This reader asked for some tips for choosing frames for artwork. I'm no expert, but I'm passionate about this topic because Hubby & I both come from families peppered with artists. We each grew up surrounded by art and continue to make art a priority in our home.
Whenever I have something professionally framed I take it to a smaller, local shop - as opposed to a big box retailer that does framing. In my experience, the service is better and the materials (frames and matting) are typically more modern. I always pay less at a local place, even compared to a certain retailer's 50-60% off coupon.
As a rule, I don't believe in rules, but there are a few things to think about that might help to pick a frame that will complement your artwork. A professional can help guide you to the best decision, drawing on years of expertise and professional training. But if you're looking for something simple and inexpensive and are standing in an isle of ready-made frames feeling overwhelmed, here are a few tips:
General Tips & Tricks
In general, choose a frame that suits your piece. Whatever conversation your art starts, let the frame finish it. Don't pick a frame that competes with your art, unless a funky, irreverent look is what you're after (like framing a child's doodle in a gold, ornate frame). Try your piece in a few frames and see which one complements your artwork best. What frame makes your artwork standout or look good, without drawing attention only to the frame? Importantly: what frame makes you love your artwork even more?
|DIY frame makeover; plastolux|
Also consider your decor: is it modern? Traditional? Eclectic? The right frame should complement your artwork first and foremost, but also connect the artwork to the rest of your space.
|Style at Home|
Black frames can lend a graphic or dramatic feel to artwork and can look good with many pieces of art, from black and white prints to rich and moody oil paintings. However, if the contrast between the artwork and dark frame is too high (like pairing a thick black frame with an airy, pastel watercolour), a black frame can detract from the artwork. To play it safe, choose a black frame if your art has black, or another darker element, in it. Or if your walls are painted a deep, rich hue.
Here are some examples where I think a black frame really works:
|Photos (clockwise from top left): Sketch 42; Desire to Inspire; From Scandinavia With Love; Style at Home (photo by Rachel)|
Like I mentioned, sometimes a black frame can drown a piece of art, like the black frames I chose to frame two small and subtle watercolours. The white frames let the watercolours "breathe" and you notice them, not the frame (but this is highly subjective):
If you're after a graphic look, a black frame can work with light walls and a lighter piece of art. I think the artwork just needs enough "punch" to hold its own when competing with the frame:
Personally, I love white frames because white frames a little easier to use. Paired with white matting, a white frame can create a nice, neutral backdrop and let your artwork shine, whether your art is a whisper of a painting or a bold photograph. Generally, white frames look very crisp and modern - sometimes even if the style is more ornate.
Here are some good examples:
|Photos (clockwise from top left): A Little Sussy; Style at Home; More Than Words; Parlour|
If you have dark walls, a white frame will really stand out more, drawing attention just like a black frame against light walls. But, in the case below, it works because it draws attention to the artwork, which might otherwise be lost:
|Little Brown Pen via Little Bits of Lovely|
Wood frames offer good flexibility because they can easily be stained and refinished to suit your decor as it changes. Simple wood frames can look very modern but still add warmth to a space. Some very simple wood frames seem to have a mid-century feel to them (see top right). Avoid wood if you have a lot of wood furniture or wood accents - it can be overwhelming.
|Photos (clockwise from top left): Jute Home; My Home Ideas; My Photo (of our DIY desk); A Cup of Joe|
One thing to note: wood frames can look rustic and cabin-inspired. Unless you're looking for a bit of tension in your decor scheme, avoid a weathered frame if your decor is modern or traditional because it will draw too much attention to the frame.
|Etsy seller Dandrus; Anthropologie|
I opted for a silver frame when choosing a frame for a watercolour we bought from a street artist in Paris. Clean-lined, metal frames are chameleons, blending well into crisp, modern decor or glamorous spaces. Add a bit of ornamentation and the look becomes more traditional (unless you pair it with something quirky, like a painting of some scribbled poetry). A metal frames adds a welcome dose of sparkle to a space and is perfect for when you don't know if you want a really dark or really light frame - it's a good compromise.
|Photos (clockwise from top left): Houzz; Style at Home (photo by Christine); Adore Home via La Dolce Vita; Desire to Inspire|
I'm not a huge fan of a frame matching a colour found in the artwork, so it's hard for me to make suggestions. That was a huge trend in the 80s and 90s when the matting was also layered so one layer matched the frame, matching the art, so it has the danger of looking a bit dated. I do think that colourful frames can look fun and quirky, like my framed bakelite pins. And if the colour is really dominant in the artwork, a coloured frame might be just the things to make the artwork standout. A frame with a very modern style in an updated colour could look really fresh. So, in small doses, give it a whirl.
Art Hung En Masse:
The trendy gallery-style wall (whether jumbled collage-style, or hung in a neat row) can successfully incorporate art framed in similar frames, or a mix of frames. Similar frames creates a more orderly look while a mix of frames creates a more casual vibe. If you mix frames, make sure to have some repetition (a few white frames, a few black frames, a few metal frames) to keep the look from appearing too thoughtless and thrown-together.
Here are some examples of gallery style walls with a mix of frames or similar frames that each result in an interesting but cohesive assembly:
|Photos (clockwise from top left): Apartment Therapy; Desire to Inspire; Pure Style Home; Southern Living;|
Take Away Tips:
- Take my advice with a grain of salt (these are just my personal thoughts)
- Try a few different frames before committing
- Narrow in on which frame(s) lets your artwork shine
- Consider your decor
- Pick what you like, "rules" be damned!
Speaking of art, I'm working on a fun DIY art project and I hope to have it ready for tomorrow, so check back to take a peek.