Choosing a Frame: 7 Basic Rules

1. Works on paper need the protection a frame affords because paper is sensitive to its surroundings. It can change color, become brittle or show spots (foxing) if it comes in contact with humidity or is exposed to light. Paper will also react to acidic supports or tapes.

2. If you’re recycling a frame, make sure the rebate is deep enough. This depth accommodates the thickness of the entire package—the picture, the window mounts or fillets (small pieces of moulding that fit inside a larger frame or in between mats), the glass and the thick undermount (back board).

3. Again, if you’re using a recycled frame, make sure you clean it carefully, but preserve all inscriptions or framing labels.

4. The conventional way to frame a work on paper is with a mat that’s weighted at the bottom; for instance, the width at the top and sides is smaller than the width at the bottom. Usually, the mat should be 3–4 inches on the top and sides and then up to three times wider on the bottom. Today, however, many artists ignore this convention and choose a mat that’s equal on all sides.

5. The mat should be neutral in color: off-white. Mats in colors other than white cheapen the effect.

6. Only a UV-coated glass will protect the piece from fading. UV-coated, nonglare glass has a disadvantage in its slight haze or film; anti-reflective glass doesn’t have a film but it doesn’t have the protection of UV coating either. Museum Glass, made by TruVue, is both clear and resistant to the sun’s rays.

7. “Conservation framing” is the term that designates a procedure that protects the work. Make sure a framer specializes in conservation framing before you consign your work to him. To meet that standard, every piece of a framing package has to be archival: the mount, the mat, the glass, the adhesive that attaches the work to the mat and support, and any other materials.

If the framer uses cheap materials (for example, mats that aren’t acid-free) or if he or she lacks expertise (for example, cutting the mat crudely, dry-mounting it or using masking tape), your work won’t look as good as it could and it will also be vulnerable to insects, humidity and possibly worse.

Learn more about framing & selling your art:

  • Complete Guide to Selling Your Work Online
  • Frame It! – Do It Yourself Framing for Artists
  • Quick & Easy Guide to Photographing Your Artwork
  • Read more articles about selling your art
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