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Selecting the Right Frame for Your Art

Updated on November 25, 2018
lindacee profile image

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

Now that you’ve selected your art it's time to find the perfect way to showcase it. Do you spend money on a professional framer? What type of frame will look best with each piece? What color should it be? Should it be wood or metal?

Luckily, there aren’t any hard and fast rules regarding framed artwork but there are several considerations to keep in mind when choosing the right frame. Knowing these little secrets will make the selection process much easier.

Take the guesswork out of selecting frames with these easy tips!
Take the guesswork out of selecting frames with these easy tips! | Source

Subject and Style

Often the style of artwork will dictate they style of frame. For example, an abstract painting will look best with a simple frame with clean lines. Conversely, a baroque work is more compatible when placed in a like frame.

Portraiture and pastoral landscapes tend to look better with a traditional frame with a bit of acanthus detail, gilt or scrolls. If you have a Dutch master still life or portrait of a historically influential person pull out all the stops with the most ornate frame you can find.

The lesson here is: match the style of frame with the tone, style and subject matter of the art. If you’re not confident about mixing styles of frames and art don’t attempt it yourself, get the advice of a framing expert.

A frame with elaborate detail is acceptable for a portrait.
A frame with elaborate detail is acceptable for a portrait. | Source


Choose a frame size that mirrors the size of the artwork. A skimpy frame on an large, impressive work does not do the art justice. Likewise an oversized frame will overpower a piece of petite dimensions.

Although sometimes a big frame can make a statement when paired with a small work of art. If you’re unsure stick with a small frame instead of making what could be a costly wrong decision.

Sometimes a small image in a large frame makes big impact.
Sometimes a small image in a large frame makes big impact. | Source

A Word About Mats

* Play it safe with black, white or off-white mats.
* Black mats and wood finishes work well together.
* If you must use a colorful mat choose one that is a secondary or tertiary color in the art and is not present near the edge.
* A textured mat can add richness to a piece of art.
* Consult with a professional if you wish to use double mats.


Don't think you need to match your frame color to the artwork. The delicate floral still life below would look much better in a wood tone or gilded wood frame. It's better to stick with a neutral frame color to avoid becoming obsessed with matching the dominant color in the art.

Steer clear of colorful picture frames when framing art. Most framing professionals prefer to use black, brown, wood finish or metallic. These basic tones will highlight the art and avoid competing with it. If you want to experiment with playful color frames feel free to use them in your kids’ rooms.

To solve your quandary regarding frame colors go with one that is unassuming rather than flamboyant. It's always best to err on the side of caution.

I strongly advise against trying to match your frame color to art.
I strongly advise against trying to match your frame color to art. | Source

Room Decor

In a French country dining room you obviously wouldn’t frame your Provençal landscape in lacquered black or gleaming chrome. Nor would you use an ornate gilt frame on a Jackson Pollack splatter painting in a mid-century modern living room.

Match your frame to your decorating style. If you lean toward traditional your picture frames should be classic in style. If you have an eclectic style you are allowed to take certain liberties. Sometimes opposites do attract. The contrast of modern art in a comically exaggerated frame can make a bold statement in a room if done with a measure of lighthearted fun.

This Jackson Pollack, perfectly paired with a simple black frame, would  suit your modern living room.
This Jackson Pollack, perfectly paired with a simple black frame, would suit your modern living room. | Source

Wall Details

Don’t forget about your walls when choosing a frame for your art. You must take the paint or wallpaper color and pattern into consideration when frame shopping. Also think about the architectural details like fireplace mantels, crown molding and wainscoting. Your frame should complement any decorative wall components. Also consider the other framed pieces hanging on the wall. Choose a frame that coordinates with the others in the space.

Keep in mind a room's architectural details when you choose frames for art.
Keep in mind a room's architectural details when you choose frames for art. | Source

Which Glass to Choose?

* Regular glass is typically less expensive for rooms where glare is not a issue.
* Non-glare glass can be practical in places where you have reflections from windows and lighting sources.
* Acrylic is a sensible option for inexpensive pieces like posters but over time it may yellow and is susceptible to scratches and warping.
* Conservation glass is recommended for delicate works of art that may be damaged by UV rays.

© 2012 Linda Chechar

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    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      Leah, it is always nice to have guidelines when choosing frames. If stumped, the input of a professional is an option. Unfortunately, that can be a rather expensive proposition. These days, I just go with my gut and purchase off-the-shelf frames and matting.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      I like your tips, lindacee. I have no inherent sense of design, so my instincts would cause me to try to match a frame color to the painting. It is really good to know that a neutral frame would be better in most cases!

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Russ, happy I could provide a few useful tips for you and your wife. You are right, sometimes going by the gut can present a real design dilemma when framing art (been there, done that) ! ;)

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 

      7 years ago from Long Island, New York

      This is a very good hub Linda, and one which I am sharing with my wife. I always defer to her, but the ideas you present here can make the decision process a lot more logical and the outcome more beautiful. I usually go by the gut, which is not a good way to frame art.

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Yes, Carol, custom framing is very expensive and most stores don't carry the depth of frames for deep canvases. Alas, the "mom and pop" frame shops have all but disappeared -- leaving us with big box retailers and overpriced framing chain stores. Wish I had some encouraging news for you. :( Thanks for visiting this Hub. Hope to "see" you again soon!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      I enjoyed reading this as I am never sure about this. Of course framing is almost prohibitive today. Unless you have sold your painting for many dollars ....I often just want to find a frame to hang a picture I have painted. Sometimes I use the canvasses with deep borders. There used to be a frame shop where there were frames of all sizes and very inexpensive..Wish I could find one...Other than the hobby shops there are none. Thanks for writing this and it is very helpful..If you know of any cheap frame ideas I am listening.


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