It’s the time of year when everyone is getting ready for their senior contribution here at Marywood University. This means there will be a lot of scrambling, and one of those last minute decisions revolves around whether or not to put a frame on your new masterpiece. 

I’m here to help you in your journey, so let’s take a minute to discuss some helpful framing hacks. 

What’s the point of a frame, anyway?  Does it serve a purpose other than aesthetics? Is it worth paying for?  Do you even NEED a frame? 

Read on, and we will explore the answers to these questions.

Most artists will agree that the basic functions of a frame are to showcase and protect the art. But there are other elements to take into consideration. For example, if you are working with a very large piece that has 2 or 3 inch sides, you will probably reject the idea of including a frame altogether. In this case, you might chose to paint the sides of the canvas, or simply leave them as is. This is highly related to preference. Personally, I like the messy layered paint look . There’s something about the sides of a painting. The different colors and textures in layers. It tells the story about the painting and how it was created. Not to mention, painting the sides of the canvas will use up valuable paint and resources. In my view, there is nothing wrong with a grungy  look all over the sides of a canvas. You may disagree, and that’s okay! Sometimes, painting the sides of the canvas may add a much needed element to the work. 

If you elect to frame your work, remember that your choice can affect your art in many ways. In fact, the frame may even become a part of your work. Pay close attention to color, texture and style, as this can add or take away from what you are trying to say. .

Store bought frames can be very very expensive, and most artists aren’t blessed with a lot of disposable income. So, let’s talk about a few ways to cheaply frame your artwork. Remember a conventional frame is just a bit of wood holding a piece of glass over something. You’re an artist! You’re creative and innovative! You understand how to manipulate colors, angles and dimensions!   You can make your own frame! 

Just to be clear, I am absolutely NOT a carpenter! I just figured it out, and you can, too! As a Marywood University student you can ask your professor for help. If they can’t help you, they can certainly point you in the proper direction. If you are not comfortable, we have staff that will teach you, guide you, and keep you safe. 

Building the ideal frame is going to require going to my favorite store, the hardware store. The supplies you need will vary. But the main components are wood (of your choosing) glue or caulking, small finishing nails and/or small screws. You should also buy a hanging kit appropriate for your work, depending on weight and size. It is easiest to use a wire style. 

Your painting surface will dictate the type of frame could construct. If you are using a piece of panel, you might want to purchase some lumber…. nothing extravagant…maybe some 1×3” pine boards. The length  depends on the art. I’ve found it is best to make a slot in the wood that you have selected and slide the panel into that slot. The other way that you can frame a panel is to basically build a box and mount your panel to the box so that you may be able to attach the frame to the box. 

box with panel mounted to it

A simple frame can give your painting its own sense of being or its own world. You can achieve this by attaching thin pieces of wood to the side of the painting. You can get a piece of lattice  and trim it to fit the sides of the painting. You could use wall molding for the same purpose if you would like something a little fancier. I keep the trimmings from building my canvas stretchers and recycle them. I would use a hammer and small finishing nails to attach it to the side of your work. 

lattice vs .shadow box / float frame

I would also suggest considering a shadow box, aka a float frame. This frame features a small gap between the work and the frame itself, meaning the frame won’t touch the work. The space lends a delicate atmosphere to the art. The point of the gap is to catch the shadow that is made by the frame so the work is not interrupted and every bit of it is seen, hence the name shadow box. 

The gap size will depend on what you want.  The perfect effect can be achieved in a few ways, but the easiest is to take a piece of wood that you can use for a simple frame (at least one half of an inch thick) and just trim about half of the inside lip away on a rotating table or a table saw. You only need to go about one quarter to half an inch deep into the board. Keep in mind that you will still need to be able to tack this onto the side of your work. 

If you have used a type of paper, panel, or cardboard and it  requires a more traditional frame, no sweat. 

Just measure the piece and add the measurements for your mat size you would like to have. Why am I all of a sudden talking about matting? A mat serves a purpose besides looking nice. This keeps your work from touching the glass and rubbing the marks you put down on your surface away.  I prefer a 4 inch mat around these kinds of pieces . However you may lose a little bit of the edges under the mat. You can also use this as a cropping tool to focus on what you want the viewer to look at. 

OH No!!!!  You have a strange size now. What do you do? A custom frame is astronomical. Even with a coupon. 

odd size drawing with mat.

                                                        Size up!  

Size up. Go to the next size frame. whenever you are matting your work. The extra space is only going to give more to your work. A big, beautiful clean white or black mat will only accent your art. From across the room someone most likely will see the large mat and become curious. What’s going on there? They will say.  Anywhere they sell frames will become a treasure trove for you..:Ollies, Big Lots, TJ Maxx, Marshals, the Christmas Tree Shop and even Walmart. So with that said happy framing. 

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