In the last article,we discussed why the frame should be the supporting actress, never the leading lady in your art display. The frame is there to serve clear functions: protect the delicate paper and ink, support the style and concept of the art, help transition or blend the art into the style of the room, and secretly draw the viewer’s eye into and through the artwork.
After helping people frame art for their homes for over a decade, here are my 8 biggest tips to consider when picking and framing your prints.
Frames come in the whole range of widths and depths. Does a chunky thick style support your artistic statement and your space? Or does a thinner style champion your art and space? Pay attention to how deep you want the frame as well. Personally, I tend to opt for a greater depth in my frames rather than width. I feel like it adds “substance” to the print without overtaking it.
There are countless wood and metal frame materials (and everything in between). There are even “invisible” frames where you just sandwich your print between sheets of glass. You are going to want to decide what style fits your space best. Is it more urban, modern, traditional, natural, eclectic, etc. Understanding the style will instantly help you narrow down your frame choices. Once you pick the style, now sort through how much detail you want on the frame (or no detail at all), and what specific shade of color, the reflectivity of the metal, or type or shade of wood finish. Just take it step-by-step on this phase. If you can, hold the art up next to the frame options. This will help lead you to the perfect frame!
Mats or no mats?
Negative space is like a visual break and they are very, very important in any kind of visual communication, framing included! Negative space is a breathing room. It’s usually a block of just simple space.
Subconsciously the negative space invites your eye and brain (and all the other “parts of you” that you look at art with) to pause and absorb what is going on.
In framing, a mat makes a great negative space. Or a wide frame. It doesn’t have to be white or light. There are times when a strong black or dark mat (or a thick frame) will make your art breathe and pop at the same time. Picking the size of mat (or material) will ultimately depend on the space you are filing and the statement you are making.
I suggest avoiding overly colored mats as they are really hard to get right the right shade and often the color overpowers the art (in my opinion). That said, I have seen colored mats and double mats work great in the right situation.
With my limited edition prints, I embed a negative space in the print. Usually a 1.5” to 3” white border around the image. This allows my art buyers to frame without a mat if they prefer to show off the beautiful paper or to add a wider mat for a different statement.
This next key is very important if you don’t mat it: make SURE to add a spacer to protect the image from sticking to your glass and peeling! A spacer is basically a narrow strip of plastic designed to separate your art and glass. Don’t skip this detail! I once tried to cut corners on framing and didn’t add a spacer. The print was totally ruined. I learned this lesson the hard way. Spacers will save you!
Prints are very delicate! Regardless of how expensive the ink and the paper, they need careful protection if they are going to last. At the very least, I suggest using glass or acrylic to cover your photography. There are protective, archival glasses and “just plain” glass categories. I highly suggest archival glass for the limited edition pieces even though they are printed on archival paper. It will help protect your art from intense sunlight, dust and cleaning, accidental touches to the art, and from harsh overhead and ambient lights.
Now if you aren’t asking your new art to last your lifetime, and you know it’s more of a “temporary relationship,” then, by all means, skip the glass or opt for plain glass (or plexiglass)!
We’ve all seen that art. Or I guess I should sayhaven’t seen the art that is hiding behind the glare from glass windows or a bright room in the light. No matter what angle we move, the glare covers it up! That’s a sad moment for both the art and its host when people can’t enjoy your carefully selected, framed, and displayed artwork statement because they can’t actually see it!
For rooms with a lot of windows or with bright or strangely placed lights, glass glare can be a major problem if not approached carefully. Sometimes glare can be so extreme that you can’t see the art at certain times of the day.
If this is your situation, opt for a non-glare glass (they even make archival, non-glare glass!). It’s a bit more expensive and has a subtle coating which can slightly distract from the sharpness of the image. But it’s definitely worth it if it means you will actually be able to see your artwork!
Not all online retailers will carry this, but your local, professional framer should be able to hook you up sufficiently.
If you are unsure about a potential glare problem, do a test. Have someone hold up a sample frame against the wall in the same spot (and a similar size if possible) and walk around the space and see how bad the glare is. I suggest doing this at different times of the day to see how the light moves and creates or removes glare.
I’m a sucker for natural light. I love it! I soak it up as much as possible! But be careful hanging art in direct sunlight, especially for many hours a day. Over an extended amount of time, it could start to yellow the paper and fade the ink. This is true even for museum-quality, archival paper and inks, like my limited edition prints are printed on.
A final tip for this list is that I highly suggest not purchasing your frame and mat until you have your art and in hand. Take your own very own specific measurements. Exact sizes are always a little unexpected.
If you are framing an image with a title, edition number, and signature (like my limited edition prints), make sure to keep an even difference between a mat and the edge around the artwork and signature. Also remember, mats and frames need about ¼” of the image or mat to sit on the inside lip of the frame (or mat).
Have the mat specially cut to the size the opening and the size of the frame.
Or keep life easy and leave it to your trustworthy custom framer! If you don’t have one in your area yet, do your homework. Get referrals, visit different ones, read reviews, etc.
After selecting and ordering your new favorite art, framing your art is the next most exciting part! (aside from hanging it!) I hope these tips are helpful to guide you into making smart framing choices, both for the short and long term.
When it comes down to it, just remember,let the art be the hero and the frame her biggest supporter. Do your best to protect your investment and transition the piece into its new space so you can enjoy it fully.
In the first article of this All About Framing Series, I discussed the golden rule of framing. In the final article, I will share some great resources to get your artwork looking fabulous on your walls (or shelves!).
Part 1 of 3: The Biggest Rule of Framing Artwork
Part 2 of 3: The Best Framing Tips So Your Frame Doesn’t Steal the Show or Ruin It.
Part 3 of 3: Great Resources to Frame Your New Art Prints. (coming soon)