similarity and contrast, grouped and ungrouped are all placement techniques that can be used to tell a powerful story.

By framing a set of different images the same way, you can broadcast that they are related (for example family photos). Categorising pictures this way can bring order to a set of disparate prints, and help to tell your story at a glance.

Alternatively, you can create a show stopping centre of attention by framing one print differently to the rest, or by giving one frame more space than the others, or hanging it in a prominent location in the room.

Good quality frames will protect your artwork, but to make your piece last a lifetime make  sure you hang your frame away from strong light sources.

Will your frame be too heavy? Modern building techniques mean that interior walls aren’t as strong as they once were so make sure your walls are sturdy enough to carry the added weight.

To make the most of your artwork we’d recommend hanging your frame so that the centre of the artwork is at eye level. That’s roughly between 1.5m to 2m in height.

Finally, don’t forget your toolkit to put your frame on the wall. You’ll need a spirit level, pencil and ruler. These will all be able to help level up the edges, and straighten the frame as a finishing touch. Never hang a frame or canvas from a single nail – either use picture hooks, mirror plates (which can be painted over, so they vanish onto the wall), or two nails – this will ensure your artwork is never wonky!

Etsy readers can get 15% off any standard or custom frame at eFRAME.co.uk using code ETSY15 until December 10th, 2014. Find out more here.

20 comments

  • sophieumarlow

    Sophie Marlow said 4 years ago

    love the pictures and how the frame mach's them. love soph[:

  • ladyinthetower

    ladyinthetower from ladyinthetower said 4 years ago

    Great information on framing! Depending on the artwork, and where it is going to be displayed, you also might want to consider glazing with glass that has a UV filtering treatment. There is also a glass option that has a similar surface treatment to eyeglass lens and will not only protect from UV but also greatly reduce the reflection as well, so it almost disappears! It's generally refered to as "museum glass". While museum glass is costly enough that it's rarely worth doing on pieces under a four figure value, UV filtering glass is typically only around twice the price of regular framing glass. (this is all availible in North America, I'm not sure about Europe)

  • oilpaintingchrista

    Christa M. Christa from OilpaintingsChrista said 4 years ago

    Wow..very helpful!!! I will add your link on my prints-)

  • zizolabel

    zizolabel from zizolabel said 4 years ago

    Thanks for the inspiration and info, the pictures are beautiful!

  • canvasoftimes

    Canvas of Times from canvasoftimes said 4 years ago

    Thanks .. that is lot of information!!

  • vinodmaratheani

    Vinod Marathe from RonavArt said 4 years ago

    Thanks a lot.... :-)

  • ritugarg19

    Ritz from Designsbyritz said 4 years ago

    Great information! Definitely will help to offer customers buying art prints from my shop. Thank you :)

  • smalleditions

    Tania Willis from SmallEditions said 4 years ago

    This would be so good to attach to my art print Etsy shop. Is there any way to do this? Buyers often ask for framing advice

  • renphotographycouk

    ren a from renphotographycouk said 4 years ago

    Very informative, thank you

  • Namaz

    Nazima Banka from nazimabanka said 4 years ago

    Great post and lovely items

  • BlueSeaPaintShop

    ACR from IntoTheBluePaintShop said 4 years ago

    Excellent tips, and lovely examples !!

  • RudeToons

    Peter Coupe from RudeToons said 4 years ago

    Thanks - useful stuff to consider.

  • monikahgallery

    Monika Howarth Artbymonika from artbymonika said 4 years ago

    That's so useful article! As an artist I needed this information:) Thank you.

  • ajpictureframing

    Anna Jenkins from AJPictureFraming said 4 years ago

    Great, concise article - a super summary for a world of infinite choices. Thank you!

  • thecraftartykid

    Lisa from thecraftartykid said 4 years ago

    Great information! I always find picking the colour of the frame is the hardest decision.

  • textilechicken

    textilechicken from textilechicken said 4 years ago

    Thanks for this,very intetesting best wishes

  • newreddragon

    Haydn Owen said 4 years ago

    hi the photo of lady in gold frame ... i would never put a photo on to glass it would need a mount and a black and white photo in a gold frame i think not . a black frame and cream or white mount maybe ? picture framing is expensive . and this is why we are seeing more canvas print with no frame so that my thoughts ... framing for over forty years and still do a bit in anglesey

  • Creating a framed print with eFrame | Diary of an Interior Novice said 4 years ago

    […] A great idea right? In fact, eFrame have also written a post on how to choose the right frame over on Etsy’s blog which you can check out here. […]

  • marcusfillion

    marcusfillion said 4 years ago

    These are helpful, thanks. I haven't actually decided what art print I want to buy for my fiancee, but I'd like to get the frame at the same time. I'll have to take a look at her wall space and see if a portrait or landscape print would be best. http://modifyink.com

  • rachellereeves1

    Rachelle Reeves said 3 years ago

    I have a really big painting of Paris that my aunt drew for me. I want to hang it on my wall and with a pretty picture frame around it, but I don't know where to get one that size. I've already decided the orientation, location, and size of the picture, like you've suggested, I just need to find the right frame now. Where is a good place to get big frames? https://artleaders.com/index.php/services/custom-framing.html

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