Framing great-great-grandma, etc.

      Previously, we discussed framing paintings; this week we’re moving on to the challenge of framing photos.  Framed photos, including those old sepia pictures of great-great relatives and family events from the distant past can be wonderful wall decorations. 

     OLD PHOTOS – If you have old sepia-toned photos, don’t just stick them in a frame from the local mega-mart.  They can be greatly enhanced by framing them in traditional style.  Even creepy old Uncle Snodgrass will look good in a proper mat and frame.

     Look for ornate old frames at garage sales and auctions.  If necessary, have the old picture enlarged (still in sepia) to fit the frame you find.  Old photos look better with neutral colored mats, and old portraits can sometimes be greatly enhanced with an oval mat opening.  The picture itself should be your guide to how it should be framed and matted.

     If the photograph has something scribbled on the white edge around the picture, such as an interesting signature, a caption, or fancy edging, have the mat cut to show these fascinating characteristics. 

     MODERN PHOTOS – Most modern photographs call for a modern frame and matting.  Some people think that fancy framing with ornate curlicues and metallic gold paint will make a photo look snazzy, but it usually just makes modern photos look tasteless and vulgar.  So save the fancy old-fashioned framing for truly old photos, and keep it simple when framing modern photos. 

     Black and white prints can be contrasted with either neutral or brightly colored mats, whichever best makes the picture “pop.” Colored photos can be set off with a black and white setting (white mat, black frame), with a neutral mat, or with a color that echoes something in the photograph.

    When in doubt, use neural mats and thin wood or metal frames.   Most modern photos look best with as little distraction as possible, especially if the photo will be hung on a plain background.

     PRINTS AND POSTERS – One rule that applies to both old and new prints is:  Leave the edge of the print showing so that you can see any print numbering and hand signatures.  If the print has a title beneath the picture, a small window should be cut in the mat to reveal this.  Prints should be framed under glass to protect them, and in general a simple, thin wood or metal frame will look best.

     Because posters have a strong graphic content, the simplest frame possible is called for.  Mats are optional; if you feel the poster looks best without a mat, you don’t need one.  Posters should be framed under glass, unless you aren’t worried about damage from dust, moisture, or insects.

     EXTREME FRAMING – There are new and exciting trends in framing that you might want to consider.  Some watercolorists are now painting on a product called “watercolor canvas” and then varnishing the piece so it can be framed like an oil painting.  If you acquire such a watercolor, be sure to find out if it has been varnished. Otherwise the watercolor can be damaged if it is framed without glass or matting.

       Many people are now framing watercolors and pastels under glass without a mat, for a more cutting-edge look.  If you decide to forego the matting, small shims should be cut from matboard and inserted invisibly between the frame and the picture to keep the glass from touching the artwork.  This is especially important in the case of pastels, which can shed pastel dust that would stick to the glass.

     Another interesting framing technique is to frame a picture (usually a watercolor, acrylic on paper, or a print) between two sheets of glass that are several inches larger than the picture all the way around.  No backing is used – the picture appears to be “floating” in the glass.  The whole “glass sandwich” is put into a simple frame to create a strikingly modern look.  The wall upon which the picture is hung acts as a decorative “mat.”  Needless to say, don’t use this method unless you’re certain that the surface of the wall behind the picture will enhance it.  A painted wall would look best behind such a frame job – complicated wallpaper likely would take away from the picture.

      There are books and websites that explain simple framing techniques, and with that knowledge you can make art pieces look their best.  Even a mega-mart frame can be jazzed up with good matting, or even painted, for framing on a tight budget.  Sectional metal frames that you assemble yourself are economical, and the cost of having glass cut at the hardware store is minimal.  You may even find that it’s fun to cut your own mats with a simple mat cutter.  The only thing you can’t afford in the world of framing is to put your imagination on hold!

By Kay R. Sluterbeck/AAPJ

Published by on December 2011. Filed under Archives, Art-to-Art Palette Journal, HowDoit PB dept, Paint Box Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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