3 simple rules for framing artwork, prints and posters

I have been designing framed and matted art for almost 10 years and I have some great tips for you! First of all, don’t feel bad if you think you don’t have an “eye” for design. The art of framing and shading is definitely a learned skill, combined with a bit of shine.

I have had the luxury of working in an art framing facility that has allowed me to spend endless hours matching artwork with mats, mats with frames, and frames with art in dozens of colors and sizes. So, without further ado, let me share a few simple rules that will make your final decision painless…and beautiful.

1. Choose your artwork: This is very personal. All I can say is that there is no such thing as an ugly piece of art. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Remember this rule: let the artwork speak to you. It may remind you of something, someone or a place that comforts your soul or just puts a smile on your face. Perhaps the colors alone will lift your spirits or calm your mood. The rule is simple: if it touches your heart, then for you it is art.

2. Choosing a Mat: In the art framing industry, we call the border around the picture a “mat board” (“Mat” is short). Adding a rug is a personal choice. The only way to know for sure if a mat is necessary is to try it out. If you are in a store, hold the mat next to the print. Sometimes you’ll feel like the artwork or photo just doesn’t need a mat. Please note that there is an additional cost to consider.

On the other hand, rugs can be quite complementary and should never be overlooked without consideration. Here’s the simple rule of thumb for choosing a mat if you like the look of it around your art: select a lighter shade or neutral color. You can also look for a paler version of a color that is within the print. If the matte color is too dark, it will overshadow the image and make it look lost. Therefore, I prefer the lighter shaded rugs. I find that they always accent the artwork beautifully.

I also love a black rug, but only on certain occasions. When I use a stainless steel frame, I find the black mat to be beautiful. BUT, the image is almost always a photograph and mostly a black and white image. If you want to add a mat to your artwork, play it safe and choose cream. If you want to save a few bucks and feel like the artwork is beautiful on its own, leave the rug out.

3. Choosing a framework – Several key questions to ask yourself before you can make this selection.

a) Is the artwork contemporary or traditional? Contemporary is a fancy word for modern. It’s always abstract or photographic, but it can also be floral or scenic, as long as the artwork has clean lines, modern colors, and a current, up-to-date feel. Traditional is “old-fashioned” and can feel “old-fashioned” as if it was created many years ago. Still life drawings, mature landscapes, Victorian children are good examples.

Contemporary art works well in black, brown (including bronze), and metal frames, while traditional art works well with ornate champagne, silver, or gold frames.

b) What is the style of the room in which your artwork will be placed? This isn’t as important as matching the frame to the art, but it’s still a consideration. For example; Children’s bedrooms are very different from dining rooms, while a contemporary kitchen has a different style than a traditional family room. It is worth mentioning here that the trend for 2009 is to mix. The traditional rooms have modern and welcoming frames and the contemporary rooms have traditional frames that are welcoming. So focus on the artwork and hang your framed print in any room you like!

c) What is the size of the artwork? Whatever style you choose, keep this rule in mind. Never select a large frame for very small print. The frames are supposed to complement the artwork in a subtle way. In simple terms, the framework should be understated, rather than overwhelming. Personally, I only use 2.5″ to 3.5″ wide frames for artwork 22×28 and larger.

The thinnest frames (0.5″ – 1.75″) are ideal for artwork 18×18 and smaller. Although I have seen thinner frames on much larger pieces, I feel like it does nothing for the artwork. Either go for large works of art or minimize the frame altogether, opting for a flush mounted frame or stretched canvas finish. In the end, everyone has their own unique tastes when it comes to framed art and all I can do is offer you my simple rules as a guide. Remember, you are the only one who has to love it, because you are the one who has to live with it!

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