How Do You Choose a Frame for Your Art?

The purpose of a picture frame is to tastefully draw attention to a piece of artwork. It is usually the purchaser of a painting who aquires the frame which will coordinate the artwork with the room.

One of the questions I have been repeatedly asked is: “How do I choose a frame for an original work of art?”

I can well understand the puzzlement that many non-artists have that instigates such a question. I have known many non-artists who have said that they feel themselves incapable of choosing a suitable frame for a quality portrait.

There are a few simple rules for choosing an appropriate frame to compliment the work of art:

  1. The frame should not be more eye-catching than the artwork. The chosen frame should carry a quiet elegance or subtle undertone.
  2. The color of the frame should agree with the colors within the artwork or else use a neutral tone.
  3. Avoid using a cheap $3 to $10 plastic frame for an original portrait of quality. As a general rule, the more valuable the artwork purchased, the more quality the frame should be.
  4. It is acceptable to make your own frame, if you have the skill. There are online companies that sell frame-making kits for individuals who prefer to make frames for their purchased portraits.
  5. Stained wooden frames, sometimes ornately carved, have a time honored position as a popular choice for a wide variety of portrait types. Wood is used for heirlooms, or things that imply or have history. For modernity, trends lean heavily towards silver plated or gilded quality wooden or metal frames. Metal frames are used mostly for contemporary or photographic works.
  6. Match the color(s) of the matboard to the color of your frame. Choose a board that is pH neutral; cotton-based is best, but pricier. Keep the colors subdued. The mat keeps an airspace between the artwork and the glass to prevent adhesion.
  7. Glazing glass (acrylic, or “plexiglass”) that is UV resistant, to prevent light damage, is a good choice; but no matboard or glass is required for oil paintings or many acrylic paintings. It is expected that under standard conditions, mounted on a wall, the artist-applied varnish will protect them from humidity.
  8. If you decide you need a backing, remember that cardboard is acidic and may yellow anything placed against it. If you wish to preserve your art for many decades, there are acid-low and acid-free backboards available.
  9. It is important to remember that the colors chosen for the frame and mat often carry subtle suggestions and subtle emotional influences. (I will explain more on this in a coming blog.)

If you have any questions about framing or hanging a work of art, please feel free to send me your questions. A good work of art deserves a special atmosphere in our homes.

Charity Goodwin, Artist




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