Choosing A Frame For Your Painting

My painting tutor at art school used to say, “A bad painting needs a good frame and a good painting deserves one.” Framing a painting or drawing is no easy task and I can find it more difficult than actually painting. I have learned though that it’s usually best to stick to “classic” and “simple.” With these two watch words you can’t really go wrong.

So what do I mean when I say classic and simple? By this I mean, for example, a narrow black frame with a cream mount and glass. The mount, for those who are not familiar with the meaning, is the window of thick card which fills the space between the work itself and the outer frame. It’s sometimes called a “window mount” or “passepartouts.” This is very important especially in small works because it gives the work space to breath and focuses the viewer’s attention more onto the work. The narrow black outer frame then contains the dual image of the work and the space. As I said, these are good for small flat works (paintings done on paper) and photographs. Black and white photographs in a simple frame like this look particularly good.The reason I say “flat” works is because such frames with a window mount are pressed against the glass from a section of board from the back so a stretched canvas wouldn’t fit.

If you want to frame a painting on canvas my own choice is a simple broad off-white frame which is deep enough to give the painting a feeling of value. Deeper frames of this type are designed to let the stretcher of the work (the wooden part that the canvas is stretched around) sit in place. A narrow inset of gold between the frame and the canvas can enhance the effect.

On bigger canvases an edging of wood can be easily fitted to the outer edges of the stretcher.

You can buy such lengths of wood from DIY/Hardware stores. First paint them (I prefer cream or light grey with a matt finish) and then cut them to size and attach them to the outer edges of the stretcher with panel pins. These can be covered with paint later but make sure they are driven in a little under the surface of the wood.

Finally, if you’re an artist on a budget and need to produce a body of work you can buy ready-made frames from stores and paint paintings to fit the frame. Framers sometimes make frames of all sizes from the left-overs of their custom frames and sell them off cheap. If your local framer doesn’t do this, why not suggest he does.

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