Framing Your Art

Helpful Hints

When framing your art there are many choices to be made.

For oils and acrylics, you will need to choose a suitable frame. Pastels, watercolors, and photos, however, will also require that you choose mats, foam core, and glazing in addition to the frame.

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Choosing a Frame

Your artwork should be the main factor when choosing a frame. Choose a frame that will best enhance the art–not the decor of your room. What style is the painting?

If it is traditional in style, choose a wooden or gold frame.

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If your art is contemporary, you may want to choose a simple wooden frame with no bevels or ornamentation or choose a metal frame.

For art that is neither traditional or contemporary, you may want to choose a transitional style frame.

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When framing larger art pieces, look for a frame with wider moldings.

Choose a frame color or finish that enhances the piece and does not compete for attention. It is nice to have your frame color pull out one of the colors in the piece of art.

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Remember the art should be the focus–not the frame. If you have a very busy or complex piece of art choose a simple frame–not one that has a lot of ornamentation.

Choosing Mats for Works on Paper

Works on paper such as pastels, watercolors, and photographs will require a mat to protect the art from touching the glass and thereby creating air flow so the art doesn’t stick to the glass.

It is important to choose mat board that is acid free to prevent damage to the art itself. Mats which are not acid free damage the art over time by causing acid burn which is a yellow or light brown discoloration. This devalues the work of art.

When choosing matting, it is important that it enhance the art not compete with it.

Most art shows and galleries require neutral color matting especially for the top mat. I prefer to double mat my pieces using a neutral mat on top and about a 1/4″ of a colored mat showing underneath the top mat. I usually choose one of the colors found in my painting for this under-mat to create color harmony between the art and framing.

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In the painting above, the rust color mat brings out the rust not only in the painting but also the frame, tying the entire piece together.

Be sure to choose a mat width that is different from the width of the frame.

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Mounting the Art on a Support Board

Your art work will need to be mounted to a support board before inserting into the frame. It is important to use an acid free foam core.

In addition, be sure to use acid free tape to hinge your art to the foam core.

Glass or Acrylic

You may choose either glass or acrylic to protect your art. There are several types of glass to choose from.

Regular glass is the least expensive option. However, it does not afford the best protection from UV rays. If you use regular glass, it is best not to hang your art in direct sunlight.

Non-glare glass will cut the glare on art that hangs opposite a window. However, it distorts the image by making it look fuzzy. For this reason, I never choose non-glare glass.

Museum glass affords the best protection for an art piece against UV rays. You can barely tell there is glass on the piece as it does not produce a glare. This option is the best but also more expensive.

Many galleries and art shows require you to frame your piece using acrylic instead of glass as it is shatterproof and lightweight. However, it will scratch easily so you must be careful when transporting it or cleaning it. You can purchase regular or non-glare acrylic. Acrylic gives you better UV protection than regular glass but not as good as museum glass.

Dust Covers

A dust cover is a sheet of paper that is that is taped or glued to the back of a frame to prevent dust from getting into the frame. These papers come in craft paper grade or acid free grade.


Most exhibits will require you to have a hanging wire instead of a sawtooth hanger on the back of your frame. Measure the height of your frame and divide by three. That number is how many inches down from the top you should install your wire.

Hang your art so that the center is at eye level.

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I hope these tips will be beneficial as you make framing choices to showcase your art!

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