How to choose the perfect picture frame for your wall art
Wall art, art posters or art prints are essential touches to decorating any room and truly adding a touch of your personality, whilst complementing your interior decor. In this article, we will explore the best way of presenting your new print from selecting a frame online and on a budget, to having a professional picture framer create a bespoke solution for you that will last one hundred years or even making a frame from scratch.
The purpose of a frame should be to focus the attention on the artwork, as well as protect it from environmental factors that could affect its appearance over time. Framing is an art in itself and choosing the right one can greatly enhance an artwork.
What Does Your Wall Art Say About Your Personality
Too often when creating the perfect space, we see wall art as an afterthought but in reality, selecting the perfect piece of artwork for your home, office or den can make a room look finished and perhaps even let people know the kind of person you are. Will you hang a framed map of the world to let people know how well-travelled you are? Or do you have a collection of arthouse movie posters that suggest how cultured you are? Or have you found that perfect F1 print that perfectly matches the decor of your room and lets people know what a petrol head you are or how passionate you are for perhaps vintage F1?
Once you have selected your perfect print that tells everyone who comes for coffee exactly the kind of person you are and what visual aesthetic excites you, you will of course need to present it and hang it. When it comes to framing you will find you have a lot of options to consider.
Things to consider when framing a poster
What are the best options for framing a poster? Here there are a few things to consider to make sure the artwork fits the frame and when it is sitting in the frame it complements the work rather than detracting from it. A poorly framed image can look claustrophobic and crowded. It is also possible to overwhelm the artwork by selecting a frame moulding that overpowers the work.
What style of picture frames are there?
Contemporary, rustic, classic or ornate, picture frames come in many styles that may or may not suit your decor. But more than just the overall aesthetic, frames come in various styles that will work better or worse depending on what you have to frame.
Clip frame – The classic frameless clip frame is perfect when you want to see all your artwork edge to edge if a normal frame would overlap slightly on an important element. This sort of frame is very inexpensive and due to that fact tends to convey a cheaper aesthetic, perhaps only one step up from when you thumb tacked your favourite band to the bedroom wall at your parent’s house. For that reason, we would not recommend it for displaying your prized artwork.
Modern frame – A modern frame tends to have a thin profile with a minimalist style in a simple black frame with a tasteful white mount. It is the sort of thing you would expect to see on a gallery wall and is perfect to draw attention to the work and looks best in a clean modern room.
Floating frame – Floating frames are slightly more unusual and normally have the artwork sandwich between two acrylic panes and mounted with a space behind giving a floating effect. Perfect for drawing the eye to the image.
Canvas prints – Canvas prints can be hung directly on the wall without a frame but our recommendation is to use a floater frame. Not to be confused with the floating frame, the floater frame sits around the canvas print with a small gap giving the impression the artwork is separate from it.
What size frame do you need?
Many images and posters come in standard or popular sizes. Traditionally photographs were taken on large, medium and small format cameras and this has led to a custom of frames following this height by width ratio. Photographic paper often comes in what is known as the R series. Regions that don’t use the metric system will tend to still produce frames in inches but displaying the size in centimetres also.
Standard A paper formats are also used internationally. We all know roughly how big an A4 piece of paper is and this doubles in size each time when you move up to the next size. A sheet of A3 paper is the same size as two sheets of A4 paper side by side against their longest edge.
You must know exactly how big the artwork you have is and if it is best to work in inches, centimetres or A paper sises when you are looking for the perfect frame. Most good framers will cater to all the possible variations but if you have something quite bespoke you will need to look at a made to measure option when framing.
|Size||Dimensions (inch)||Dimensions (mm)|
|2R||2.50 x 3.50 in||63.50 x 88.90 mm|
|3R||3.50 x 5.00 in||88.90 x 127.00 mm|
|4R||5.04 x 6.00 in||128.06 x 152.40 mm|
|5R||5.00 x 7.00 in||127.00 x 177.80 mm|
|6R||6.00 x 8.00 in||152.40 x 203.20 mm|
|8R||8.00 x 10.00 in||203.20 x 254.00 mm|
|S8R||8.00 x 12.00 in||203.20 x 304.80 mm|
|10R||10.00 x 12.00 in||254.00 x 304.80 mm|
|Size||Dimensions (inch)||Dimensions (mm)|
|A1||23.4 x 33.1 in||594 x 841 mm|
|A2||16.5 x 23.4 in||420 x 594 mm|
|A3||11.7 x 16.5 in||297 x 420 mm|
|A4||8.3 x 11.7 in||210 x 297 mm|
|A5||5.8 x 8.3 in||148 x 210 mm|
|A6||4.1 x 5.8 in||105 x 148 mm|
|A7||2.9 x 4.1 in||74 x 105 mm|
|A8||2 x 2.9 in||52 x 74 mm|
Picture frame mounts
To prevent your artwork from touching the glass or being covered by the frame you can go for the option of using a picture mount. Apart from protecting your artwork, it can also enhance them by creating a space between the artwork and the frame so that the eye is not detracted from the subject. The mount edge is usually cut at a 45-degree angle perfectly and subtly framing the work.
When using both a frame and mount it is important to make sure that the open aperture of the mount is a few millimetres smaller than the artwork and that the frame is a size that fits the outside of the mount dimensions perfectly. It is also worth noting that most people tend to leave a slightly larger space below the image than on top due to an optical illusion effect that makes perfectly centred artworks look slightly too low. This sounds like it could be quite complicated but the overall professional effect it gives is well worth the extra consideration.
