How to frame art
It doesn't have to be complicated. Here is our simple guide to framing your artworks, whether you're wanting to buy a pre-made frame, get a frame commissioned by a framer or buy a suitable antique frame
Whether you've got your own art or a collector's item, it's important to frame your artworks properly. Not only does this give them a professional look and make sure they look as good as possible in your home, it also protects them from the elements.
Gallerist Catharine Miller talks through some of her top tips on choosing frames for your artwork – and how to buy vintage and antique designs.
How to choose the perfect picture frame and where to buy them
Look at the artwork carefully. You want to enhance it without overpowering it. Consider the width and style of the frame, as well as the colour. I encourage you to think beyond black or white. If it needs glazing, I recommend Artglass, which is UV protected and non-reflective, meaning you see the artwork clearly and not your own reflection.
Don’t be too concerned about where you’re going to hang it or what other frames are in the room because that may change. If it looks great on its own, you can make it work anywhere.
Match the frame to the art, not the scheme
Wall colour and furnishings often change over time so don’t try and match frames to the scheme of the room. I encourage contrast and variety as it can make for a more inviting room.
You might not even need a frame! If your piece of art is created on canvas, that can stand alone without a frame.
How to choose the right picture framer
We use three framers who specialise in different fields so we can choose what’s right for the artwork. For works on canvas, Period Frames in Surbiton, who I’ve been working with for 40 years, make bespoke handmade frames for the trade.
For works on paper I go to Monsté at Monart Frames, Fulham. And Jackson’s by Putney Bridge for tricker works – Tim is a great problem solver.
Framing can be costly so take your time and ask a framer for advice. Experiment with different styles and hold the samples up to the painting to see what works well.
After your piece has been framed, make sure you know how to properly light your art at home.
How to buy pre-made picture frames
I’m a big advocate for custom/vintage frames but affordable ready-made frames can often do the trick. The main thing is to get the proportions right. You can also customise them with sandpaper and paint. Or get a new mount and glass cut by a framer.
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Buying vintage picture frames
Vintage frames already have character and some are like pieces of furniture. I particularly hunt out carved wooden ones with a patina – it’s unmatchable in new frames.
Find out what patina is here.
Over the years I have amassed a big collection of old frames and I love the serendipity of matching them to artworks that I find along the way. It’s such a thrill when the pairing works.
The best places to buy vintage picture frames
I buy frames everywhere I go, France, Belgium, Argentina, Isle of Wight… In Paris my favourite markets are Porte de Vanves and the Marché au Puces, Saint-Ouen, as well as specialist dealer Galerie Resche.
In London, Charles Daggett has a great collection and will fit the paintings for you. When I go around the markets and vide-greniers, I take my trusty pliers with me in case I like the frame but not the picture.
I can dismantle it and give the art back to the vendor, who often looks surprised and delighted. I then carry the frames on my arm like bracelets until I can fit no more.
Like a feature wall but don't fancy all those frames? Have a look at our round-up of the best feature wall ideas.
How to buy vintage picture frames
Look out for woodworm, splinters and nails and don’t buy them if they are too warped. Some may look beyond repair but, if you like the shape, they can be given a new lease of life with a coat of paint. You can make artwork fit with a new mount and glass, which can usually be done by your local framer.
It’s quite fun to have a mission and gives you something to look out for when you go around markets and car boot fairs with a greater sense of purpose. If you love the frame you’ll always find something to put in it.
Once you've got your antique or vintage picture frames, there are plenty of ways to use them. They can be an artwork in themselves, so check out our guide to how to create a display using antique picture frames.
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