Framing 101

Framing 101

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As tempting as it may be to swing by IKEA and pick up a $20 frame for your latest art purchase, I’m here to tell you something quite different.

Yes, professional framing is expensive, but it is 100% worth it. If you value the art which you just acquired, it’s best to actually treat it like art.

framing styles Artwork by ASVP (Image Source: Station 16 Gallery)

Custom framing can be a powerful tool: Great framing can make bad art look excellent, but on the flip side, poor framing can make great art look terrible. Beyond visually enhancing your art by creating a polished presentation, investing in your framing has practical benefits too. Professional framing helps to protect the art from damage, such as any dust that may accumulate or any bending and rippling that may occur over time. If you plan to place your art in a sunny place, there is also the option of an ultraviolet filter in a Plexiglas surface to prevent the inevitable discolorations that will happen.

Although some works, such as canvas piece, do not require framing to be hung on the wall, it is still an option to consider. Framing a stretched canvas (likely without glass or Plexiglas surface) can also help to protect to work, eliminating the chance of warping or damage. For works on paper, whether that be drawings, silkscreen prints, photographs, and so on, framing is absolutely crucial. We’re not in college where you can tape a poster to the wall and suddenly call it art. #sorry

Framing is an art form in itself. There are endless options when it comes to framing, allowing the opportunity for you to add in your own creative spirit. However, sometimes the best option is to keep things simple and bring it back to the basics. So for those of you who are new to framing, here’s your crash course in Framing 101.

stolen space framing exampleExample of floating print; artwork by Kai and Sunny (Image Source: StolenSpace Gallery)

Framing Styles

Floating

This is one of my favorite styles of framing because to the average joe, it looks like magic (how does it float?!). No witchcraft here, just an acid-free foam core lift. The piece of foam is attached to the back of the print and mounted to a supporting mat in order to secure the art in place. The second element is a spacer that adds room between the glass and the surface of the artwork. Due to the foam core lift, there will be depth to the frame that will add a shadow around the artwork, the extent which will depend on the size of the foam. The shadow adds an additional layer, creating greater dimension for a 2D work.

Floating works best when…

  • The art has any texture or an interesting edge – having it float will accentuate these details
  • Original art on paper
  • Artifactual works (think a map, hand-written note, old photograph)

floating frame!Example of floating print; artwork by Stikki Peaches (Image Source: Station 16 Gallery)

framingMatting Example; artwork by Linus Ma (Image Source: Station 16 Gallery)

Matting

Matting is a popular option that creates a professional, clean aesthetic. Mats are typically in a white or off-white color and create an additional border around the art. Placed just over the edge of the photo, matting helps to focus the attention on the artwork. Matting can be any size, from a small one-inch border to a thick mat outlining a small work.  To add a pop of color, consider double matting, which places a colored mat below a neutral one, with about a ¼ inch or so of the color revealed.

Matting is ideal for…

  • Family photos
  • Small prints or photographs (adding a mat enlarges the piece, creating great impact)
  • Important documents, such as a college diploma or any other meaning

mat framing - pace galleryMatting Example; artwork by Irving Penn (Image Source: Pace Gallery)

stolen space framing examples

Example of shadow box frames; artwork by D*Face (Image Source: StolenSpace Gallery)

Framing to the Edge

As the most basic option, framing to the edge is just like what it sounds. It’s straightforward and the usually the least expensive option. When framing to the edge, there is one other consideration: to shadow box or not to shadow box. With a shadow box, there is space between the artwork and the glass, whereas in the other option, the artwork touches the glass.

Shadow boxes are great for…

  • Large photographs or art print
  • Prints that already have a significant border around the image

 frame - white cubeFraming to the edge; Artwork by Christian Rosa (Image Source: White Cube Gallery)

Now that you have some of the lingo down, let’s talk about the frame itself.

Frames are typically made of wood or metal, but when it comes down to it, there are 4 general categories for the actual frame. While your choice in frame is a personal preference, certain genres of art work better with certain types of frames.

gilded framesImage Source: Kelly Kanavas

Gilded: Ornate frames are a traditional style choice that is often associated famous works of art (we’re talking high class, museum standards here). However, an elaborate frame can be suitable for any home, adding an elegant touch or a bit of eclecticism.

yellow frameArtwork by Jaybo Monk (Image Source: Scope Art Show)

Colorful: If you’re looking to add a splash of color, choose a color either found in the artwork, or something the compliments it well, and frame it in that! A colored frame can be a fun option for neutral or black & white pieces to add a surprising punch of color.

ryan hughes - wood frameArtwork by Ryan Hughes (Image Source: Ryan Hughes)

Natural Woods: Using a wood frame adds texture and acts as a neutral, but interesting, complement to the art. Don’t worry too much about matching the frame with the wooden furniture in the room. Rather, be sure to choose a wood that works well with the colors in the art.

simple frameArtwork by Robert Ryman (Image Source: Pace Gallery)

Something Simple: You can’t go wrong with a classy black or white frame. It’s clean and works in almost any space.

So now that you’re going to go frame all your art properly, it will be time to hang them! For some tips and tricks on how to curate and hang your artwork, check out our blog “How to Hang a Gallery Like a Pro.”