In The Frame: What To Consider When Framing Artwork

By in How To


Framing artwork is incredibly important and many artists consider it part of their final outcome – Francis Bacon demanded his canvases were framed behind glass, for instance. Despite the cost that framing can add to production costs, it might be something you consider and these 5 tips are here to help you on your way.

Image by Jason Samfield used under a Creative Commons licence.
Image by Jason Samfield used under a Creative Commons licence.

Framing adds professionalism (even if just offered as an option at the point of sale) and a framed work is much more likely to sell. Remember: if a potential buyer can imagine an artwork in their home, they are much more likely to buy it!

  1. Different artworks call for different types of frame. As a rule, small pieces need much thicker frames, preferably bevelled so they draw in the eye. Statement frames are personal preference and can put buyers off. If you are trying to sell works on paper, plain frames are better. When framing works on canvas, it is often better to leave it as there is more involved.

    Image by Trevor Banthorpe via ArtWeb.
    Image by Trevor Banthorpe via ArtWeb.
  2. Matting. Everything within the frame belongs to the picture, the frame itself belongs to the room. This is a very good rule of thumb and this is why: matting (the spacer between both the work and the glass and the work and the frame) has nothing to do with the room it hangs in. Do not be tempted to match the matting to your wallpaper or the room’s colour scheme. Ideally the matting shouldn’t be darker than the artwork’s darkest colour, brighter than the brightest colour, bolder than the boldest colour, or a completely foreign colour. This is the reason why ivory is such a popular choice.
  3. Never let the picture (no matter the medium) touch the glass. Dirt, dust and moisture all damage works of art and adding a spacer (matting) reduces the chance of any long term damage to your beautiful framed work.
  4. Consider non-traditional or unconventional modes of framing and displaying. It might be better to work with reproductions first or this pointer may be better suited to artists who work in editions or with works on paper. If you are selling at a fair or you have a stall somewhere then clips are a really easy way to display works; magnets make small artworks, prints and photographs fit in with sentimental memories and personal snapshots.
  5. Where possible always go acid free. This is especially important for matting as it stops easily preventable damage and discolouration. It is easily available from most art supply stores and, of course, online.

Framing is an art in itself and there are many courses that people go on to learn the trade. That isn’t to say you can’t give it a go as a project and as a way to give your artwork a little something extra. If you want a higher quality finish, have a look around and scope out the craftsmanship at your local framers, this will also give you a good indication of the glass options out there and different finishes you might want to consider.

There are loads of places to pick up frames: reusing them with differently sized mattings, charity shops, online auctions, and of course, frame retailers.

Now that you know some basics, your work could stand a much better chance of standing out and making a small step toward a big sale.

8 comments for “In The Frame: What To Consider When Framing Artwork


August 31, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Hello Jack Smurthwaite ! Yes you said it right mate the real outcome of artwork is when it is placed inside picture frame with acrylic glass over it. Thank you for giving your sight over framing

Jack Smurthwaite

September 14, 2016 at 9:30 pm

I am glad you liked the post. Happy framing.

Johnny McCarron

October 4, 2016 at 9:54 pm

I’ll have to show this article to my sister as she is a painter that is looking to frame some of her pictures soon. I had no idea that different artworks needed different frames. However, that kind of logic makes sense as they could be different sizes and complement by different things. Do you have any other advice about how choose the right kind of frame?

Johnny McCarron

January 9, 2017 at 10:42 pm

I really like that you said framing can be an art in itself. I think that many people think that they can just put whatever they want in a frame and it will still look good. However, that is just simply not how it works. You need to know what kind of frame the art will look good in. Do you have any other tips about getting a good frame for your artwork?


February 6, 2017 at 11:10 am

I would definitely go for framing my artwork now. You are right, frame does add a little extra professionalism to any picture or piece of art.

Jack Smurthwaite

February 6, 2017 at 10:31 pm

Thanks for your questions Johnny. Like the post says, it all depends on what is being framed. I would cover the essential bases first by making sure the frame is large enough for what you are framing.

The other thing to bear in mind mind is taste: keep it as simple as possible if you are thinking of selling the piece but go with something you love for your own place. If you are wanting to hang a piece of your own in your home then prop a frame up in whatever room you want and live with it for a few days to see if it works.

These are just a couple of simple points to add to the post but I hope they help.

Margaux Ford

March 21, 2018 at 2:45 am

I’m grateful for your advice on not letting the picture touch the glass when framing it. I have some photographs at home that I want to frame, and this is a helpful information. It’s good you also mentioned that matting reduces the chance of any long-term damage to the framed work. Thanks for the tips!

Shammy Peterson

November 9, 2021 at 9:12 am

The best part of your blog for me is when you said that there must be a spacer added when you frame your artwork to ensure that the picture won’t touch the glass. My husband and I have decided to start collecting artwork pieces. We want to keep them damage-free for years to come, so we are planning to have them framed. Your tips will surely help us have the right confidence that they are protected from dust and dirt.

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