How to Frame a Picture Like a Pro

Pat McNulty is a landscape and wildlife photographer. He has extensive experience integrating framed images into home décor and shares some of the hard-won lessons he’s learned along the way.

Framing pictures can be a difficult proposition, but it is worth the effort to preserve art to keep it safe for years. If you are ready for a challenge here are the insider’s approach.

1. Select a photo.

It should be something you find appealing or valuable, since you will be living with it for a long time. A photo can either be placed in a mat, or directly into a frame.

2. Go shopping to find a mat and a frame.

Take a look at an arts and crafts store. Check out places like: Michael’s, AC Moore, Deck the Walls, or The Great Frame Up. In choosing a mat and frame, see how each one will give you a different look. The mat and frame should enhance the picture or artwork. A benefit of using a mat is that it provides a buffer or space between the picture and the glass.

3. Look for the proper size mat and frame.

Select the frame size based on the mat size. Select the mat size based on the size of the picture and the amount of buffer you want between the photo and the frame.

A 5 X 7 photo can be placed in an 8 X 10 mat and 8 X 10 frame.

A 8 X 10 photo can be placed in an 11 X 14 mat and 11 X 14 frame.

A 11 X 14 photo can be placed inside a 16 X 20 mat and frame.

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4. Choosing the right mat.

The mat should be wider than the picture. You can choose to use a single mat (has no inner border) or a double mat (has an inner border). Choose the color to match the photo. You can choose a double mat, where the inside border of the mat brings out a color in a picture or artwork.

To prevent damage to the photograph, only acid-free board should be used. The best mat board is made of 100% rag. Simple or elaborate, the mat must complement the artwork and not detract from it. Matting can be an art in itself.

5. Select a frame that will complement the color scheme in the room it will be hung.

For example, with black & white pictures – a thin black frame goes well with a white or grey mat that has a black inside border. For sunset pictures, a red frame goes well with a white or cream colored mat that has a red inside border. Together, the mat color and the frame should enhance the artwork and fit into the room that it is placed in.

6. Next step is using either single-sided Scotch Photo and Document or single-sided Scotch Scrapbooking tape to secure the picture to the back of the acid free backboard or foamboard with the tape.

The picture will be hanging by two T shaped pieces of tape. This technique helps prevent your picture from developing any ripples. The matt will be placed over the picture, and set into the frame. Do not use masking tape. Take 2 pieces of tape about 2 inches long. Make a T shape with the two pieces of tape, sticky side to sticky side. You will be using two T shapes of tape to anchor to the top of the picture to the back board. (see example 6a)

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7. Place the picture on the foam board with the front of the picture facing away from you. To help you visualize this, the T shape has 2 parts, a top part , and the second piece that hangs down like a tail. The tail of the "T" will attach to the picture, while the top of the "T" will attach to the backboard. Now take the tail piece of the tape and attach to the picture, placing the tape on the top left side of the back of the picture. The top of the T shape tape should be close to the edge of the picture, but not touching the picture. (see example 7a.)

Now make a second T shape and repeat the above step, placing it on the top right side of the back of the picture. Now you will have two T shapes on the left and right side of the top of the picture.

8.Flip the picture over and center the picture on the back of the board. Tape lightly in place. (see example 8a)

9. Put the mat lightly over top of the picture. With the picture centered on the inside of the mat, take the two top portions of the T shape and push the tape firmly on the back of the board or foamboard. (see example 9a.)

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10. Place the mat on a clean surface. Put the picture , mat and backboard into the picture frame. Hang your picture on the wall and Enjoy!

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