On Display: Tips for Framing Artwork

updated May 6, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Artwork adds so much life and visual interest to a space. Choosing the right frame to enhance the work that also fits in with the style of your space can really play into the overall feeling of a room.

I have had a fair share of experience framing in my day. I was a framer all through art school and then moved on to building frames for a gallery during graduate school. I have worked with all kinds of art, all kinds of frames, and all kinds of styles.

There are a lot of choices out there when deciding how to frame your art so here is some basic advice to help get you through your next framing dilemma.

Choosing the Frame The frame should match the style of the image and the style of the space it will live in. Remember the art is the star here, not the frame; it’s supposed to enhance your image not overwhelm it. Choose a style and color that compliments the artwork or perhaps pulls out a specific color. If you really want the art to be the focus, get a frame that is the same color as the wall so it visually disappears.

Choosing a Mat The purpose of matting is to separate the art from the glass which allows air flow for the two not to stick together. It’s also used to give visual space to your artwork and create a transition from the art to the wall. Just as in framing the mat should not fight for attention with the work. A rule of thumb is that the mat should be lighter than the art but darker than the wall. I personally like to stick with a 100% cotton rag mat in white, which is archival (an important detail we will get to soon).

Choosing the Glass Light and moisture are artworks’ worst enemies so when choosing glass for your piece there are a number of things to consider depending on how concerned you are about being archival. Clear picture frame glass is most common and least expensive. If it’s an inexpensive inkjet print, then this is probably a fine option to go with. Next is non-glare glass which is slightly more expensive and is used in high glare areas that can affect viewing. Lastly, there is UV filtering glass (museum quality) which is the most expensive and comes in clear or non-glare. This is the highest quality glass and is used for expensive artwork and archival framing.

Another option is to forget the glass all together and go with plexi. You can get it with a UV-protectant coating, and it also is available in non-glare. Check out the Apartment Therapy post Framing Artwork: Glass vs. Plexiglass for some great information to help you make the decision.

Using Acid-Free Materials If you are framing something of personal or monetary value you want to make sure to take archival precautions. Materials containing acid will eventually yellow, disintegrate and “burn” your artwork. To prevent this, you can decide to get a higher quality mat that doesn’t contain acid. If you are getting the piece framed professionally than the rest of the materials they are using should be acid-free.

If you’re framing the work yourself you can purchase archival everything from your tape, to your boards, to your mounts. You can find all the materials you will need in non-acid form in art supply and framing stores and they will help keep your art as good as new.