Picture frames can turn any picture, painting into something worth hanging on the wall and display that for all to see. A good quality picture frame elevates the content aesthetically and also protect it. The wide variety of picture frame materials and styles on the market today will suit almost any interior décor and design style.
In this article, we’ll take a little bit closer look at picture frames, specifically in the context of purchasing and framing by consumers – whether it’s undertaken as a do-it-yourself project or obtained from one of the many framing services options that are available – from big-box stores’ framing departments, to specialty art framing stores, and even online framing services.
Picture frames may seem simple on the surface, but are quite complicated, with multiple parts and layers. The picture frames itself are usually made of wood, plastic, or similar material, and are most often cut on an angle, so that each corner fits flush with the adjoining piece, making 90-degree straight corners. They are usually nailed or tacked together on the back of the picture frame or maybe glued or slotted together (more common in plastic than in wood frames). Some other picture frames may be made of metal or from other materials, though these are often offered as pre-set sized frame units, and not available for custom sizing and cutting at a store. Wooden or plastic picture frames may also come in pre-assembled, pre-sized varieties, or be custom cut and sized on-site for a piece of art.
In addition to the picture frame, the front plate, usually glass or plastic/acrylic, is put into place. The front plate protects the piece of artwork from exposure, dust, dirt, etc. In some cases, these plates can be UV-treated, to help artwork resist fading from light exposure. Next, an insert is often used, known as a mat. It acts as a border, put in before the picture, and helps to offset the work physically and artistically, as well as makeup for any size or shape discrepancies (when the frame is a pre-set size or the artwork is not square or rectangular). Mats can be colored, textured, and made from different materials, though paperboard is most common.
The artwork is placed inside the frame next, centered and aligned. Once everything set in place, a cardboard or wood backer is put over them. Most picture frames then have a latch or clasp mechanism, or multiple mechanisms, to fasten the backer in place. The completed artwork in the picture frame is then ready for hanging and mounting on a wall.
Based on the above process, it should be evident that picture framing is something that can be done without advanced training or specific skills, though the results of a DIY project will usually be inferior to that from a professional framing service. Nevertheless, those who enjoy woodworking and handicrafts may enjoy making their picture frames.
For most people, however, DIY framing amounts to buying a pre-assembled picture frame of a set size, usually from a big-box store or craft store, and trimming a mat to fit, before placing the artwork in and latching things closed. That is ideal for inexpensive art, kid’s certificates, and even for things like diplomas or commendations. For more expensive art pieces, or for added up-scale décor, however, a custom professional picture frame is generally worth the expense. It adds aesthetic credentials to the artwork, as well as increasing its resale value, all the while looking great in your home or office. Custom framing usually is done by framing services, which can typically be obtained in one of three forms, as highlighted in the three sections below.
Many department stores, craft stores, hobby stores, and other big-box store locations often have framing services, usually in the form of a framing department inside the store. The selection of frame materials, styles, colors, and other options may be somewhat limited, or relatively expansive, depending on the store and what they carry. In general, these are entry-level framing services, only slightly better than DIY. The employees are often not well-trained, and the frame quality may be relatively low compared to professional framing services. On the flip side, the results are usually acceptable for everyday framing needs and tend to cost far less than framing services from custom framing stores, art stores, or online framing services.
Not all these types of stores that offer framing services are full-service, custom framing options, however. In some cases, they may only have a standard, pre-made sizes and styles available, and just cut the mats to size and secure your art in place, rather than assembling or constructing a custom picture frame.
On the other end, custom framing services with their stores offer the full range of services, or may only provide custom frames, and find pre-assembled frames to be inferior for their customers. These framing services usually have catalogs of various frame materials, styles, colors, and types, and work with the client to determine the right size frame for their artwork, the right color, and style of the mat (if required), and similar. They will then custom-build the frame and call the customer back when it is complete. These types of framing services may have facilities on-site at their store, but more often, the store is like a showroom and sales office, and the real assembly work takes place in a more industrial location elsewhere. In some rare cases, however, framing services may have their equipment and their store as one-in-the-same location and may assemble frames while customers wait, in as little as 15-20 minutes.
Some framing services also have self-contained trucks with more limited frame options, perhaps two dozen or so, and can construct a frame on-site at a customer’s residence or office in the back of the truck. Of course, for that kind of service, the cost is generally high, as you are paying for the convenience of the framing service coming to you, rather than you going to their store.
An important note that is worth mentioning is that we’ve explicitly left art stores off our list for picture framing. That is somewhat intentional – most of the stores that are primarily concerned with selling art may offer framing services, but these tend to be far more expensive and marked-up than dedicated framing service stores. You can undoubtedly inquire and get a price quote from an art dealer, but we recommend you also get a quote for the same kind and quality frame from a dedicated framing service store, as the price will often be much more competitive.
The growth in technology services and a reduction in shipping prices in the 21st century has also given rise to online framing services companies. Many of these framing service companies offer custom-made frames from their catalog of styles and materials, mats, etc., just like a traditional framing service store. They can print and make custom frames based on digital artwork files, sizing the frame based on your supplied measurements or even based on the actual artwork, and then mount picture inside the frame before shipping back to you. Which options are available to vary by framing service company, and this may not be the most suitable framing service option for very expensive or valuable picture frames, of course. But for digital artwork or more inexpensive-type items, this may be an option for many consumers.
In summary, picture frames offer a wide variety of beautiful complement to show off and protect your various artwork, for display in the home or office. Picture frames can range in price and complexity from pre-assembled, pre-sized models available from most big-box stores, through custom pieces designed to fit specific works of art, hand-crafted by experts from framing services companies and stores. These stores may be traditional framing service stores, online framing services, or in some cases even mobile framing services that can come to the house and do the work on-site. Whichever option is right for your needs; a quality picture frame is often all that is needed to turn a few scribbles on a page into a real work of art.