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DO IT YOURSELF PICTURE FRAMING

If you are on a budget, a great way to save a lot of money is by doing your own framing. It is not nearly as hard as you think it is so follow these guidelines below to frame your print

All my images are sold in standard sizes. What that means is that you can go to anywhere that sells ready-made frames and find frames that will fit the images you bought from me. 

The following is a guide on how to do your own framing using ready-made mats and frames and where to find them.

If framing your own prints sounds daunting, don't worry!  It's very easy to do framing on your own and I think it's really fun.  You can also save a lot of money by doing your own framing. Having a custom made frame can look beautiful, but many times the custom framing and matting can cost more than the photographs you are framing. I've been doing my own framing since I was a teenager. I even got to the point where I was ordering frame moulding, cutting it down, and building my own frames. 

The tips on this page are not for making your own frames, but what you'll need to frame something yourself with a ready-made frame. For tips on where to get ready made frames, see my Framing Resources page. Have a look at this page for step by step instructions on how to frame your print. First, a few general guidelines about framing.


USE MATBOARDS

It's best to use a matboard around your photo to help keep the glass off of your print. The matboard serves two functions; the most obvious is the decorative aspect of the mat. You can use complementary colors in your mat to enhance your print. I actually use white mats but occasionally, I've used colored mats. Be very careful that you don't end up making the mat distracting as this takes the eye away from your print. 

The second function of the mat is to help protect it from the glass. Moisture can get inside the glass and if your print is touching the glass, this can damage the print. If you really don't like the looks of a mat and just want the bare print in your frame, make sure it's not hanging near a sink or in a bathroom. Many of the large chain frame shops sell many options of pre-cut matboards. I use these all the time. I get nice clean simple plain white ones with the opening I want pre-cut. You will also need an uncut matboard the size size as the front mat. 

You will be putting your print inside this like a sandwich. I call these backer boards. You can always ask any art store that does framing or frame store if they have any archival scraps that can be cut down to the size you need as you backer board. It can be any color to be a backer board. There are some frames that have spacers between the artwork and the glass, so this could be an option for you if you don't want a matboard on your print.


DOES YOUR FRAME COME WITH A MATBOARD?

Half of the ready made frames I see in stores come with matboards. One of the very annoying things I see is that some frames come with matboards that are NOT standard photo sizes. This means you might be losing a lot of the image because the matboard will be covering it up.  

The only time I keep the mat that came with a frame is when they say it's archival and it has a standard size opening for my print, this is very rare so I usually get frames without mats in them, like you see above. Then I get the pre-cut archival mats to place inside.


USE ARCHIVAL MATERIALS

When picking out your mat, make sure it's archival or acid free. This is very important. Basically, this ensures your materials have a neutral ph level so that your artwork lasts a long time. Non archival materials will damage your print over time. They will actually burn your print. Archival, or acid free mats will be labeled as such somewhere on the plastic wrap. Sometimes it's really small on the back of the print. Archival and acid-free mean the same thing when it comes to matboards. 

You will need to attach your print to your mat. You must also use archival tapes or archival photo corners to do this.


IS THE FRAME EASY TO HANG?

When picking out your frame, see if it comes with an easy way to hang it. Some frames don't come with any hanging hardware at all. Usually frames will either have little metal cleat attached to it where it would hang off a nail, or they will have a little kit in the frame that you then have to screw, or nail to the back of the frame, so make sure to look for this. The image on the left came with this cleat but it had to be hammered into the frame. The image on the right shows the backer board already having a hook to hang from, which is very handy.


DO NOT GET AN OPEN BACK FRAME UNLESS...

Is your frame open backed? Open back frames come with nothing, just the wood frame. If it's open backed then you'll need a top mat board cut to your image size, a back mat or backer board (solid mat board, no opening) to go behind your print. You'll also need to buy a piece of glass. Then you'll need a tool to insert special staples to hold your glass and print into the frame. Open back frames are much cheaper because of this. So if you have a framing store near you that has all these items for a good price, then open back frames can be an option for you if you are framing several prints.


HOW DOES YOUR FRAME OPEN IF IT HAS A BACK?

If your frame has a backing on it, then have a look to see how easy is it to open the back of the frame to put your matted print inside it. These days, most frames with backs are super easy to get in and out of but it's still good to check this and make sure you understand how it opens.  You can always ask a sales clerk to help you figure it out.


WHAT COLOR SHOULD YOUR FRAME BE?

When you go into a custom frame shop, you'll see a ton of frame colors. I went into a frame shop the other day and saw a wall of day glow bright colored metal frames. Here's the thing - my goal is to have the least distracting frame as possible to show off my prints. I usually pick white frames, natural wood frames or occasionally black frames (for my black and white images). Many folks like black frames. Black, white, and natural wood frames go with everything. I use frames that are thin and simple. Occasionally I'll see a frame that just works really well with the particular print I'm framing at the time that is not white, black or natural.  It all depends on your print and what will make it look the nicest.


SHOULD YOU DO CUSTOM FRAMING INSTEAD?

Custom framing, when done properly, can actually enhance your artwork. Think of custom framing as an accessory to a fabulous outfit. Custom framing will not distract from the artwork but will work with the piece in a way that could possible bring out things in the artwork you didn't see before. Custom framing is an artform! 

Two very good friends of mine own a framing shop. They are also artists and fully understand color theory. When you see a piece of art framed by them it just looks perfect, as if it was always meant to be shown that way. 

Custom framing takes time and money for the archival materials used. If you can't afford custom framing, then doing your own framing with ready-made frames is the way you have to go. 


WHAT ARE THE STANDARD PRINT SIZES?

My images on this site are all printed in standard sizes. 

Here are some examples of the print sizes you'll see on this site: 

8x8, 8 x 10 inches or 8 x 12 inches 

11 x 14 inches or 11 x 17 inches 

16 x 20 inches or 16 x 24 inches 

20 x 24 inches or 20 x 30 inches 

24 x 30, 28 x 35, 32 x 40, 36 x 45

The reason for the slight size variations above comes from what camera I was shooting the image or how I chose to crop it. Either way, I always make sure these are standard sizes so that your framing will not need to be custom if you don't want to go that route.


WHAT ARE THE STANDARD MAT SIZES?

Here are the some of the most common standard mat sizes and the size prints they are for: 

8 x 10 inch print can go in an 11 x 14 inch mat 

8 x 12 inch print can go in a 12 x 16 inch mat 

11 x 14 inch print can go in a 16 x 20 inch mat 

11 x 17 inch print can go in a 16 x 24 inch mat 

16 x 20 inch print can go in a 20 x 24 inch mat 

16 x 24 inch print can go in a 20 x 28 inch mat 

The largest print sizes, the 20 x 24 and 20 x 30 will probably need to have a custom mat cut for them.  I've not seen any ready made pre-cut mats for the larger prints. 

Now you've got all the info you need to go frame shopping.  Bring your prints with you and look at the print in front of the frame you are considering.  

Have fun with it! You can always contact me with any questions.


WHERE TO FIND READY MADE FRAMES

There are a ton of resources for ready-made frames. Here's a list to check out:

Also, if you have any questions about a store not mentioned above that has a frame you are considering and you want me to check it out, just email me with a link to the frame you are considering. 


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