How to Frame Art

Expert tips for making sure your painting or lithograph gets the finishing touch it deserves.

Good framing is to artwork what good upholstery is to your living room sofa: Get it right, and you’ll elevate everything in the room. Get it wrong and, well, that couch is just a place to plop. According to Tam O’Neill, longtime veteran of Denver’s art scene (she ran an eponymous fine-art gallery in Cherry Creek for 20 years, which morphed into an online shop, and she owns the venerable Cherry Creek Custom Framing), a good frame is the bridge between art and architecture. Here, she shares her rules for selecting a frame that preserves your art and your sense of style.

Go Local

“A good, locally owned framing shop will work with any budget. You will absolutely pay as much or more at a big-box option for the same frame—and the least-experienced framers work there. As for the online framing companies: We see quite a few repairs resulting from shipping calamities.”

Materials Matter

“A frame and mat should protect against environmental damage. We only use glass that filters ultraviolet light, and we never use wood-pulp mat board; we prefer [the safer, non-acidic] alpha-cellulose or cotton rag boards. If the bevel of a mat board turns a toasty brown color, the mat is acidic—and the acids are likely harming the art.”

Frame Gently

Important artwork requires conservation framing, “which means that anything done in the framing process can be undone. Ask how your artwork will be attached to the backing, and avoid dry mounting, which is very hard to undo. Art-friendly mounting methods include mulberry paper and rice-paste hinges, gummed linen tabs, Mylar photo corners, and hand-stitching with monofilament.”

Keep It Classic

“A frame should never overpower what’s in it—and you should love it just as much in 20 years, so avoid trendy styles or colors that might date the piece.”

But Have Some Fun

“Play with proportions and scale. Show the edges of a deckled sheet of paper, or try lifting the top mat up to create a subtle shadow.”

This article appeared in the August/September 2018 issue of 5280 Home.