Ask the Expert

Quality custom framing will enhance the appearance of your art, but done improperly, it can cause significant damage. We offer this resource to help you make well-informed choices regarding the proper framing materials and procedures when utilizing the services of a picture framer. You may also use this area to find information or sources of specific art or artists. Answers to your questions will be e-mailed to you, and some will also be posted on this website. Below are some sample questions.

What credentials do you have that allow you to claim yourself as an expert?

A custom picture framer who is a member of the Professional Picture Framers Association (PPFA) is dedicated to the promotion, preservation and appreciation of your art. Framers who have been active in the industry for at least a year are eligible to earn the framer's mark of excellence, the Certified Picture Framer (CPF) designation. The highest level of professional recognition in the art and framing industry, CPF status is awarded to individuals who successfully meet rigorous testing of current framing standards. When searching for a custom picture framer, look for the PPFA logo and the CPF on Staff logo to ensure that your precious artwork will be handled and treated with the utmost care.

Why is it important for me to know about custom framing, rather than simply relying on my local framer?

A knowledgeable framer will educate the customer through explanation as they move through the selection-making process. Some framers may overlook this important element in the order taking, so you should know beforehand what your options are. The following tips are some important things you should know before framing your art.

  1. What and why to custom frame.
    There is virtually no limit as to what can be framed -- wedding and graduation mementos, original artwork, documents, needlework, sports memorabilia, family portraits -- it's just a question of selecting the proper materials, methods and presentation for your personal treasures. Unlike ready-made frames or do-it-yourself framing, professional picture framing is designed to enhance the beauty of your home by helping you to creatively display your artwork or objects. Using special techniques and materials, a custom picture framer can help you protect and preserve your valuable artwork or family heirlooms for years to come.
  2. Consider the surroundings.
    While the decor of the room is certainly an important consideration, take care to avoid matching the frame to the room at the expense of what looks good on the picture.
  3. Choosing matting to enhance your artwork.
    Matting is the term used to describe the "window-cut" material placed around an image within the frame. It can be made of a variety of materials such as paper, cotton, and fabric in a wide range of colors. Mats serve as a spacer to prevent the glass from coming into contact with the artwork, and it allows the artwork to expand and contract with changes in humidity. Matting adds to the aesthetics of the framing by providing a space for the eyes to rest between the art and frame. It also makes the overall size of the finished pieces larger, which should be taken into consideration.
  4. An ounce of prevention...
    Many times cherished art is damaged prior to arrival at a frame shop because it is improperly stored or transported. If it is a rolled piece such as a poster, serious damage can be caused by rubber bands, tape, paperclips and even a gentle squeeze. Make sure that the artwork is placed in a folder, a rigid protective covering, or a tube before your trip to the frame shop.
  5. It's all in the details.
    When selecting framing, consider adding a special touch. Details such as fillets, beveled accents, creative mat cuts, specialty paper or fabric mats can add distinctive flair to your artwork. Sometimes it's the smallest element in framing your artwork that makes it stand out.
  6. The right moulding for the artwork.
    There are thousands of different frames styles that come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and finishes. A rule of thumb in selecting the right size frame for a piece is to choose one in which the width of the moulding is in proportion to the overall size of the artwork. Generally, the larger the piece, the wider the moulding. Also keep in mind that a moulding tends to look smaller once it is around a piece and on the wall than when you are looking at a sample of it on one corner of the artwork. On the other hand, a wide moulding on a small piece can give it a great deal of emphasis and visual impact. Another thing to consider is the weight of the piece being framed - if it is heavy or will have a large piece of glass on it, you will need to use a substantial moulding that will support the weight of those materials.
  7. Archival materials protect your art.
    Some common framing materials such as paper mats and cardboard contain acid that, over time, will gradually destroy your artwork. Archival mats and backing boards, as well as UV-blocking glass, will help protect art from deterioration and can extend the life of the piece indefinitely.
  8. Glazing choices:
    Picture framing glass is higher quality than standard window glass -- flaws are rare and it is not quite as thick, reducing the weight and resultant stress on the frame. There are many options of picture frame glass, each with advantages and disadvantages:

    Regular "clear" glass is the most inexpensive type, but it gives off mirror-like reflections from windows and other light sources in the room. It offers virtually no protection from UV light, which can cause yellowing of paper and fading of the paint, inks and dyes used in artwork and matting.

    Standard "non-glare" glass has one surface that is etched to diffuse reflections. It, too, gives virtually no protection from UV light, and it can soften the sharpness of the image. For this reason, it is not recommended for use with more than two mats or in shadowbox framing.

    Conservation glass is regular picture frame glass to which a special filtering film has been applied to one surface to prevent discoloration and deterioration of the art from exposure to UV light. Conservation glass blocks at least 98% of UV rays. It comes in both "clear" and "non-glare" finishes and is recommended for documents, photographs, old and irreplaceable items, original artwork and pieces that will hang in or near bright natural light.

    Acrylic is a plastic glazing that has inherent UV filtering properties blocking about 92% of harmful UV rays. It is perfectly clear without the slight green tint found in glass and is recommended for large pieces to reduce the overall weight and chance of breakage. It must be handled carefully as it is easily scratched; for this reason it requires cleaning with a soft cotton cloth and non-abrasive cleaner. Acrylic is also available in UV clear and UV non-glare.
  9. Mounting your artwork properly.
    The "dry mounting" process bonds artwork to a rigid backing board to prevent artwork from bubbling or rippling. This method of mounting is highly recommended for posters, photographs and other easily replaceable art. Drymounting may decrease the monetary value of a piece of fine art. Therefore, originals and other art of significant value are more commonly attached in the frame by acid-free hinging or one of several other reversible archival methods.

We hope this information is helpful to you in your selection of framing components. Please feel free to e-mail any additional questions you may have.