How to frame your art November 03 2014

Why frame your art?

The main reasons to frame your art is (1) to enhance your work and compliment it and (2) to protect it from damage from elements like moisture and dust; and from physical damage from handling, touching and transporting. All works of art do not need to be framed. Often canvas paintings are gallery wrapped instead, which is where the canvas is wrapped around thick stretcher bars and secured to the back of the bars, leaving no visible attachment on the sides. While this may be good for some works art on canvas, works of art on paper and board will usually require framing for structure and protection.

How to Choose your art frame moulding

There are different schools of thought when choosing the style and color of moulding when framing your art. Most would agree though that a frame moulding should be selected that enhances and compliments the work of art first, and that the decor of the room is a secondary consideration. Then the art and frame combination may be chosen as one entity to compliment a particular decor. For example a traditional or classic style painting may best be suited by a wide gold leaf or wood tone moulding, whereas a contemporary or abstract piece may be better framed in a slim solid color moulding. A traditional or classic artwork and frame can also look very good in a modern decor and a modern artwork and frame can look good in a traditional decor.

Large works of art generally look better with wider mouldings, and smaller works of art generally look better with thinner mouldings, however this is not always the case. A large oversized frame can give a small size painting a look comparable to a diamond in a setting. If wall space is a limitation when framing a large work of art, then a floater frame may be used. A floater frame is a frame with a solid back to which the artwork is attached, so that the moulding does not touch the artwork itself, giving the illusion that the artwork is floating in the frame. A floater frame may add 1"- 4" to the height and width of the piece whereas a regular frame may add as much as 12".

More than one mouldings are often used to create a unique look. Oil paintings often use an inner frame called a linen liner that is covered in a white or neutral fabric and a fillet (pronounced 'fill-it'), a decorative moulding that fits inside the frame or underneath the mat. A fillet can be used with or without a linen liner. A frame moulding and it's linen liner should never be the same width, the frame is usually wider than the liner.

Choosing the color of the moulding is pretty much common sense, you want to choose a color that compliments and enhances the colors in the artwork, not something that is going to clash. You also wouldn't want a busy looking frame to go with a busy image.

Framing Works of Art on Paper

Special considerations must be made when framing works of art on paper due to the sensitivity to light, moisture, temperature, and restriction of movement. A practice called Conservation Mounting is used to protect the work not only from the elements, but also to avoid any damage to the work by the mounting method itself. You want to be able to remove the work from the framing without any visible indication that the artwork has ever been framed.

The artwork must be mounted on some type of support or mount board prior to being framed. The piece will be in direct contact with the mount board, so the choice of mount board is critical. It must be constructed of acid free material. Archival Foam Board is an excellent choice and will prevent moisture from entering through the back of the frame. All materials used when mounting the artwork should be acid free. Acid free adhesives and acid free corner pockets should be used to secure the artwork to the mount. Adhesives should be easy to remove, and should not stain or darken with age. An ideal adhesive is freshly made wheat or rice starch paste. Pressure sensitive tapes and masking tapes should never be used because they can permanently damage the picture and become difficult or even impossible to remove.

Framing works of art of paper usually requires framing under glass for protection. The glass or glazing as it called protects the picture from physical damage, moisture, pollutants, and damaging ultra-violet rays. There are several types of glazing used including regular glass, non-glare, museum, and acrylic (Plexiglass). Conservation glazing may be applied to glass which offers up to 97% UV protection.

A matboard,(also called a mat, matte or matting) is a paper board or sheet with a cutout window that separates the artwork from the glass, and also serves as a border around the artwork. Matting also serves in the presentation of the artwork. A spacer may be used instead of a mat. The spacer is placed in the rabbet to keep the artwork from coming in contact with the frame or glass.

Fitting the Frame

When measuring your artwork for the frame there is more to consider than just the height and width of the work itself. The rabbet or rebate as it is sometimes called, is where everything must fit. The frame moulding is routed slightly larger than the measurement of your art work so there is allowance for expansion and a little play. The rabbet depth should be deep enough to accommodate the artwork, mount board, matting, spacers, glass etc. The exception to this is when you want the frame to appear to "float" on the wall, held off the wall slightly by the mount board or canvas stretcher bars.

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