Choosing how to frame your piece is almost as important as choosing the artwork that you decorate your home with. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the terminology and the sheer volume of style options that are available.
The key things to keep in mind when considering framing is what style will best enhance the features you love about your piece, and accentuate its place on your wall and in your room, without stealing the show.
You may even find that your artwork is at its best without a frame!
- If your linen liner has a small mark on it, try using a white pencil/crayon to gently blend away the stain before resorting to replacing the entire liner.
- If you’re calling for a frame quote, have on hand the depth of the canvas and UI (United Inches) measurement of your piece for faster results.Example: If you have a piece of artwork that measures 30″ x 40″ the UI would equal 70 inches.
Floater Frames vs. Traditional Frames
Traditional Overlay Frame (left of top photo):
Characterised by a ledge that juts out (rabbet) and sits on top of the artwork, as seen in the bottom left photo.
- Comes in a wide variety of styles to suit any taste and budget.
- Can be used in conjunction with a floater frame as a “cap” (keep reading for more details on this)
- May cause damage to edges if removed since the frame lays on top of the piece.
- Reduces the area of the image by the width of the rabbet on all sides.
Floater Frame (right of top photo):
Characterised by it’s “L” shaped profile, the floater frame rests underneath the artwork and its edge is typically placed a 1/4 inch away from the painting, appearing that the painting is floating within the borders of the frame, as seen in the bottom right photo. A more contemporary way to frame, you can also choose a wider relief, opting for 3/4 inch away from the image.
- Poses no threat to damaging the edges of heavily textured paintings, as there is no contact with the paint.
- Provides a contemporary looking, clean-lined finish to a piece without detracting from the artwork.
- Does not reduce the area or crop the artwork by laying on top of it.
- Less expensive than traditional frames.
- Has less options of widths and styles than that of traditional overlay frames.
- Can be “capped” with an overlay frame for greater variety, but will inevitability increase the cost.
Far Left: Basic floater frame for regular stretch canvases
Second from left: Basic floater frame for deep stretch canvases
Floater Frame Styles
A sampling of the variety of styles and finishes available in floater frames.
Ranging from glossy, matte, metallic, wood, bevelled, rounded or square edges.
Regular Stretch vs. Deep Stretch
Below (left): Maya Eventov 12″ x 12″ regular stretch
Below (right): Bob Arrigo 12″ x 12″ deep stretch (DS)
Above (left): 3/4 inch width, regular stretcher
Above (right): 1 1/2 inch width, DS stretcher
Due to different stretcher widths, frames also have to come in various depths in order to reduce the gap between the frame and wall.
Above (top): The capped moulding is too short for a deep stretch floater and leaves too big of a gap exposed.
Above (bottom): this capped moulding has a more suitable depth for a deep stretch floater frame and leaves less of a gap.
To frame or not to frame
Regular stretched pieces by Marie-Claude Boucher with minimal texture
Top (left): Framed with a brushed black overlay frame
Top (right): Unframed
Deep stretched 20″ x 20″ pieces by Mark Berens with moderate texture
Bottom (left): Framed with a Chrome metallic finish floater.
Bottom (right): Unframed
View from the side allows you to see the way a deep stretch canvas (bottom) looks more polished unframed than a thinner regular stretch canvas (top).
Choosing a full frame is the deluxe treatment for artwork.
Top: The components of a full frame are the following (from left to right): Overlay moulding, Linen liner, fillet, basic floater frame
Bottom (left): This side view shows how each component is “capped” on top of one another to create one whole frame.
Bottom (right): View of how the full frame would look head on.
- Best way to showcase a special piece of art
- More versatile, you can mix and match components for the perfect look
- It’s easy to go overboard when a simpler framing option might accentuate your piece better
- More components means higher cost
Narrow mouldings used as an accent. Fillets can be placed inside mat openings, or in the lip of frames or linen liners.
It is often desirable to create a visual resting spot between the art and everything around it. This can be achieved by using a liner, a fabric (often linen) covered wood frame.
Seamed liners (above) have a break in the fabric where the corners are joined and are usually slightly less expensive than seamless liners (below), which do not.
Enhancers have a rabbet (the frame lip that rests on top of your piece) like a regular frame, but they also have an indentation on their outer edge for the rabbet of the cap moulding to sit upon.
Note: This component was not designed to be used alone as a frame. Their outside edge is unfinished and they are not structurally strong enough to support a piece on its own.
