Basics of framing blog cover
Art Tip

Basics of Framing

I’ve had a couple of different conversations with other artists lately about framing, so I thought it may be a good topic to share on here too.  This will be basic information that will be helpful whether you’re deciding to frame your own art or you’re framing a piece you’ve purchased. 

First thing you need to decide is do you even need a frame?

No Frame or Frame Without Glass

If you have a painting on canvas that’s been stretched onto a wooden frame (like below), you may not need a frame.  

For this type of art I attach a d-ring to either side on the back and add a wire.  When a gallery asks that artworks are wired for the show/display – they’re looking for something like this.  Usually it’s because they have a hanging system that works best when all the artworks are wired. 

You can of course add a frame if you’d like and then there’s a number of choices and steps depending on how you choose to frame it.  There’s no need to cover acrylic or oil paintings on canvas or wood with glass.  If you’d like me to do a part two talking more about framing paintings on a future blog post let me know!

Summer Day on the Porch by Laura Jaen Smith. Acrylic landscape painting of porch of Mark Twain's Quarry Farm with a view out to the yard with trees and bushes
back of stretched canvas with gallery wire backing

Frame with Glass

If you have a piece of artwork that was done on paper you will need a frame with glass.  You should also have something separating the work of art from the glass – the most common thing used is a mat.  Of course there’s aesthetic reasons for using a mat, but it also helps to protect the artwork from condensation or ghosting onto the glass. 

A mat is made out of matboard (which is a dense paper/cardboard material).  Matboard comes in all sorts of colors and patterns.  They’re a good way to finish off the piece of art.  Some people say to do neutrals for art shows (if you have specific requirements for the show try to follow those guidelines), but the most important aspect is that it makes your piece shine.

Below I used a double mat of grey with white core and black with white core matboard with my Sketchy Tree ink drawing “Roots Run Deep”.  The “core” is the color that’s on the back and inside of the matboard which will show on the front edge when you do a 45 degree bevel cut. 

Roots Run Deep by Laura Jaen Smith. Ink drawing of roots and rocks matted with grey and black double mat and framed with a black frame
cut matboard - double mat of cement grey exterior with black interior

On the back I add the dust cover of brown paper and then the d-rings and wire.  I also add bumpers on the bottom corners so it rests nicely against the wall and a label (not pictured) with the title and my information.  If longevity is important to you, look for materials that use the terms “acid-free” and “archival” for anything that will be touching your piece of art.

Roots Run Deep by Laura Jaen Smith. Ink drawing of roots and rocks matted with grey and black double mat.
back view of framed drawing with gallery wire finishing

I hope this helped with getting an idea of the basics of framing!  Is there something that I mentioned (or didn’t) that you’d like to know more about?  Let me know – I’d be happy to do a deeper dive into any of the topics!  You can leave a comment or send me a message. 

Below is a video timelapse I put together of part of the framing process on my YouTube channel.

About the Artist

Photo of Laura Jaen Smith

Laura Jaen Smith is an artist who lives and works out of Horseheads, New York. Her inspiration comes from observing the beauty she sees around her.  After a decade living out west, she returned back to New York State and started seeing the same old places with new eyes.  She is most interested in capturing small moments in nature that might otherwise be overlooked.

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