Framing your work

Framing your work can be an expensive proposition.  Once you get an archival mat, conservation glass, and a custom frame created for your print – you can start spending upwards of $100 for something as small as an 8×10 print.  Depending on what it is you want to accomplish though, you could easily be spending as little as $10 per print to mat and frame.  Here’s a few things to consider, and some explanations why:

Classics are called classics for a reason – they work!

I like classic looks, and the museum style frame suits that look – a thin black border, simple white mat, and picture inside there.  Not only does it keep focus on the image, but because I can buy these easily and in bulk, which helps keep costs down.  Also, it makes ordering new materials easier (these will never go out of style…)  Even if you end up going through a frame shop, getting a classic style can make it easier to match things up down the road.  So, what if classic is not your thing?  That’s cool too – but remember, the more off the beaten path you go in framing, the tougher it can be to duplicate and repeat down the road (which can also increase costs).

Be aware of the learning curve

Buying things in bulk means you will have to do a little of the legwork yourself.   For instance, say you buy 50 mats from some online reseller and save money there.  Congratulations – but do you know how to mount a print to a mat?  You can tape a print, hinge it, or even super glue it.  Each will have pros and cons, and your results will vary depending on how much you know before dipping your toes in the water – so read up on attaching prints to mats before deciding to DIY.  (Quick tip:  You’ll ne to stockpile various supplies depending on your eventual display method including things like hinges, foam core board, low tack tape, perhaps a few cans of spray-on adhesive and perhaps a few Exact-o blades if you are cutting your own mats to custom sizes.  Heck, they even make mat cutters that you can get at hobby shops!)

Some Supplies
Some Supplies

Don’t Go Overboard

Much like the mat work, framing can be tricky in and of itself.  Making your own mats can be initially be pricey to get all the tools you will need (see above) .  Framing is no cheap project either.  Making your own frames involves getting long lengths of the borders, cutting at precise angles, and making sure it all seams together cleanly.  It requires patience, attention to detail, and specific tools which can be a drain on the wallet (Have you priced a miter saw at Lowe’s or Home Depot?  Even the cheap ones aren’t real cheap!)  So, if you want to go the DIY route, know that some startup costs will be associated with it.

Storage Issues

Physical prints, physical mats, physical frames, physical glass pieces – all of these take space.  How do you store all this stuff and in some semblance of order?  First off – find an understanding and encouraging significant other?  Don’t have one?  Make that a requirement if you do!  The amount of space that is involved in storing not only the obvious stuff, but the not-s0-obvious stuff, can be staggering!  I have so many boxes of materials it really is ridiculous.  It helps to have a system though, and labels are always a good idea.

Shoeboxes make great sizes for lots of things
Shoeboxes make great sizes for lots of things

Never have enough storage
Never have enough storage
Never have enough storage
Never have enough storage


So, there’s my trifecta of tips for framing your work. It’s just a starting point, but will hopefully help when you decide to start framing your work for display.  The results can be rewarding, but like anything else,  with a little work, pre-planning and preparedness, you will be well on your way to having a gratifying gallery of imagery!

Some Prints on the Wall
Some Prints on the Wall

Some More Prints on the Wall
Some More Prints on the Wall

Keep in mind though – I certainly do not have a corner on the tips and tricks associated with matting, framing, and displaying your work…there are many other elements to consider and be aware of.  Just peruse the comments here to see a sample of what I am talking about – oh wait, that means you gotta share your own tips, tricks and ideas in the comments too!  So, sound off – what else do people do when preparing prints for framing?  Any styles that work?  Any vendors to recommend?

That’s it for today…thanks for stopping in, and be sure to stop back again tomorrow for more photo goodness.  Happy shooting and we’ll see you then!

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6 comments for “Framing your work

  1. Pete
    October 7, 2009 at 7:01 am

    Another method I’ve just recently begun using for presenting some of my work is to mount it on three-quarter inch MDF board. It looks similar to canvas for a lot less money.
    I cut the MDF board about an eighth to a quarter inch larger than the photo dimensions to leave a little border, hit the front perimeter and the sides with several coats of black spray paint and glue the photo on top after it dries. I will say that it takes a bunch of paint to get a good coat on the sides; since they’re the open grain, they suck up paint pretty greedily, and I’m still trying to find something else as an undercoat to prevent that. Once the glue for the print dries, I brush on a layer of acrylic finish (I use matte) and go over it once with a pretty fuzzy paint roller, which gives it a nice surface texture.

  2. Bob
    October 7, 2009 at 10:03 am

    I’ve been using IKEA frames at about $13 each – the only downside is the they are metric so that a 16×20 frame is really only about 15 7/8 x 19 3/4. But, I bought a mat cutter at Michaels and I buy whole sheets of mat board for about $20 Canadian which are good for 4 16x20s.

  3. October 7, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Jason, another good post! Since I’m in the reproduction business and gallery business as well, framing is something I think about all week, every week.

    I’m with you. The “classic” look works for me. My clients on the other hand get all sorts of ideas. I’ve seen medium sized framing jobs come in for several hundred dollars, and that’s just the cost of the materials!

    Personally I’ve found that canvas works out more economically for my own prints. A 24×36″ canvas piece costs me less to produce than a 20×30″ framed piece! So my customers get more square footage of art on canvas for less money than the framed piece. And I’m working “at cost” on my own pieces. Strange but true!

    If you’d like I can dash off a longer list on framing, archiving, etc. Drop a note if you think it would be of value to your readers.
    .-= Rich C´s last blog ..Blogging while on Percocet….. =-.

  4. October 8, 2009 at 12:13 pm


    I’d love to hear more about that framing (especially canvas).

    .-= dcpatton´s last blog ..Sipping An Autumn Cocktail =-.

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