Hope and Courage by dust of saints

Custom Framing Your Art: When, Where, and How?

Madeleine Bingham April 13 2022


So much beautiful art can be found languishing in the shadows of an attic or the depths of a closet, hanging onto that promise of “I’ll get around to framing it sometime soon…” If this sounds familiar, perhaps this guide can inspire you to make that leap.

Do you have a bunch of art lying around or hidden away because you “need to get around to getting a frame for it?” And for how long, exactly, have you been “getting around” to it? Right. Don’t worry, this happens to all of us. It’s hard because while we know that the frame is necessary, it may seem too expensive, too time consuming, or just too difficult to choose which frame — and it easily gets pushed to that ever-receding Next Weekend. But really, it’s not impossible if you know what to look for. With an understanding of the amount of love and style that can go into framing a piece, you may finally become inspired to get going!

Most art lovers will agree that a frame is crucial in order to display paper-based artwork in a way that lets it shine. Photography looks outstanding in a sleek custom frame with a tasteful mat that draws focus to the details of the photograph. The delicate tones of watercolor paintings are enhanced by a clean, white frame. Anything can look nice in a frame, really. You could even try bringing in some texture: if you fall in love with an embroidered rug or other interesting textile, with the right frame it can become a beautiful centerpiece of your living room wall. Not even 3-D objects are off limits — the technique of shadow box framing allows objects to be mounted inside a deep frame so they, too, may be displayed artistically on a wall.

Apart from looks, framing your art well also gives the artwork protection from the wear and tear of time and the fading caused by damaging UV rays. If the art is very meaningful or special to you, you will want to frame it so that it may stand the test of time.

BRING DOWN THE WALL by Julia Chuquis

There are some cases, of course, where a frame may not be the best way to display artwork. Large canvas paintings (especially oil paintings), for example, can stand on their own. They are generally more resilient against UV rays and can withstand light dusting without being damaged. By leaving paintings unframed, you can better appreciate the textured dimensions of the paint. Keep in mind, however, you will also be able to see the sides of the canvas.

The second, equally (if not more) important element of framing artwork is matting. The mat is a piece of high quality paper that is custom cut by the framer to provide a border space between the frame and the art itself. This draws more focus to the artwork and prevents it from being swallowed by its frame.

There are many practical benefits to matting artwork. If your art is not a standard size, for example, the mat can help it to fill the standard sized frame. Additionally, the mat creates a small physical distance between the artwork and the glass, preventing sticking or other damage. Aesthetically, mats elevate the entire framed display by making it cleaner and more intentional, creating a sophisticated finished look.


If, at this point, you’ve been convinced to get out and frame your art, you may be wondering what kind of frame you should look for. Most professional framers will tell you that the golden rule of framing is to keep it subtle and simple in order to let the artwork take center stage. A clean white, black, or even brass frame will work like a charm and create a modern finish. However, if your heart belongs to stylized vintage frames, this can work as well. If you find the perfect gorgeous and gaudy frame at a thrift store and you find it elevates your art to a new level of ornate panache, then follow your heart. In fact, a healthy balance of both styles can do wonders in terms of creating a delightfully eclectic gallery wall.

When it comes to frame sizes, it depends on the art you wish to hang. For photography, sketches, or paintings to hang on the wall, choosing a larger size (at least 8.5 x 10in) is the way to go — it allows smaller pieces of artwork to command more attention on large walls. Smaller frames can work well on shelves and mantelpieces for family photos or small works of art.

There are a few options to consider when choosing your mat: paper material, color, size, and amount.

It’s important to choose the right matting paper so that it does not deteriorate over time, or worse, cause damage to your art. When choosing your paper, make sure to choose material that is advertised as “acid-free.” Some frame sellers may offer slightly cheaper acidic paper mats, called “decorative mats,” which can cause yellowing and even burn marks on the artwork over time. If you are looking to frame something that is very special to you, like personalized art or precious family photos, it might be a good idea to opt for slightly more expensive cotton rag or archival matting, as they are built to last over a hundred years. Because the main function of the mat is to draw more focus to the art, pretty much anything will look amazing with a white or off-white mat. If the piece is primarily white, a black mat can add some pleasant contrast.

the sun and her flowers by dust of saints

The size of the mat you choose depends on the size of your art and the size of your frame. If your artwork is smaller, but you want to put it into a larger frame or call more attention to it, a larger mat is necessary. If the art is already a good size, a thinner border will do the trick. If you want to get a little fancy, you can opt for an accent mat: a second mat placed underneath the primary mat which is cut a slightly different size to create a thin border between the primary mat and the artwork. This is a stylistic preference, and may not be necessary for many pieces which speak for themselves. Subtler works, however, can look quite lovely with the added accent.

Custom framing can scare off many art enthusiasts because it may seem like an unnecessary and hefty expense. There’s no getting around it — depending on the size of your art and where you go to have your custom frame made, the whole affair can sometimes cost you $100 or more. If the art you intend to frame is highly meaningful, sentimental, or otherwise valuable to you, it could be a completely justified lifelong investment. However, if custom framing simply won’t fit into your budget, you can still keep these tips in mind as you hunt for the perfect frame — it could be waiting for you in a flea market, on Facebook marketplace, or even on a thrift store shelf with the tackiest art you’ve ever seen occupying it. What’s important is that the frame highlights the art and lets it shine.

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wlande199925 replied 2 months, 2 weeks ago So informative, thank you!!!