Custom framing is a great way to compliment your artwork and take it to the next level for a sleeker appeal while preserving it at the same time. It can literally transform any artwork within any space. As beneficial as it can be, It can also be very overwhelming and intimidating when looking for the right frame for your unique piece. Often times, you are overloaded with numerous choices while trying to do what’s best for the piece and keep your cost at an affordable level. This can be quite challenging. Here is a simple approach and a few things to consider when custom framing your artwork.
Know your Artwork
Before you decide on what frames and components you want, you need to understand the materials your artwork is made of. Whether it’s canvas, fine art paper, or photo paper, every material has their own unique characteristics that you need to know before framing. For example, fragile materials/mediums like fine art paper, watercolors, or textile require a frame with the interest of preservation while materials like oil/acrylic on canvas can do with less protection than the former because they are sturdier.
Common Frame Types
Wood – There are three types of wood frames popularly used for artworks. Natural wood, MDF, & Finger Jointed Poplar.
Natural wood is simply solid wood that has undergone very little adjustments to none at all. It’s one of the most aesthetically charming materials for framing artworks. At the same time, it has its cons, like scarcity of specific types of wood, sensitivity to heat and humid environments, can be high priced, and generally requires extra care and maintenance.
MDF is an eco-friendly recycled wood material, the acronym means Medium Density Fiberboard. It’s made out of sawdust glued together for a uniform laminated finish. Unlike natural wood, it has been modified but the advantages make it a great choice for wood framing. It’s cheaper, sturdier, more resistant to heat, and requires less maintenance than natural wood.
Finger Jointed Poplar is a combination of natural wood and MDF together to make one solid plank of wood. The recycled wood pieces are bonded together by key pieces called finger joints and then enveloped in custom ornamental wraps. Similar to MDF, it’s budget friendly, eco-friendly, stable, low maintenance, and lightweight. It’s unlikely to break, bend, or swell over time. Finger Jointed Poplar is the middle ground between MDF and Natural wood framing.
Metal – Most metal frames are made out of aluminum. Aluminum frames are generally inexpensive, resistant to corrosion, lightweight and very aesthetically pleasing. Metal frames are extremely versatile and are used in a lot of modern artworks and interior designs. They are sturdy, lightweight, sleek looking, and easy to assemble. Other metal frames materials such as Silver, Bronze, etc. are also beautiful options but can face critical downsides depending on the type of metal. For example, Bronze frames over time tend to corrode and turn green creating a color switch, Gold/Silver/Copper/Nickel/etc. frames can be highly expensive and scarce.
Plastic – Polystyrene resin is the most common material used for plastic framing. Plastic frames are the cheapest option for framing but not the most aesthetically pleasing compared to the others listed above as they are designed to be more functional than decorative. If you are looking to frame your artwork for the long haul, this might not be the best option.
Custom framing can be very important for protecting your artwork long term, making it a valuable antique that’s passed down generations. The glass for your frame is also another crucial element of preservation that performs different vital functions for your artwork. For textile or paper-based work, glazing is highly recommended due to the fragile nature of the paper/fabric. If your artwork is going to be hanging somewhere with a lot of natural light, you should opt for UV filtering glass. Ultraviolet light will damage your artwork over time no matter how small. Clear picture frame glass is the most common and cost-effective type of glass, but it has no UV light blocking abilities and can be very reflective. Plexiglas, Museum glass, or Conservation clear glass will do this work just fine.
One thing to note is that adding glass to your frame is not required for every artwork. Oil and Acrylic works do not need to be glazed; they release gases and as a result should be left exposed. Glazing Oil/Acrylic paintings will deny the viewer a texture experience and can also damage the painting.
Another crucial component of preservation are Mats and Linen Liners. Mats are commonly used to highlight paper-based artworks by separating it from the frame and at the same time preventing the artwork from sticking to the glass. Paper based artworks i.e., photographs, watercolor art, etc. look a whole lot better when there is a mat border between the frame and the edge of the artwork. The general rule of thumb is that the mat should be wider than the frame in order to create a visual balance. Most custom framed works with mats have at least 2-inch-wide mat border. A mat is not always necessary but If the artwork is on paper, we highly recommend you use an acid free mat to avoid discoloration over time. Linen Liners are the canvas version of mats, mostly made out of wood and wrapped with linen to provide a fabric texture. And just like Mats, it helps create a breathing space between the canvas artwork and the frame.
Remember, custom framing is superb for aesthetics and preservation, do not focus solely on aesthetics alone especially with expensive artworks.
Color selections for your mats and frame will depend on the artwork. Remember framing is meant to enhance the artwork so choose a frame style and color that will not overshadow or diminish the artwork. Choose colors that complements your artwork and at the same time can work in your room. The artwork will most likely look great in the space if you choose according to what’s best for it VS trying to match other color finishes in the room.
Framed photographs with white mats
Hanging & Hardware
Hanging your art is just as important in this whole process. To make sure your artwork is secure on the wall with the flawless presentation you intended, you need to get the right supplies; a hammer, a measuring tape, two (2) D-rings, two (2) nails, and a line level tool. You can get all of this from your local hardware supply store. For a stable positioning, we highly recommend using D-rings to hang your artwork VS hanging wires.
Decide on the best space for your artwork
Measure your wall. Your artwork and frame should fill 65% to 75% of your wall.
Measure down 3 inches from the frame on both sides and mark both spots.
Screw in your D-rings on both sides
Get creative with your hanging. It doesn’t have to align with the other elements in your room or by that wall. Embrace irregularity and leave room for some dynamism.
Hanging kit – D-rings, line level, measuring tape, hammer, nails, and picture hooks
In conclusion, custom framing can be expensive depending on your artwork and how deep you want to go but it’s a great one-time investment. Your artwork will look better, and last forever. A lot of us have personal collections of memorabilia, awards, photographs, posters, paintings, etc. just lying around. These are the pieces you can preserve their quality by framing without stress and at affordable prices.