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what to ask the framer


Finishing the Look: Framing Your Pieces, Part 1

It doesn't matter what you're hanging on the wall, framing (and matting) a piece makes all the difference in the world. If you can afford to have a professional do it, I urge you to. (If it's a piece on canvas, many times a piece won't require framing, it's simply an aesthetic decision. See instructions for installing eye hooks and wire below). Even if you've never done it before, it's an enriching experience on top of purchasing the art itself. Additionally, a framer follows a process of securing and using materials that are acid-free which maintain the current health of a piece. Using masking tape and everyday tools can actually harm the condition of your work.

When you arrive, the framer will ask you a few questions such as: Do you want regular or museum glass? Would you like a mat? Are you looking for metal or wood frames?


Regular glass is heavier and will have the glare that you're typically used to. If you have a piece of art that you're adamant about hanging in direct sunlight or an archival piece or photograph, you may want to spring for the museum glass which is UV-coated and will allow you to enjoy your piece with little to no glare or reflective qualities. Typically, it runs 25-50% more than regular glass. A third option for large works of art is plexiglass. In the unfortunate case that it were to be dropped, the plexiglass wouldn't shatter, possibly damaging the art underneath - or the person carrying it.


The mat is the heavy board piece that surrounds the actual art. You may not realize it, but there are an endless array of colors to choose from including dozens of shades of white. The larger the piece, usually the wider the mat. If a piece is very large however, say 24" x 36", it may not visually require a mat.


You'll notice that there are a hundreds of frame corners surrounding you on the walls. These are meant to sit on the corner of the piece or mat for comparison. Don't be shy about asking to see different colors or finishes in the same style, they're usually available.

Typically, metal frames are recommended for contemporary or modern (mid-20th century) pieces. Wood and ornately carved frames are better fit for historical pieces or portraits and landscapes. There are always exceptions to the rule and your framer will have some great suggestions to handle each situation.  *Tomorrow's post will be about the aesthetic aspects of framing so check back for that!*


If you find that you can't afford to take a piece to the framers, look for pieces that are standard frame sizes such as 5" x 7", 8" x 10", 9" x 12", 11" x 14", 16" x 20", 20" x 24", 24" x 36 and 30" 40". There will be other sizes depending on manufacturers but these are the most common. Remember to figure in a mat size if you choose to use one. They're available at most craft and art supply stores and some carry frames with mats included.

Image: Lazy Peacock

Once you have the parts you need, find a clean, dust-free environment. Make sure you're using acid-free tape for suspending pieces from the mat or foam board you're posting against. Use a ruler and level so that all measurements and cuts are plumb.

Install the pieces of your frame in this order: glass, mat (if you're using one), art attached with acid-free tape attached to backing, foamboard (if necessary to meet the back edge of the frame), staple back edges of frame.

These are the first steps to framing your own pieces handsomely and securely. But as I mentioned before, there's nothing like the archival and professional finish of a framer! Good luck!

Preparing a canvas for hanging

Here's what you'll need: eye hooks (make sure you buy the proper size for the weight of canvas you'll be hanging), picture hanging wire, picture hanging kit (look for proper weight)

1. Using a ruler, measure 1/3 down from the top of the canvas on both inner sides of the stretcher (the wood vertical bar the canvas is stretched over). Mark with pencil. Don't worry if they're not level.

2. Screw in an eye hook into both marks. *Make sure you've screwed the eye hooks against the inner facing stretcher bar. Imagine if they're sticking out from the back, they'll leave scratches on the wall when hung. If you've done this by mistake, you can put rubber bumpers on each corner to keep this from happening.

3. Cut 10" more than the width of the canvas. String the wire through an eye hook leaving a tail of 3 inches. Carefully (the ends of the wire are sharp!) wrap the tail around the wire in tight corkscrews. Repeat on the other side, leaving a slack at top of wire. If the wire exceeds the top of the frame when you pull it taut, trim the wire or wrap more on the other eye hook.

4. Voila! It's ready to hang and dazzle you - and your guests.

Check back for Monday's post on how to choose frames that complement the art. Have a great weekend!