January 17, 2011

craft culture:: matting and framing your art.

Thank you to guest blogger and fellow Etsy Fort Worth member Betsy Horn! You can learn more from her on her blog, ColorQueen.

When matting a painting keep in mind the wall color and the future use of the painting. When I mat a painting for a show, I use a dark color from the painting for the bottom mat, and some kind of white for the top mat because many people will see only the mat colors instead of the painting and decide that the painting won’t look good in their house because of the mat. If you are shopping for art, remember that you can ask the artist if you can purchase the work unframed and reframe it to suit your space and personal taste. Most artists will accommodate you and lower the price of the piece somewhat to sell it unframed.

Another method of matting art on paper is to float it so that the deckled edges can be seen and one knows that it is an original piece of art. These will take only one background color and look good in a shadow box frame. If you are an artist and are matting and framing for a show, stick with the neutrals.

Always use acid free mats or else the mats will make brown lines around the edges on the painting. If your paintings or prints (especially if they are old) are matted and the used-to-be-white edges are now brownish, then your mats are not acid-free. I recommend having your valuable art rematted. Also check the content of the backer; it should be acid-free too. Yes, it costs a little more for acid-free (archival quality) materials but your art will last much longer and it will maintain its integrity for future generations.

A frame should enhance a painting, not overpower it or weaken it. One of the worst compliments I get is, “Wow, that’s a really nice frame.” That means the frame is better than the painting! The color of the frame is like the color of a person’s hair. You know when the hair color isn’t right, when someone has died their hair and it detracts from their skin color rather than compliments it. The same is true for a frame. At best, a frame should not be noticed until after the viewer has seen the painting. The painting is what draws the eye, then the eye travels around the painting and out to the frame. A frame is simply an outline and the outline should be balanced, not overpowering or weak.

It’s difficult to choose mats and a frame when all one has is a corner to work with. Always test the materials on each corner of your painting to ensure that the colors will work with all areas of the painting.

What looks good on the top left might not look good on the bottom right. Use the store’s ready-made frames to get an idea of what size, design, and color of frame you want. Just hold your painting against the ready-made frame, walk away to about 13 feet, and study the effect. When you have decided on the type of frame that will look best, then go pick out a custom frame that you really want or use the ready-made frame! But beware, look at the back of each ready-made frame.

Not all of the openings are created equal and not all of the materials are acid-free! Make sure your painting will fit through the hole. If you are unsure, ask the store assistant to measure the opening.

Back to the wall where you will hang your painting. It might seem like the right thing to do to get a “matching” frame but think ahead. How long will your wall be that color? Might you move the painting some day? Might you move to another house or apartment? Might you totally change the color scheme of your surroundings? I recommend matting and framing your art for your art, not for your house or apartment. Fine art stands on its own. It doesn’t need to match your sofa. It might be pleasant if the colors go together somewhat but they don’t need to match.
Get the best you can afford, the best quality from the best framer. The money you spend on fine art is an investment for a lifetime.

My favorite framer in the DFW area is House of Frames.

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