How to Mat and Frame Art Like a Professional


Modern Art Frame with Different Widths

White walls don’t have anything to say. In fact, some people find them bland and uninspiring. However, you can add zest to the wall by just hanging an artwork on it. The key is to frame art to focus the viewer’s attention on the artwork. The purpose of a framed wall art is to make a unified whole which solicits undisturbed contemplation. A frame art provides structure for the presentation and protection of the art.

The Modern Art of Framing

The frame around a painting is the finishing touch. It is the element that elevates and completes a painting and presents it in the best light. In fact, framing itself is an art that requires thorough contemplation. Just like a good frame art can vastly improve the appearance of an artwork, a poor choice of frame can greatly diminish it. The primary goal of frame art is to frame it in such a way that the artwork is suspended in the middle of the frame, not touched by anything outside or inside. Obviously, there are some practical limitations to achieve this unless the artwork can somehow float inside the frame.

Should the Artwork Be Framed?

Not every artwork has to be framed. For instance, modern gallery-wrapped paintings need not be framed. The canvas of such a modern art is wrapped around thick stretcher bars and fixed on the back instead of the sides. As a result, the sides of the canvas are neat, smooth and do not have any tacks or staples cluttering them. Oftentimes, artists making a gallery-wrapped artwork continue painting on the sides or paint them a complementary neutral.

Frame Art Gallery-Wrapped Paintings
Frame Art Gallery-Wrapped Paintings

When painting on a normal canvas, the staples and tacks are visible on the sides and the stretchers are thinner. This kind of art obviously needs to be framed. Similarly, most paintings on panels, boards and paper need to be framed for display. However, if the work is box mounted, framing can be optional.

Box Mounted Modern Art
Box Mounted Modern Art

Selecting a Frame

The selection of the frame should always be directed by the artwork and nothing else. The frame art style should complement the style of the painting. For instance, a traditional painting or one with classical subjects will look good with an elegant and traditional gold-leafed frame or a mahogany wood frame. Ethereal or abstract art will go well with a sleek and modern art frame. For artwork in between, there are transitional frames that combine elements of both the contemporary and traditional. Keep in mind that the frame art should not compete with the art’s texture or color. For instance, a mottled, fussy frame will not go well with a busy image.

To determine the size of the frame you should get, measure the artwork and add in a little space for any mat you want to use.

Pairing the Artwork with a Mat

Mats and spacers are used to support the artwork and prevent it from touching the glass. Condensation, tiny particles, dust and dirt can adhere to the glass and damage the artwork if they come in contact with it. Therefore, a mat is used to provide some space between the glass and artwork. A spacer can also be used in place of a mat if the artwork won’t look good with a mat.

It is imperative that you choose acid-free materials for matting since products containing acids can react with airborne moisture (water/humidity) and break down the canvas or paper. Many valuable works have been devalued in this way.

Usually, neutral-colored mat boards are used since they are very sophisticated. However, if you want to introduce some color, you can consider double-matting. The colored mat is placed below the neutral mat and the windows of the two mats are cut such that only ¼-inch of color can be seen. You can also consider using a textured mat, which can help bring out the textures of a charcoal drawing.

Double Matted Framed Wall Art
Double Matted Framed Wall Art

A mat usually covers the artwork’s edges along with adding about 2-4 inches between the artwork and the frame. Keep in mind that the mat and frame art should not be of the same size. The mat should preferably be wider than the frame. Also, a weighted mat is usually preferred to enhance composition, which means that the bottom of the mat is usually wider than the sides and the top.

Modern Art Frame with Different Widths
Modern Art Frame with Different Widths

Attaching Artwork

You should only use acid-free, non-permanent adhesives to hold the image in place. Also, use as little adhesive as possible. For instance, if you are working with an artwork on paper, you can use acid-free tape to attach the artwork to the mat board’s back.

Attaching Abstract Art
Attaching Abstract Art
Attaching Abstract Art

Glass Options

There are different types of glass that are used to protect the painting. Regular glass is most commonly used since it is scratch-resistant, but it is quite heavy. If your painting is to be placed at a location where it can be harmed by the sun’s rays, you should use a UV-blocking glass (though it would be much better if you remove the painting from such a place). Acrylic glazing is lighter than glass, a better insulator and shatter-proof, but it can cause static electricity which is bad for pastel and charcoal artwork.

Once you have decided on the glass option, set it in the frame and place the matted artwork behind it.

Frame Art in Glass
Frame Art in Glass

Use an Acid-Free Backboard to Seal the Frame Art

An acid-free foam board supports the back of the artwork and helps protect it from pollutants which may ruin find their way through the back.

Frame Art in Acid-Free Foam Board
Frame Art in Acid-Free Foam Board

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How to Mat and Frame Art Like a Professional

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