I’ve been designing framed and matted art for almost 10 years and have I got some great tips for you! First of all, don’t feel bad if you think you don’t have the “eye” for design. Framing and matting art is definitely a learned skill, combined with a bit of flare.
I’ve had the luxury of working in an art framing facility which has allowed me to spend endless hours matching artwork to mats, mats to frames and frames to art in dozens of colors and sizes. So, without further ado, allow me to share some simple rules that will make your final decision pain-free….and beautiful.
1. Choosing your Artwork: This is so personal. All I can say is that there is no ugly piece of art. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Remember this one rule – let the artwork speak to you. It may remind you of something, someone or some place that comforts your soul or simply puts a smile on your face. Maybe the colors alone uplift your spirit or soothe your mood. The rule is simple – if it touches your heart, then to you, it is Art.
2. Choosing a Mat: In the art framing industry, we call the border around the picture the “Mat Board” (“Mat” is the short-version). Adding a mat is a personal choice. The only way to know for sure if a mat is necessary is to try it. If you are at a store, hold the mat beside the print. Sometimes, you will feel that the artwork or photograph simply doesn’t need a mat. Keep in mind that there is an added cost to consider.
On the other hand, mats can be quite complimentary and should never be overlooked without consideration. Here is the simple rule for choosing a mat if you like the look of it around your art: select a lighter tone or neutral color. You can look for a paler version of a color that is within the print itself, too. If the mat color is too dark, it will overshadow the image, making it appear lost. So, I prefer lighter tone mats. I find they always accent the artwork beautifully.
I also love a black mat, but only on certain occasions. When I use a Stainless Steel frame, I find that the black mat is gorgeous. BUT, the picture is almost always a photograph and mostly a black and white image. If you want to add a mat to your artwork, play it safe and choose cream. If you want to save a few dollars and you feel the artwork is beautiful all on its own, then leave the mat out.
3. Choosing a Frame: several key questions to ask yourself before you can make this selection.
a) Is the artwork contemporary or traditional? Contemporary is a fancy word for modern. It is always abstract or photographic, but it can also be floral or scenic – as long as the artwork has clean lines, trendy colors and a current, up-to-date feel. Traditional is somewhat “old fashioned” and can appear “time-honored”, as if it were created many years ago. Still life drawings, mature landscapes, Victorian children are all good examples.
Contemporary artwork suits black, brown (including bronze) and metal frames, while Traditional marries well with the champagne, silver or gold ornate frames.
b) What is the style of the room that your artwork is going to be placed in? This is not nearly as important as matching the frame to the art, but it is still a consideration. For example; children’s rooms are vastly different from dining rooms, while a contemporary kitchen has a different style to a traditional family room. It is worth mentioning here that the trend for 2009 is in mixing it up. Traditional rooms are inviting modern frames and contemporary rooms are welcoming traditional frames. So, focus on the artwork and hang your framed print in whichever room you want!
c) What is the size of the artwork? Whatever style you choose, keep this rule in mind. Never select a large frame for a very small print. Frames are supposed to compliment the artwork in a subtle way. In simple terms, the frame should be understated, rather then overwhelming. Personally, I only use frames that are 2.5″ – 3.5″ in width for artwork that is 22×28 and larger.
Thinner frames (0.5″ – 1.75″) are ideal for art that is 18×18 and smaller. Although I have seen thinner frames on much larger pieces, I feel that it doesn’t do anything for the artwork. Either you go big on large art or you minimize the frame completely, opting for a Flush – Mounted frame or a Stretched Canvas finish. In the end, everyone has their own unique taste when it comes to Framed Art and all I can do is offer you my simple rules as guidelines. Remember, you’re the only one who has to love it, because you’re the one who has to live with it!