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Practical Framing Tips


The first thing to know about framing is that it should make the art look good. Good presentation enhances the art; bad presentation can kill it. Choices of presentation should provide a background that draws the observer's eye to the art, but should not overpower or compete with the art.

The second thing you should know is that framing is supposed to take care of the art. Preservation is important, because most damage to art on paper is caused by improper framing. Presentation mistakes can always be corrected, but mistakes in preservation are usually permanent, leading to complete destruction of the art in some cases. Check credentials and references.

Separate glass from the art surface

This is important because moisture will condense where there is no air gap, inviting mildew and mold.

Provide a visual background
For this purpose, the wider the mat, the better. If the mat overpowers the art, then mat color is wrong. Mat width affects the visual importance of the finished piece.

Coordinate colors
You can emphasize certain colors in the art and help it fit into the chosen surroundings.

Color choice
Top mat should be neutral in color, and of less color intensity than the art. If the top mat dominates, it will distract from the art. Additional mats beneath the top mat can be used to provide accents for color coordination with surroundings or to emphasize certain colors in the art.

Mat width

  • Narrow mats are usually more distraction than enhancement.

    Wide mats create focus toward the art. Standard sizes for ready made and open frames usually correspond to standard photograph sizes. The following are suggested ready made frame sizes, with mats, for various art image (mat opening) sizes:


  • This is a matter of opinion; mat decoration can enhance or detract from art. Common techniques include ink lines, marbled paper, V-grooves, watercolor, fabric panels. Be imaginative, but conservative with mat decoration.


  • Dry mounting is recommended for photos and other non-porous paper artworks which have no significant value. Over time, drymount tissue may deteriorate and loosen the mount in spots.


  • Clear picture framing glass is most common and least expensive for general purposes. Often called "regular" glass, but should not be confused with lower-quality window glass.
  • Non-glare glass is about twice the price of clear glass. Its etched surface blurs the image when viewed from side angles, especially when glass is properly separated from the art surface; more separation, more blur.
  • Ultraviolet-filtering glass is available clear or non-glare, and is recommended for all preservation projects. It is coated inside to filter out more than 95% of harmful UV light, which causes fading. UV rays are in all light, but very strong in sunlight and fluorescent light. Cost of UV-filtering glass is about the same as non-glare glass.

Hanging hardware

  • Sawtooth hangers are OK for small frames, but are inadequate for frames larger than 8" x 10".
  • Generally, wire is best for frames up to a weight of 30 lbs. Stainless steel or coated wires are stronger, will not rust or corrode, and will avoid marks on walls. Make sure ends are securely fastened to screw-eyes, and that they are securely fastened to the frame. Use proper size picture frame hangers, not just a nail in the wall.
  • For frames over 30 lbs., use separate hangers on each side of the frame back, and no wire. If a wire is used on a heavy frame, the sides pull toward the center, and corner joints are strained; also, top and bottom rails of the frame tend to bow.

    You can view other free framing articles and tips for arranging artwork at the photograph's website. The artist offers free screensavers along with affordable prices for beautiful pictures. Mr. McNulty’s web site www.premierphotographer.com offers some of the finest fine art photography available online. You can reach Pat McNulty at 484-707-3686 or via e-mail at webmaster@premierphotographer.com

    Take a look at www.premierphotographer.com for several other free articles on framing and arranging artwork, along with free decorating articles.

1999-2007 All photos herein are property of Pat McNulty and may be placed or used on any website as long as you create a link back to http://www.premierphotographer.com Please feel free to set any picture on this page as wallpaper for your computer or download a free screensaver.