Enhancers add an extra embellishment to mouldings which look more structurally cohesive than a Fillet to the overall design of the frame.
Mat board has two core functions. Like linen liners, mat board provides an area for visual relief so the art could be viewed without the distraction of the nearby surroundings. Secondly, the depth of the mat also serves as a spacer to keep the glass from touching the face of the art.
These images show the same print matted with three different colours. None of the choices are wrong; it all depends on personal taste.
Dark mats tend to allow the light in the art to pop while a light mat usually intensifies the darker colours. A mid tone mat keeps both the light and dark details in the art more equal.
Mats are now available in a variety of colours, patterns and textures, which allows them to act in a decorative roll. Mats even come in shiny metallic and suede!
If you want a more lush look for your print, you might consider a thicker mat. Above, the outer mat is 8 ply with a beveled edge, it is much more apparent in the photograph while the middle (beveled) and inner (straight cut) 4 ply mats are less obvious with their lower profiles.
When mats were first introduced to framing, they were all a single layer. Today it is much more common to use two or three layers.
- Used most on high end art where the frame designs are simple and classic, not decorative.
- Also used when matting vintage, classic or antique pieces as it helps them look authentic to their era.
Double & Triple Mat
When two or three layers of matting are used and cut so that they’re all visible, you have an opportunity to use more colour or create more depth around the artwork.
- To add one or more accent colours that can be used to help draw attention to the art by outlining it (top left and right).
- Can add greater depth by using two of the same color for a more subtle look (bottom left and right).
- Multiple mat layers should not be used if opting for non-reflective glass, the extra depth will begin to look cloudy
Mat Border Proportions
One of the most important things when choosing a mat is deciding how much of the mat you want to see versus the image. Too little matting can look awkward. A new trend is to use very large matting around a smaller image.
- Larger matting adds a higher expense because it increases the UI of the frame and glass.
- Demonstrates your personal style: a smaller mat is more traditional while a larger one is more contemporary.
In this intimate piece, the matting is closer to the print, but leaves space for the signature at the bottom. Two mats are used with a white fillet to add depth.
Affixing the back of a paper piece to a wood panel or board to stabilize and increases the profile width of the piece.
This piece (left) featured hand torn edges by the artist. The relief between the edge of the frame (bottom right) and depth and shadow created by its mounting (top right) creates a stark and dramatic contrast.
This print (above) has been mounted to a board and covered in a layer of clear plastic, which stabilizes the paper enough for traditional framing, but is not thick enough for a floater frame.
This also smooths out the surfaces of prints that might have been damaged by water or bending. As this is an open-ended, unsigned print that will not hold value, so it is safe to mount in this manner.
Due to it’s fragile and porous nature, paper artworks are usually framed with glass to protect it from stains, water, tears or scratches. Choosing the wrong kind of glass can mean exceeding your budget or inadequate protection.
- A physical barrier against stains and direct damage.
- No UV protection or non-reflective filter.
- Best for low-lit rooms and painted artwork on paper.
- Least expensive option
- Physical and UV protection and glare resistant.
- Ideal for rooms with large windows or bright lights and paper pieces
- with ink or fabrics which are more UV sensitive over time than paint.
- Most expensive option
When considering framing you should also be aware of what kind of costs are involved.
The cost of your frame moulding is the most basic component of your invoice. It is generally defined by two sets of numbers.
- The UI number, or United Inches, is calculated by adding the length and width of one side together.
- The manufacturer’s price code for each frame determines the relative cost to other frames from the same brand.
The cost of your frame is determined by a pricing table given to us by the manufacturer. We then see where the UI and price code intersects on the table to give you your price.
Some other options to consider are:
- measurements and quality (acid free or regular) of matting
- fillets and/or enhancers
- measurements and quality (UV, non-reflective, normal) of glass
- paper backing
- assembly charges
Here are a few interactive goodies to help you with your decor projects!
CURATE is fun app that will keep you busy for hours virtually arranging artwork on your own walls! By measuring your space and entering in the measurements, this amazing app ensures everything is actually to scale!
Look for Crescent Hill’s gallery of artworks on Curate:
You can mix and match Larson-Jules collection of frames and mouldings on your own photo: Larson-Juhl Interactive Frame Design
Learn how to create a unique wall art display that completes any room with this fun video from West Elm Home Decor: How to Hang Wall Art Like a Pro
Every industry has it’s own lingo, so if we used a term you’re not familiar with, try referring to this helpful online glossary: http://www.larsonjuhl.com/glossary.aspx