The right painting frame will depend upon your budget, the artwork’s size and the style you want to create. Choose to frame a painting for aesthetic reasons, to polish off the edges of a canvas to make it look more professional, or for the practicality of protecting the artwork and enabling you to hang it on the wall.
In this guide, discover the different types of wall art frames and decide which might be suitable for the artwork you want to display. Also, find a product review to help you choose a painting frame.
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How to choose a painting frame
Before framing a painting, you must consider the surface the artwork has been painted on and the medium that the artwork has been painted in. This will greatly affect what you look for when choosing a painting frame.
Measure your artwork
Get a tape measure and measure the width, height and depth of the artwork. If you have already mounted your artwork (this usually applies to paintings on paper), make sure to measure the outer edge of the mount or matboard.
You can account for a small gap between the artwork and the frame if you’re using a floater frame. In floater frames, the gap will appear as a shadow between the frame and artwork. A gap gives the impression that the panel is floating in the frame, which is quite aesthetically pleasing. The panel will be supported by the rebate. If you would like a gap of a few millimetres, account for this when choosing the size of the frame.
Cross reference your measurement with the measurement requirements on the frame product page, if you’re buying a premade frame, to ensure the artwork will fit.
Find the best frame for the painting medium
There are a few framing options for each painting medium that largely relies on whether the artwork has been varnished with a protective, UV resistant coat.
Artworks that have not been varnished with a UV protective coat can be prone to fading over time, if left in naturally bright settings. So the rule of thumb is to frame unvarnished works behind glazing (glass or acrylic) with a UV filter, as this will provide the best protection. This mostly applies to drawings on paper, for example charcoal, pastel and some paintings like watercolour. The reason for this, is that spraying a varnish over these mediums can cause value shifts in artwork. If these works are on paper, simply mount the artwork and frame it in a glass gallery frame.
There is the option to frame a mounted watercolour painting or drawing in a canvas, floater or panel frame, if it has been mounted on a thick board.
For varnished works on canvas, for example oil and acrylic paintings, there is the flexibility to choose a canvas frame, a float frame or a plein air frame. It’s not necessary to frame with a glazing, or backing. If you’re not sure if the painting has been varnished, check with the artist or gallery you bought it from first. Read our guides on varnishing oil paintings, varnishing acrylic paintings and fixing charcoal and pastel drawings for more information.
Choose the right frame for the painting surface
There are many different frame varieties that can be used with canvases. For example open back frames, plein air frames and floater frames. Canvas frames are often sold as a frame face and are delivered without backing material, glazing material (glass) or hanging hardware. You can optionally buy these extras to add to your frame.
Works on paper, made with pastel, charcoal, watercolour or paint are generally framed with acid-free mounts or mats and backings, behind glass with a UV filter. A matboard creates a neutral border around the artwork, making a separation between the frame and the painting.
Frame materials and finishes
Frames come in a variety of different finishes, widths, formats and colours. When choosing a frame for a painting, consider how you can best present your artwork to achieve your desired effect.
Picking a painting frame is a balance between complementing the artwork, giving it individuality and presence on the wall, but also not overwhelming the artwork itself.
Neutral colours that are sure to work with any colour scheme are light wooden colours, white, black or even gilded silver. A neutral frame looks tasteful and elegant on the wall.
For more traditional looking artworks, a gold leaf frame, or embellished frame may be a good choice. Portraits with muted tones, or warm tones complement gold leaf frames and darker woods. If you want to achieve a luxurious, museum quality appearance, a wooden frame with gold gilding can make an artwork pop.
Wide frames can complement smaller artworks nicely. Plein air frames often have wider moldings and are unembellished. This draws attention to smaller sized panels, but does not detract from the features of the artwork.
Consider getting a slimmer molding for a sleek and modern appearance. Simple frames really do emphasise bigger artworks, or artworks arranged in gallery wall settings.
Budget friendly frames
To find a frame on a budget, you could search for premade art frames from a supplier like Blick. They stock a variety of frames for a range of budgets. Or you could go to an antiques store or market and pick up a frame face, then customise it with optional extras like acid-free mounts, backings, glazing and all the other materials you need for your particular artwork.
