When you’ve bought a work of art, your purchase is not complete until you’ve properly outfitted it with the right frame. And framing art is no easy process; the frame is both an essential esthetic feature of wall-mounted art, and an indispensable protective precaution. That’s why we’ve put together this list of tips for framing to help you keep your art safe and beautiful.
Pick the right period:
According to professional framers, museums prefer to match the frame to the period and style of the painting or picture. If you have a big, old realist renaissance canvas, for example, you will want an ornate gilded frame to go with it, just like it would have had in Da Vinci’s heyday. Meanwhile, something modern and minimalist will call for a simple, understated frame.
Remember, the work is what’s important:
Whatever the period of your work, the frame shouldn’t overshadow it. Viewers need to be drawn into the piece and not distracted by its decorative edges.
Framing is not just about making art look nice; it also helps protect the work, preventing dirt, dust, and critters from getting in and wearing it down. The most effective option for backing is also the priciest – a triple layer of soft cotton-rag board, corrugated plastic, and a dust cover. Cheaper polystyrene can replace the plastic layer.
Paper needs matting:
If the work is on paper, instead of canvas, you’ll want to mat it before putting it in a frame. There are several ways to do this. The simplest approach is a single plain mat that forms a border around the piece. But double matting – where one mat is a neutral color and the other picks up on one of the hues in the drawing, painting, or photograph – is a nice way to accent the work. When matting, you also have several choices of materials, the fancy, museum-grade option being cotton fiber. A word to the wise; it’s worth investing in high-quality matting. It will keep its color and protect your artwork longer.
Mats need subtlety:
As with frames, the mat should not overshadow the work itself. Make sure that the color of your mat is found in the piece, and don’t use mats that are darker than the darkest color in the work, or brighter than the brightest color.
Paper needs glass:
With a canvas you can get by with leaving it exposed to the elements; the material is tough and less finicky when it comes to cleaning. But paper works like drawings or watercolors require a glass covering. This will protect them from UV rays, as well as dirt and dust. That said, the glass should not touch the work! This can cause serious damage. Make sure the matting provides a buffer between the work and the glass covering.
Never (ever!) dry-mount:
If your piece is worth enough to be doing online research about how best to frame it, it’s worth too much to dry-mount. Some framers will tell you they can do it, or that they need to do it based on the work’s specifications. If that happens, get another framer. Never dry-mount.
Be careful where you hang it:
So it’s not a framing tip, but it might as well be. You’ve gone through all this trouble to protect and accentuate the assets of your artwork. Best not to ruin it, and all that work, by hanging it in direct sunlight, too close to a heat source, or in a room that gets extra humid. The piece’s home should be dry, reasonably cool, and gently lit.
Whatever choices you make in the end, frame with care. There’s no point adding a lovely new piece to your collection without the right frame to accompany it.