Framing – Protect, Present Your Paintings

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You want to display your masterpieces in their most attractive light, so learning to choose the proper type of framing is an important step as you grow as an artist.

Just like gemstones are enhanced when set in a perfect setting, your painting will look far more professional and appealing when it appears in the right frame.

There’s no one frame that’s perfect for your painting.

Some of the choices are your own personal preference or that of your client, so you typically have a number of ways to frame your artwork.

Just like learning the rules of painting so you’ll understand when to break them, there are guidelines to help you select an attractive and appealing frames for your paintings.

Gallery Wrapped Supports: To Frame Or Not To Frame?

For artists working on canvas, framing can be optional. If you’re using gallery wrapped canvas, you may elect to ignore the frame entirely. Gallery wrapped canvas supports are built using wide stretcher bars and the canvas is wrapped around the bars and secured to the back of the support.

You may elect to continue your painting around the sides of the support. This gives more of a casual, creative look to the piece. Another option is to paint the sides black or another neutral color. This gives the viewer’s eye a stopping place from which to return back into the painting again.

Standard Canvas Supports

Narrow stretcher bar canvases are less costly than gallery wrapped supports, but they do require some sort of framing. The canvas is secured to the sides of the stretcher bars with staples, so the staples are visible and not very attractive.

These supports should be framed, or wooden slats can be mounted to the four sides to finish the edges. The wood can be the same width as the stretcher bars, or they can extend be the canvas surface. Natural wood will give a more rustic appearance to the piece while stained and finished wood will add a sophisticated, modern look.

Wood Panels Or Boards

Wooden supports can warp over time, so they need a frame structure to keep them flat. You can use a standard frame or a box frame for thin panel and boards in any number of styles and profiles.

Paper Supports – Special Considerations

From Matting to Glass and Frames, let’s get going…


Works on paper need the protection of both a frame and a glass cover. The standard method of mounting paper supports is to surround the paper with a mat and a protective backing board. With the paper safely tucked between the two layers of mat board, the piece can then be framed with any standard frame and a protective layer of glass or Plexiglas.

Mat board is archival cardboard that’s available in an almost unlimited assortment of colors and textures. It’s acid-free, so it won’t discolor the artwork over time. Cutting the window of the board is usually done at a 45 degree angle to expose the core of the board.

The mat should enhance the artwork, not overshadow it and it certainly doesn’t need to match the décor or colors of a room. The artwork is the central focal point and the mat and frame is a setting to enhance, not detract from the piece.
Avoid using an intense, white mat board. This brilliant white is distracting and undesirable.

Double or triple matting allows the framer to introduce a coordinating color without detracting from the artwork. You may also consider a fine edge of wood fillet for a sophisticated, upscale appearance.

Typically, weighted matting is the professional choice. A weighted mat has a wider dimension on the bottom than the sides and top. For example, if the sides and top of a mat are three inches wide, the bottom of the mat should be at least three and one-quarter inches wide. This gives a balanced, ‘weighted’ appearance to the painting.


You have several choices for protecting your paper support artwork. A beginning painter may not wish or need to use the high-priced options, but as you advance and develop a following and clients, you should consider using the more expensive, but more archival alternatives.

Standard glass is most commonly used, as it’s readily available and economical. However, this isn’t the best choice if you plan to ship your paintings, as the glass breaks easily. If you’re not planning to ship it, at least it’s very scratch resistant and blocks approximately 50 percent of UV light rays.

Non-glare glass gives a nice, glare-less appearance that works well in a room with strong lighting or lots of direct sunlight. However this option doesn’t have good UV light protection, and your painting may appear a bit blurry.

Plexiglas is an acrylic product that’s very lightweight and withstands shipping without shattering. This makes it a great alternative for both large pieces of artwork and for shipping pieces for shows and competitions. It provides approximately 60 percent UV protection. However, it does scratch easily and the surface can be marred by standard glass cleaners.

Museum glass is very expensive in comparison to the other options, but for professional artists and collectors, it’s worth every penny. It provides excellent UV protection, it’s exceedingly clear and it’s so glare-free, it’s almost invisible

Which Frame Style Is Right For Your Painting?

Although decorators and those looking for artwork to adorn their walls may disagree, the artwork alone should dictate the style of the frame and matting.

The general style of the painting usually suggests the type of frame – its material, width, coloration and profile. This isn’t written in stone, and there are always exceptions, so feel free to experiment before selecting your frame. Just be aware that good framing is expensive, so you should be pretty sure before you write the check.

A modern piece might look great in a slim profile, bullnose metal frame. These frames can be silver or gold, but they’re also available in tons of anodized colors as well.
Classical subjects and vintage painting styles usually look good in a traditional wood frame or a gilded, more ornate frame.

Outsider art and primitives are typically framed with wood finished in a rustic or crude styling that’s reminiscent of handmade or rough-hewn frames.

Frames don’t need to match the décor of a room. It’s more important that the frame match the style and subject matter of the art it’s surrounding. Keep this in mind when discussing the framing of a piece of art with a client.

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