Is Acrylic or Glass best for picture framing
Traditional frames have always used heavy glass to best protect the artwork and why would you want anything else? Well, you may have other thoughts if your beautiful frame falls off your wall and the glass scratches your precious print. Acrylic is almost shatterproof, it is very impact resistant. Acrylic glazing sheets also have a clearer optical level than glass so can reduce any refraction that could make your artwork look dull. The two materials are indeed very different but they do share many properties.
Scratch-resistant UV acrylic glass can also offer high UV protection. This acrylic option presents the clarity of the finest picture frame glazing, without heaviness or fragility. If you are having your frame delivered in the post however then the choice is quite easy to make.
Tips for finding the perfect picture frame
Tip 1: Matching a frame to your existing room decor or the other frames in that room is much more important than matching the frame to the artwork.
Tip 2: A frame is supposed to do exactly that, frame your work, therefore don’t try and match your frame colour to the colour of the wall. A black frame will look much better on a white wall than a white frame.
Tip 3: Make sure your mount colour compliments the image. Less is more with mounts but if you are framing a black and white image and the whites of the image are not perfectly white, then having an ice white mount can detract from the contrast in the image.
Tip 4: Use a mount if framing an artwork on paper. This will usually enhance the look and scale of the work and a good framer will use conservation quality acid-free materials to protect the work.
What is archival or museum quality?
Limited edition prints can be expensive to buy but can represent a good investment. As such, it is important to frame them using conservation grade materials like barrier boards and acid-free mounts. At ajwellburn.com we only use the finest archival quality cotton papers in our shop and to preserve your work overtime all materials should be 100% acid-free. Museum glass or acrylic can also filter out 99% of UV and reduce reflection.
An important part of this is using non-destructive mounting techniques. A true non-destructive approach is to use mounting corners that put no adhesive on the back of the artwork but this approach can be impractical and sometimes the artwork can slip down in the mount if not done well. You will likely need to use some acid-free adhesive to hold the work in place, but care should be taken when removing it that the artwork is not damaged.
Using a frame designer tool
Still not sure how you want your artwork to look? Well, there are a host of online tools that will let you upload an image of your work and test how it looks in a variety of styles. simulartstudio.com offers a nice demo of their tool here.
Find a local picture framer
If you really want a high-end museum quality frame or you just don’t trust yourself to frame the image, then you will want to find a local picture framer. A framer can take a lot of the guesswork out of the framing and can advise on what they believe will be the best way to present your artwork. The only drawback to using a professional high street framer is the price. You are hiring a craftsman to make you something by hand and that is always going to cost.
The cost will relate to what it is that you are having framed, the size, the mounting, the level of protection required and the moulding you select, however you will be looking at least 5 to 10 times that of an off the shelf frame.
Tip: Make sure your framer is a Guild Certified Framer. The Guild Certified Framer programme is the highest qualification for the framing industry. The qualification includes constant development to ensure framers stay up to date with best practise and standards.
Best online picture frames
Online picture frames literally come in all shapes and sizes, but also in varying quality and price points.
Top 5 ready-made picture frame suppliers
Frames by post picture frames – Best Budget
Framesbypost.com offer a huge range of products all made in the UK and ready for next day delivery. Many mouldings are MDF to reduce the cost and the naming conventions make it very easy to make sure you get the correct size.
Easyframe.co.uk picture frames – Best conservation options
Easyframe.co.uk specialise more in the made to measure approach, with free delivery to most UK addresses on orders over £50. They have an outstanding selection of options and a very intuitive frame builder tool. They also offer UV anti-reflective acrylic glazing options, conservation barrier board and archival art tape as extra options. All frames are custom made and dispatched within 3 working days.
Frames.co.uk picture frames
Rated excellent by Trustpilot, frames.co.uk frames are also manufactured in the UK. They offer a price match promise on made to measure and ready-made frames. They offer a frame visualiser so you can see your artwork in one of their products.
Ikea picture frames
Ikea picture frames are remarkably high quality for their price point and come in a variety of classic and contemporary styles. The only drawback is that they do not deal in A sizes so if your artwork is a standard A size then look best elsewhere.
Eframe.co.uk picture frames
eFrame also has a remarkably large amount of options. With a slightly higher price point, you also get higher quality in the build and manufacture. Although they do have a range of ready-made frames they specialise in building the frame around your artwork measurements.
Can you make picture frames?
The answer to this is obviously yes. With a minimal amount, or even no power tools you can create fantastic frames and have all the pleasure and satisfaction involved in the build. We discussed earlier all the options available when it comes to framing but there is also a range of ways to go about your build. YouTube has a huge raft of free tutorials for every level and you may just find a new profession whilst you are at it.
How to hang framed art on your wall
You will need to consider the wall surface and the weight of the artwork. Most plaster walls will take a classic one or two nail brass picture hook without a need to drill. If you have a brick wall you will need a masonry bit and a drill for your hanging hardware.
You will likely want the middle of the image just below eye height or you may have a frame near it already and you want them to hang at exactly the same height.
- It is best to position the frame on the wall and mark with a pencil the exact middle of the top of the frame on the wall.
- On the back of the frame, measure the distance between the picture cord/wire and the top of the frame when the cord is taught in the middle as if hanging on a hook.
- Now you have the distance between the hook and the top of the frame, go back to your pencil mark on the wall and measure down this same distance. This is where you will place your picture hook.
Make sure your image is straight with a level, sit back and enjoy.
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