Framing a Painting

What to expect when you take a painting to a professional framer.

Framing a painting
Framing can enhance a painting. Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to, Inc.

It's not cheap having a painting framed professionally, but it's a worthwhile investment as a good frame can significantly enhance a painting. But what differentiates a good framer from a mediocre one?

Judge by the neatness of the final result (look at paintings hanging up at the framers, particularly as how carefully the mount has been cut), the range of mount and framing options available (there should be an array of sample corners for both mounts and frames), whether the framer uses acid-free, archival-quality materials, whether they try to impose their taste on you, and how long they take to frame.

Below are the steps involved in choosing a frame for a painting.

Framing Step 1: Deciding on a Composition
Usually when you've painted on a canvas or board, you've adjusted the composition to fit the shape of the canvas and so this step is skipped. But if you've painted on a sheet of paper, you may have 'excess' that you wish trimmed off. The framer will take some mounting board and discuss with you where to crop the painting. Once you've decided, the framer will make some light pencil marks to show the four corners where the frame will go.

A good framer will have a sense for composition, so first see what they suggest, then decide if you like it. If not, say so, then move the mount and see what it looks like. Remember, it's your painting and it's ultimately your decision (this applies to everything with regards to framing).

Framing Step 2: Deciding on a Mount
Mounts are pieces of colored card that are placed around the paintings (Note: in the USA this is known as a 'mat' and the backing board is called a 'mount').

A painting doesn't have to have a mount; the frame can touch the edge of the painting. But a mount can really 'finish off' a painting and brighten the colors in it. A painting can also have more than one mount, often with only a sliver of the one closest to the painting showing.

The framer will have a range of sample mount corners in an array of colors.

They should also have a display board on which they clip your painting, then the mount colors being considered. You should be able to step away from the display board so can see what the painting/mount/frame will look like from a distance as well as close up.

Framing Step 3: Deciding on a Frame
Again, the frame will have a range of sample corners for frames. This will be clipped to your painting along with the mount board so you can see what the final result will be. It can be a bit hard to extrapolate from one corner, what the frame and mount are going to look like when it goes all the way around a painting; use your hands to block out the bulk of the painting so you see only the corner with the proposed framing to help you focus.

Framing Step 4: Decide Whether You Want Glass or Not
Glass in a frame is essential for pastels, drawings, and watercolors, but not necessary for paintings that are varnished. You should be given the option between 'ordinary' reflective glass and matte glass, which is less reflective but which does 'absorb' some of the color of the painting. If you're not sure, ask the framer to show you some samples so you can see what the difference is.

Framing Step 5: Getting a Quote
The framer may work out the quote on the spot, or give you a call later.

The cost will depend on the size of the painting, the number of mounts used, the frame chosen, and whether or not the frame has glass in it. Ask if the framer gives a discount to artists who are framing their own work (they may as it'll encourage you to frame more frequently). If you're not happy with the quote, go elsewhere.

Framing Step 6: Collecting Your Framed Painting and Paying for It
Before you pay for the framing, check the result carefully. Has the mount board been cut neatly, is it correctly placed, is the mount flat, is the frame neatly cut and jointed? If you're unhappy with something, get it sorted out before you pay for it. If it's been well framed, take the time to compliment the framer; we all like to have our work appreciated.

Is Framing Worth It?
It's highly debatable, as these highlights from a discussion on the painting forum reveals.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Boddy-Evans, Marion. "Framing a Painting." ThoughtCo, Mar. 8, 2012, Boddy-Evans, Marion. (2012, March 8). Framing a Painting. Retrieved from Boddy-Evans, Marion. "Framing a Painting." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 12, 2017).