How to Frame Paintings and Drawings

By Alina Bradford

framed artMany artists put so much work towards their paintings that when it comes to displaying it they are at a loss. That’s too bad because a good frame can make the difference between selling a piece or not. It is also important to frame a piece correctly so that it does not deteriorate over the years.

Choosing Archival Framing Materials

Since  you put so much hard work into your paintings you want them to last, right? That is why you want to only use archival quality framing materials. Archival means that the materials do not contain acids that can break down your painting.

Since you really won’t be able to find a frame that is stamped as “archival”, you will need to find a mat that is. Mats are pieces of cardboard or rag board that separate the painting or drawing from the frame and glass. You can cut them yourself, or buy them precut.

Artwork can be damaged by sunlight, so you may want to choose glass that has a UV protecting coating.

All quality framing materials can be bought through art suppliers such as Dick Blick or through professional frame suppliers.

How to Choose a Frame and Mat

“Why is it that one framed image looks stunning and another just ‘ho hum’,” asks Suzanne Gallagher in her book “The Fine Art of Wall Design”. “It could be the image itself, but then again it might be the framing design.”

Gallagher bring up an interesting point.  A painting relies on a great frame to make it a complete package.

So how do you choose a frame to bring out the best in your painting? In her book, Gallagher suggests using very simple and classic mats and frames to highlight your art. Try not to match the color of the frame or the mat to the colors in the painting. You want the colors in the painting to stand out, not blend in. Choose a frame and mat that has neutral tones that complement the art. Black and white art will probably look best with a white or black frame and mat.

Proportion is also important. Mats should be wider than the width of the frame, with 4 inches being the average mat width.  The mat should be a little wider on the bottom (this is called “weighting”) to create an optical balance that will be pleasing to the eye. Small paintings or drawings can look very striking with very wide frames and/ or mats.

You will want to measure your art and how deep your painting is to determine the size of your frame. Many canvases will not fit into store bought frames because they are not deep enough.  The depth of the frame will usually be listed on the frame.

Tying it All Together

Once you have the frame, mat, and framing supplies it is important to put them all together into a professional package. Make sure not to chip the frame, damage the mat, or put the artwork into the frame crookedly. Remember, the framed piece is a reflection of you as an artist.

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