How to make the right framing choices

Framer Morgan Wallack of Wallacks Framing

By Carrie Colton

When you buy a new, beloved artwork, I strongly advise you to invest in framing. The word “invest” is intentional; framing costs might seem high, but they are an investment towards ensuring that your piece will show its best and has proper protection. It is possible to buy pre-made frames but the range of options is limited to standardized sizes and colours. Custom framing is always preferable.

The benefits of custom framing are worth the cost. When working with a good framer, you will get excellent advice in framing choices and materials, as well as quality workmanship.

Choose a reputable framer

The first step to custom framing is making sure you go to a reputable framer. Ask around and get recommendations. Ottawa has many great framers to choose from. It is always helpful to ask your framer’s advice. They are well equipped to make recommendations based on the piece, where you will be hanging it and the aesthetic you are looking for. A few of our favourite Ottawa framers are Wallacks Framing, Wallspace and Patrick Gordon Framing.

Accent your artwork, don’t compete with it!

When making your framing decisions, you want to be sure the materials complement the work instead of fighting it for attention. A useful way to approach this is to think of the matting and framing as an extension of the artwork, rather than just a fancy vessel through which it can be displayed. Neutral-coloured, off-white and creams mats are a versatile choice that can be successfully used in most cases. However, if you are looking for some colour, look for recurring notes in the piece you are getting framed. Consider a subtle and lighter complementary colour. Regardless of the colour you choose, mats in a lighter shade are generally preferable and give the work some space to breathe. More dramatic and ornate framing benefits some pieces while others need a subtle and modern frame. Think about how strong the piece is visually and whether a bold frame will better the piece or overwhelm it. If the latter, step down to a frame that is lighter in colour or width.

Glass choice

Your choices of glass can also make a crucial difference in the appearance of the work and its longevity. Regardless of the quality of glass or plexiglass UV, non- or low-glare glass is preferable. Museum glass is the gold standard as it has higher archival properties, including a conservation grade UV coating and minimal glare and reflections. Then there is UV plexiglass which is less reflective than standard glass, less breakable and is a lighter option for larger pieces. Consider these differences when making your framing decisions as they will affect the cost and appearance of the final product.

Florence Yee painting framed with a brushed gold floating frame

Frame style

It is important to note that your choice of frame will greatly impact the feeling and aesthetic of the room in which it is hung. Be mindful of the space in which you intend to hang it as well as how you want it to feel and what the piece itself evokes. White or black frames generate a modern and powerful aesthetic. For a softer vibe, try light-coloured, pale woods. A middle ground would be medium to dark neutral woods. Classic black, natural wood and white frames are my favourites in general. They have a wide application and reflect the contemporary aesthetic that I prefer. It’s very satisfying to see a piece you love accentuated by good framing. Use these tips as a starter as you get introduced to the wide world of framing. You can also call Studio Sixty Six director and designer Carrie Colton and she will be happy to guide you further, 613-355- 0359,

Carrie Colton is a designer and art advisor and the Studio Sixty Six gallery director.

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