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A Picture Framing Primer

Should you be interested in learning picture framing as an artist?

A painting or picture is not complete unless it is framed. Period!

You can have the most amazing painting ready to exhibit, but if you do not frame it, your painting may not look as impressive as you hope.

Sure, we've all seen art exhibitions with a minimalist approach, where artists purposely show off their master pieces in their canvases.

What's more, many of these paintings do look good without the frame... but they would look even better with the appropriate framing and matting.

A frame will not make a bad paingting look good. If your painting "sucks", there is no frame in the world that will make it look like a masterpiece. But if your painting has some artistic hope, a frame will definitely enhance its features.

In this section I will cover several issues you should consider when deciding how to frame your own paintings.

This, of course, is only a primer on a topic that deserves a whole book. But, for the purposes of getting a quick start, I will discuss several principles of picture framing that I hope you'll find useful.


Ready Made Frames vs Make Your Own Frames

Ok, you're learning how to draw and paint, and have managed to put together a few paintings and drawings that deserve exhibition (either at home, or at a small gallery). Should you really dedicate time and effort to learn how to frame your own paintings?

If you paint ocassionally, learning picture framing may not be your cup of tea. Instead, you can go to any art shop and purchase ready made picture frames and matting kits, frame your paintings, and hang your masterpieces on the wall. This approach will save you time and money, as you won't have to purchase tools and materials.

However, if you are likely to produce beautiful paintings often, learning to make your own picture frames may give you the creative freedom to design unique frames not available anywhere else in the art supply markets.

Sometimes, you can come across many ready-made picture frames and yet not find a suitable one for your artistic creations. Learning how to make your own picture frames will allow you to create more alternatives for you.

At the end of the day, your needs should dictate your decision.


Basic Picture Framing (and Matting) Principles

Just like composition, picture framing is also an extension of the art of painting and drawing.

Framing a picture is more that placing your drawings into a frame. A badly framed picture can kill your artistic endeavours.

These are a few picture framing principles to keep in mind:



Framing a Busy Subject Principle # 1: Detailed or "busy" subjects are displayed best in a simple frame.
Principle #2: More ornate frames enhance simple subjects.
Framing and Light

Principle #3: A picture will appear to its best advantage when the light from the window or lamp that illuminates it comes from the same direction as the light in the painting.

Principle #4: The rectangular mat has widest margin at the base.

The margins of the sides and top are of equal width.

Vertical Matting

Principle #5: The vertical mat has, generally, the same mat margins as the rectangular mat.

However, many liberties can be taken in varying the margins, especially when the picture is extremely elongated.

Principle #6: A wide mat with colored lines that harmonize with the subject gives a pleasing over-all effect. Matting with Colored Lines


Rokeby Venus, by Velazquez


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