Another budget friendly option, if you have the know-how and tools to hand, is to make the frame yourself. This is a good choice if you need a custom size and you don’t want to outsource the task to a professional framer. For example, if you have cut paper to a custom size, or if the canvas has unusual dimensions that premade frames can’t be bought in.
Types of frames
Gallery frames are suitable to hang anywhere, from the home, to the studio, galleries, museums and exhibitions. This type of frame generally has a minimalistic design that brings attention to the artwork. The Blick Metal Gallery frame, or the Blick Wood Gallery frame are both inexpensive, high quality and come in a large range of sizes. They can also accommodate canvases and panels.
Most gallery frames come with mats, backings and glazing. Check the individual product for details about whether the backing and mat is acid-free, what the glass is made from and the dimensions of the frame itself. Some gallery frames will be sold in an open back format, meaning that you will have to buy glass or acrylic, mats or mounts and backings yourself.
Gallery frames are suitable for works on paper, like prints, original drawings or watercolours. However, some gallery frames will also accommodate canvases and paintings on thicker surfaces. Make sure to check the dimensions first.
Blick Chelsea Metal Gallery Frames
These frames are ready to hang and come delivered with matting in a minimal metal frame. Remove the abstract art from the frame and swap it with your own painting or drawing. Choose between black, gold and silver frames, with white or black mats. The glass face and hanging hardware is included with the frame. Frame rabbet depth is 5/16”, regardless of the size. It can accommodate artwork up to 8×8″. However, you can take the mat out to frame artworks up to 16×16″.
Blick Metal Gallery Frame
This frame is a great budget option. It also goes up to the large size of 30×40″ and can accommodate artworks with a thicker profile, like canvases and panels. The glazing is made from styrene and the frame is made from a beautiful brushed metal. This frame will complement any artwork, letting the painting sing without overpowering it. Gallery painting frames come with hanging hardware, so you can put it straight up on the wall.
Blick Wood Gallery Frame
This beautiful wooden frame comes in four different finishes, white, black, natural and walnut. It’s made from solid wood and has a natural wood grain. These frames are fairly deep, with a rabbet of 1½”, you will also be able to frame canvases and panels. Similar to the Blick Metal frames, the wooden frames feature a styrene glazing and come with hanging hardware.
Stretched canvases can be fitted into any normal picture frame using canvas offset clips. This excludes frames that have a shallow rebate depth. When buying a canvas or panel frame, glazings, mounts, mats and backings aren’t required and often aren’t supplied.
Traditional canvas frames
Stretched canvases and wooden panels are often much thicker than mounted works on paper and prints. Canvas frames generally don’t need a glass or acrylic front, so traditional canvas frames look a little different to frames made for paper works. Check the rabbet depth to see if the frame molding will accommodate the canvas depth.
Open back frames are sold as simply the frame’s face. They don’t come with a glazing or backing, so framers can choose to get these as additional extras if they want.
Another type of traditional frame is a plein air frame, which usually accommodates smaller works and has a wider molding.
Of course, these frames can often be used for prints and paper works also, just make sure to get your own glazing and that the artwork is mounted.
Blick Bella Wood Frames
This frame will hold canvases up to 18×24″ and comes in four finishes. Antique gold, black, cherry, espresso and walnut finishes bring a classic feel to artwork. A hand-rubbed finish gives it a luxurious feel. The depth of the frame is 3/8″ and hanging hardware isn’t included.
Blick Simplon Plein Air Frame
The Simplon frame accommodates paintings up to 24×36″, features a wide mold and comes in several different finishes. Choose between antique bronze, black, gold leaf, gold leaf crackle and more.
Blick Driftwood Frame
This frame gives a rustic, natural look to your artwork and to your walls. A driftwood frame could provide a brilliant contrast to a bold abstract piece, or it could complement a muted seascape. The frame goes up to 18×24″ and all frames have a 3/8″ depth.
Floater frames and panel frames
Float frames give the illusion that the artwork is floating in between the frame. Rather than being secured to the frame from behind the frame’s face, with canvas offset clips, the back of the canvas or panel is secured to the frame’s stretcher bars with tape or screws. A small part of the sides of the artwork may be visible with this type of frame. It makes the artwork appear three dimensional, rather than flat against the frame’s face.
