You’ve Been Framed!

I love framing and everything to do with it. For me it is the icing on the cake, the final flourish, the packaging that will show off my artwork. Obviously not everyone frames, there are alternatives, but in this post I am talking about framing.

You can make your own frames, but you do need quite a bit of expensive equipment, skill, space and time to do an excellent job yourself, let alone a stock of frame mouldings, mount boards and glass.


You can order frames, made to measure or standard sizes, online. It is worth ordering one or two as a test before committing a lot of money there. You can buy unfinished wood and finish them yourself, which then allows you to have your own framing style or colour scheme.

One artist I know used to paint his frames in different shades of grey, to complement each painting, it worked very well when hung together but also worked on an individual level as well. But you will need space to paint, wax and put the paintings into the frames, then string them all, this all takes much more time that you would imagine and you need to be super neat and organised. Trying to glaze a painting without getting a speck of dust in between the glass and the mount can be a hugely frustrating and time-consuming operation.


The easiest and best (but also the most expensive) option is to find a good local framer. Build up a relationship with them, so they get to know you and your work and understand how you want your work to be presented. They will have a wide selection of mouldings for you to choose from and usually made up corners so that you can get some idea of what they will look like around your work. You will need to plan, don’t leave framing to the last minute, any good framers will be busy so you can’t expect them to leap to attention and put you above everyone else. They also have a great deal of knowledge, like what is in fashion (yes there is fashion in framing) and should be a major source of advice.


Oil paintings don’t need glazing. People used to glaze them because there were more open fires and smoky atmospheres. These days we are far more aware of clean air and people don’t smoke as much, so it’s not necessary.

Watercolours, pastels, charcoals, drawings, gouaches and prints all need glass to protect them and something to hold the glass away from the work.  This can be a mount.  I like to use extra thick mount card in an off white.

You could choose to float mount, where the work is fixed to a board and appears to float inside the frame, you do have to bear in mind that the edges of the artwork will be on view so this really suits handmade papers with a deckle edge.


There are many types of glazing to choose from, from float glass upwards. There’s a coated glass with chemical on each side that is good. It’s low reflecting and if you hang it correctly and light it well, you won’t even see the glass and the colours of your painting are more realistic. Then there’s the museum standard, which is low reflecting but also stops UV light. You can get this from most good framers, it’s just very expensive. You can use plexiglass, much lighter and great for posting framed and glazed work but be careful about scratches.

I think a thin frame is a mistake, to my eye it looks as if it has been framed as an afterthought. I don’t use thin frames with very small artworks because they just don’t work for me – a thicker frame which is bevelled will draw your eye in and make the small artwork look very precious.

Once you are exhibiting your work on a regular basis you will find that you have a store of frames from unsold artwork. If you are very sensible you will paint in stock sizes, if you are at all like me you paint the picture and worry about the framing afterwards, so a cataloguing system and a bit of clear headed organisation is then needed to make sense of your “stock”

A frame can be at least tenth of the wall price of a painting, put like that it doesn’t sound much but when you are an impoverished artist and you must pay up front for a collection to be framed it does feel like a bit of a gamble…However, if you value your work and you want others to do so then it is worth it.

Most artists will know that lovely moment when you see your work beautifully framed and hung with care and consideration, you should feel very proud.
Coming soon, a candid interview from the coal face of the framing world.

Thanks to Bridge Gallery Southampton and Eat Art, Falmouth for use of their images.


About Sarah

Sarah Wimperis is a professional artist and illustrator and also works for Artlook in Client Support and as our Artist Ambassador. Sarah's Artlook website is here.