Hands up who has at least one print waiting to be framed? Yes - my hand went up too! And if you haven't framed art before, you might be feeling a bit uncertain.
Before going to the framers
If your print is rolled, try to resist temptation and don't unroll it for a peek. Leave it rolled until you get to the framer, to minimize damage. If it's in a cellophane sleeve, leave it inside. And if you do peek, be careful to not touch the surface, especially if the print is on a matte paper, which is easily scratched.
Think about where you'll hang it and make some measurements. Take a photo on your phone too, so the framer can see the colour of your wall. If you have other art hanging nearby, take photos of them too so the framer gets a sense of your style.
Have at least a rough idea of your budget range, and do give the framer an indication of whether you're looking for a low cost frame, mid-range, or something a bit special.
It's the thing you can't see that's most important - the glass
The most important decision is the glass, not the frame. You want to see the art in all its glory.
Plain glass is the cheapest, but is reflective. I don't know about you but reflections drive me crazy! It makes it so much harder to fully appreciate the print and the texture of the paper. Plain glass doesn't protect against UV light either, so your print will fade faster. Some people do like the shiny finish though - if that's you, then you've saved yourself some bucks!
I recommend the next step up, which is UV70 glass. It is anti-reflective and has 70% UV protection. It makes a HUGE difference in reducing (most, but not all) reflections, especially if you've bought a dark tūī print like the one above.
If you've bought an expensive print or original art, protect your investment and consider Museum grade glass, which is also anti-reflective and provides 99% UV protection. There are some other glasses out there, but those are the three key ones.
The fancier glass is of course more expensive. But I'd rather you chose a simpler frame and got the nice glass, rather than vice-versa. So a neat trick to reduce the cost is to reduce the area the glass has to cover. And that may mean using a narrower mat or no mat at all (the mat is the the cardboard frame between the print and the outer frame).
Less area = less glass = lower cost.
A simple 8cm wide mat on a 20x20cm print doubles your glass cost because the area goes from 400 to nearly 800 square cm.
If you choose to just use a frame with no mat, ask the framer to use "spacers". Spacers are plastic risers that sit between the frame (hidden just under the edge) and the print so the print isn't resting directly against the glass.
How to choose a frame and a mat
Nothing beats trying out lots of options. Your framer will have a huge range of possibilities, which can seem overwhelming, but they also have the experience to help you narrow them down. Don't immediately consider plain black or white frames with a white mat - have a play with some other options too.
There are also online framing configurators to experiment with, though the exact colours can be hard to reproduce on regular computer monitors. Pioneer Framing and Van Uffelen are both ones to try. Although they are designed for you to upload digital images, I believe you can also play with the configurators to work out what you like, then send them your print to frame. (I have some open edition prints from the "Flights of Fancy" series on Pioneer where you can choose my preferred framing or design your own.)
Why does framing cost so much?
It's a common refrain - the framing was more expensive than the print! Maybe one day I'll be rich enough to buy art that is more expensive than the frame, but if you're anything like me, that's a long way off! The reality is, the cost of producing a print is the cost of some fancy fine-art paper - expensive, but it's still only paper. But with a frame, there is the wooden moldings, the glass, the mat or spacers, the backing board, and all the hardware and tools needed to put it together, along with the labour costs. It simply costs more in materials and labour to make, compared to the print. I can't help but note too, that many artists, unlike framers, undervalue their work and price their prints too low!
Have fun with your framing
(Hover or click on the photos in this gallery to find out more about the framing used).
The frame is an integral part of the art - the right frame can transform an artwork from nice to magnficent. Even the simplest frames can be magical with the right picture and a well-matched mat.
When I first started getting art framed, I was so scared of making a bad decision and I was also reluctant to invest in getting quality framing. But after making hundreds of TinyArt pieces, I've tried so many weird and wonderful frames that I'm far more adventurous. I love trying new frames and fancy extras. A number of the framed prints I have in galleries have these extra touches because I love seeing my art beautifully presented and I know that it can be hard for customers to visualize how a print might look.
Some interesting things to try, once you've got your confidence up, include:
Can't I just buy a frame at Briscoes?
Of course! And if it gets the print out of its packaging and on the wall, then that's great! I don't need to tell you that you'll get the quality you'd expect. That's means over time, your print may fade because the glass or plastic is not UV resistent, or the print may react to the products used to build it (e.g., if the mat isn't acid-free). If your print isn't a standard size, you might find it hard to find a frame off-the-shelf. But do know there are no "frame police" that will come and tell you off.
You can also buy pre-made frames online. They're usually a bit better quality and the mats are usually acid-free, but in my experience, the frames tend to chip easily. They're actually expensive for the quality of the materials used. It can be a bit of a faff to mount the print too.
If you do decide to frame yourself, find or borrow an air puffer (every photographer has one) and a brand new microfibre glass cleaning cloth to help you remove dust.
Expect to wait 3-8 weeks to get your framed piece back. Framing is not a quick process.
Do get in touch with the artist and ask what type of framing and which framers they recommend. Some artists (me included) will even arrange the framing for you. I don't have that as an option in my shop as framing costs vary so much, so I prefer to have a chat with you first.
If you buy a print as a gift, consider getting a framing gift-certificate to go with it! (Or consider a TinyArt piece, which I created especially for gifts, where the recipient doesn't need to worry about framing.)
If you're an artist looking for help with framing, check out this other blog on exhibition and gallery framing hints.
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Judi Lapsley Miller
Fine art inspired by the stories of birds and the natural world. Starting with photographs, I let my imagination take me on flights of fancy. What is real and what is imagined is blurred. What is physical and what is virtual is disrupted. Bursting with colour and life.
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