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How to frame art when you’re on a tight budget

One of the largest expenses for artists who work in 2D is framing.  I remember when you couldn’t sell art unless it was framed. Much has changed since then.  Now, many artists enclose their originals in a plastic sleeve with a chip board or mat board backing.  Sometimes, the original is sold with a mat cut just for its size. I used to never see an unframed work of art on paper without a glass frame.  Galleries seem to be more open to displaying art simply wrapped in the plastic sleeve. Of course it depends on the gallery.

Nowadays, canvases are made so that they don’t really need a frame at all because the canvas is wrapped around the edge.  Paint the edge a nice color and voila no frame needed.  There are many options available when you do want to frame a canvas.  For one of my large shows, I found inexpensive standard size unfinished wooden frames and custom painted them.  This is really fun!  Make the frame an extension of the art.  Caution though, it needs to not draw attention away from the art.  The custom frame works best if it enhances the art instead.  There’s always many options for ready made frames as well as custom frames.

Works on paper are best kept framed behind glass or plexiglass.  It helps protect the art from water, dust, and damage.

Because framing has always been a large expense for me, I make a lot of art that fits in standard sizes.  Standard size frames can be found at many discount stores such as TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Marshall’s, Target, etc.  You get the picture. Craft and art supply stores usually have a large selection of frames as well. A lot of these frames come with mats cut for standard sizes such as 5”x7”, 8”x10”, 9”x12”, 11”x14”, and 16”x24”.  Square frames are easier to find these days too.  If you use an unusual size, framing will need to be custom made and that is where there’s lot of expense.  Sometimes though, the image wants what it wants and refuses to be a standard size.

A drawing sized 6”x 9”can actually work in a standard size frame if you get a custom mat made for the drawing.  Let’s say you frame a 6”x9” in a 9”x12” frame. The inside cut of the mat will be just right for the 6”x9” image, and the outside cut will be 9”x12”.

Another frame option that’s on the market these days is called a float frame.  These frames are made for pieces without using a mat. Basically a float frame is 2 pieces of glass with a frame around the edge.  The flat piece of art is meant to fit in between the 2 pieces of glass.

Many craft stores such as Michaels often have 50% or more discounts on custom frames.  Art supply stores such as Blick Art Materials also runs custom framing specials.  You can also find frames that can be easily assembled from art supply stores. These are called sectional frames.

The image shown here is a great example of what can be done with a used frame found in a thrift store.  Never underestimate the frames in thrift stores.  A lot of them are solid wood, and easy to refinish.  I found a frame with an ugly print in it that was easy to remove.  The frame came with a custom cut mat (these can be pricey) that was perfect for one of my drawings.  The frame with the mat costs less than $10!  I repainted the wooden frame, inserted my drawing and ended up with a beautiful framed work of art.  No one would ever know that I got the frame at a thrift store.

If you don’t need to be concerned about price, frame shops are awesome for helping you decide the best way to frame your art.  They usually have tremendous selections and a very knowledgeable person there to help you.

Start your art collection today.  Hanging original art in your home can be affordable for everybody.

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