The Ampersand FloaterFrame is high quality with a sturdy design. It’s made from a premium hardwood; it fits canvases and panels in two different depths: 7/8″ and 1-1/2″. Choose from a wide or thin frame face, a white maple or black finish and from sizes up to 18×24″. All the framing and hanging hardware is provided, so you can put your painting on the wall straight away.
Blick Contour Floater Frame
This elegant floater frame comes in silver, gold, black and white finishes, with sizes that go up to 20×24″. The frame depth accommodates for 3/4″, 7/8″, or 1-1/2″ deep panels and canvases. Canvases attach to the frame rebate with screws. This frame is much cheaper than the Ampersand Floater frame, plus it’s crafted from American hardwood. Overall, this makes it a great quality, budget friendly option.
What supplies do you need to frame an artwork?
There may be some additional supplies to consider getting when you choose a painting frame. As mentioned earlier in the post, all you need to frame a canvas or panel in a traditional canvas frame is a frame face and some canvas offset clips.
However, if you’re framing paper, you will need a few extras. First, you may need to mount the paper to provide extra surface stability. Find a board from a supplier like Blick at your preferred conservation level, colour and thickness.
Then, choose a matboard to cut to size, or a pre cut mat to create separation between the frame and artwork. There are lots of options when it comes to matboards, however most artists find that matboards in neutral colours accentuate the appearance of their artwork best.
Another optional supply you might need, are frame backings and glass glazings to protect the front and back of the artwork from dust. However, if you buy a gallery frame, the frame will usually come supplied with all these extras. Tools like point drivers for securing gallery frame backings, framing glues and adhesives can also be of use.
Painting frame styling tips
If you’re stuck for styling ideas, you might be wondering how to choose a frame to complement your artwork. For example, a small sized artwork, when hung in the middle of a large wall could get lost, or be overshadowed by larger artworks in the room. By styling the artwork with a wide matting, or in a wide frame, it will enlarge the appearance of the artwork on the wall, and consequently grab viewers’ attention. For larger, bolder artworks, wide or loud frames won’t be necessary. Artists may choose a simple, modern frame to finish the painting, so as not to detract from the features of the artwork.
Based on the style and composition of the painting, you could choose a modern, minimalistic, ornate or antique looking frame. You could even contrast styles, for example a minimalistic line drawing could look fantastic in a traditional, detailed frame.
Natural wood frames can beautifully complement landscape paintings; lighter cooler toned wood can look great with seascape paintings.
Archival framing materials will not damage the artwork and will also work to protect the artwork from the environment. To ensure that your framing materials are archival and will stand the test of time, first check that any mat or mount board you choose is ph-neutral. Suppliers should list this information on product pages and in store.
The wood that mount boards and backing boards are made from tends to be naturally acidic. Ultra cheap boards may be acidic and therefore cause browning over time. Conservation boards are treated to ensure ph neutrality. If you want to get a board with a stable ph, consider cotton board.
These mounting boards also have a practical application for artworks framed behind glass; they create separation between the paper and glass, preventing the paper from touching the glass.
One other attribute that makes a frame gallery worthy, is whether the glazing has a UV filter. For works you will be sending to a gallery, or framing for a client, or wanting to hang on the wall for any length of time, you will need to ensure the glazing of the frame is made from glass or acrylic that filters UV light, for unvarnished artworks. Conservation glass, or museum glass filters out 99% of UV light that can cause damage. Museum glass has a coating on it that reduces glare on the artwork. Artists and framers can buy museum and conservation acrylic as well as glass, that has the same protective properties.
Frames for prints
Gallery frames are the best option for prints. Optionally choose a matboard to enlarge the appearance of the artwork, or frame around the edges of the artwork itself. Saatchi has thousands of beautiful open and limited edition print options, created by both up and coming and established artists. We also have a guide on how to choose affordable prints for your home if you want to expand your collection.
On Redbubble and Society6, you can choose from unique prints that come delivered in modern wall art frames. The frames come in black with neutral matboard; this is a perfect option for creating gallery wall layouts. If you want to know how to frame a painting, read our step-by-step guide.
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