Framing fine art can enhance the overall appeal of a piece of artwork; unfortunately, if you don't frame your art wisely it can ultimately ruin the paintings appeal altogether. We all want our art to look its best, so artists inexperienced in the art of framing usually begin by using a commercial framer. A commercial framer will give you a nice, professional looking frame for your art. They will also give you sticker shock when quoting the price. Depending on the size of the frame wanted a commercial framer can charge anywhere from $200 to $600 for a simple frame for a painting. Keep in mind that the cost can go much higher if you want an elaborate, ornate frame for your art. Contrary to popular supposition, it is not cheaper using a metal frame (favored by watercolorists and pastel artists). A commercial framer must not only charge you for the materials, but also for the labor it takes to actually frame the painting.
The simplest way to avoid this type of sticker shock is to do your own framing.
Step One: finding an inexpensive frame that looks good. The local art store will have a variety of frames to select from so watch the sales magazines for Coupons from your local art store and use them. Depending on the size of the art you are framing, you may be able to find suitable frames from other sources also. Dollar and discount stores such as Walmart and Target typically have photo frames available in sizes that can be adapted to paintings. Words of warning here however; make sure that the frames you purchase from this source are made of wood and not plastic or acrylic. Plastic or acrylic frames can’t easily be adapted to the hanging systems required by most art shows and the saw-tooth or eyelet hangers that come with the frames probably won’t be accepted at a professional show. Another difficulty is sizing. Take your tape measure with you; some of the frames sold at these places are not the standard sizes used by artists. Frames that look to be 11 x 14 can turn out to be 10 x 13 or some other odd size that won’t fit canvas or canvas boards sold to painters.
Another good source is On-line catalogs or internet stores. Typically these sites will charge less than your local art store because you are circumventing the middleman’s markup. This is my favorite source when purchasing new frames because the cost is usually 30 to 50% less than that of my local retail store. Of course the shipping does add an extra fee which cuts down on the savings somewhat. I buy frames from these places in bulk once or twice a year because there is an additional discount if you buy at least 3 or 4 frames at the same time and if you sign up for the stores e-mail program you will be notified when they are having a sale. If you can’t afford the initial cost up front, you might consider buying in bulk and sharing the cost with other artists. Some good sources of Catalogs are to name only a few:
Another way to frame inexpensively is finding used frames and refurbishing them. Where can you find used frames? Well the two main sources I have found for used frames are second hand stores and yard sales. Again, take your tape measure with you because framed art found here may or may not meet the size requirements of standard canvas sizes sold in the art store. The frame probably won’t be in pristine condition so you may have to do some refurbishing and refinishing. Look for wooden or metal frames because they are easiest to clean up and refurbish. Part three of this series on inexpensive framing covers ways to refurbish a used frame.