Mats and Frames to Complement Your Artwork

By Alina Bradford

matted artWhen the painting is done and it is time to frame, many artists become confused. There are so many things to consider. Should you pick a color in the art to use in frame and/or mat? What kind of frame should you pick?

These two experts give their opinion on the matching your frame and mat with your painting and things to consider when choosing a frame.

Skip the Matching Mat and Frame Concept

Expert Scott M. Haskins, art conservation and preservation expert for 33 years, doesn’t subscribe to the idea of matching the frame or mat to the painting. “Decorators sometimes think this is a good idea but serious art lovers don’t use this as a criteria,” Haskins says.

Alex Farkas, co-founder and adviser to, agrees that artists should keep their paintings and frames simple without a lot of matching. “The purpose of a mat and frame is to enhance the piece, not compete with it,” Farkas says. “I prefer neutral mats, such as cream, white, or off-white. Art done in warm-colors will look better with a richer, creamier mat while a cool piece will stand up better surrounded in grey tones.”

Farkas says that if the artist does go with a matching theme they should keep it to a minimum, such as a thin strip of color in-between two mats.

Framing that Works

For the frame, Farkas says that the artist should always consider the style of the artwork and the décor of the space it will be placed in. “For example,” Farkas says, “a piece of modern art in an urban setting will look best in something clean and neutral. I like using copper, silver, or steel grey frames.”

Haskins says that the artist shouldn’t be concerned about the setting as much as the style of the painting. “As far as collectors are concerned, a painting should be framed to match the characteristics of the painting,” Haskins says. “Only decorators frame to match the color of the couch or might frame them all the same for placement in an office.”

He notes that contemporary paintings are typically framed differently than older paintings. For example, contemporary art can be framed successfully in a minimal wood border.

Farkas also says that artists shouldn’t be concerned with the width of the frame because there is no general standard that anyone in particular adheres to. “The goal is to achieve a balance between the size of the artwork and the frame,” says Farkas. “ When in doubt, seek advice from a professional framer. They will be more than happy to give you their time and guide you in the right direction.”

Both experts agree that an artist should focus on simple, quality mats and frames for their artworks above all else. After all, the painting should be the focal point, not the wrapping.