As artists, we create art to be viewed and enjoyed. We do not paint to hide our art in a closet or under a bed. In some cases, we may be painting to sell to clients who want to enhance their home or business with wonderful works of art. Whether you paint for yourself, just for fun, or as a business, your art should be preserved properly to be enjoyed for years to come. So, when the painting is finished, how do we prepare it for viewing?
When you spend hours and hours perfecting a painting right down to the last detail, it stands to reason that you would want your art to look its best when it is finished. If you are selling your art, the presentation is as important as the artwork itself. However, matting and framing can get quite expensive. The extra cost can drive up the price of your work beyond what a client may be willing to invest. So what are the best and most cost effective ways to present your artwork? Let’s look at the choices:
- Artwork Only: Presenting a painting created on paper without matting or framing is really not the best option, unless of course you will be mounting it to a canvas or wooden panel or another rigid substrate.
- Matting Only: You can choose a Pre-cut mat, hire a professional framer, or cut your own mat.
This is probably the most practical way to present your artwork. If using the mat only option, it is advised to include a backing board for support and enclose in an acetate envelope to protect it from dirt and moisture. This is especially a good idea when displaying your artwork at a show as it may be handled by several people.
- Framed Alone or with a Mat: Some artwork like oils or acrylics on canvas only require that you present them in a frame without glass. Others, like watercolors or pastels are better protected when displayed in a frame with glass and also a mat. The mat protects the artwork from touching the glass and the glass protects it from dirt and moisture. This can be the most expensive way to display your artwork, however, it does show off your work in the most complete and best possible way. Considered a major investment, it is estimated that about 75% of the cost of a framed piece of art is in the framing. It is more than worth it ,though, as it can increase the value of the artwork in the future.
The best way to decide how to present your artwork is to identify its purpose. Are you displaying it for yourself or for sale? If you are displaying for yourself, matting and framing will be well worth the expense. If you are offering it for sale you may want to use the mat only option, considering the customer may want to re frame it after it is purchased. This can reduce your cost as well as save the customer time and money in the long run.
Next, you will have to decide if you will be doing it yourself or hiring a professional framer? The answer comes down to cost, ability, and work space. Having a professional framer to do the work can be expensive.You are paying for his time, materials and training as well as the costs of running a business. However, he has experience and has already invested in professional materials and equipment that can provide you with a lasting cherished heirloom. If you choose a framer you should remember to be very specific as to what you want.
As a professional, he should ask you very detailed questions to gain the most information about your decor and your specific taste. With his experience he will be able to offer suggestions and alert you to colors and styles that may not match. He should also guarantee the quality of his work and make sure you are completely satisfied with the end product.
Do It Yourself
Is matting and framing something you want to do yourself if you are a beginner? This is for you to decide. If you want to do it yourself there may be a sizable investment in materials and equipment to start with. There are several items that are needed to cut a mat and assembling a frame. Let’s review some of the materials:
Do It Yourself- Matting and Framing Supplies
- Mat Board 32 x 40 sheets – for making mats
- Foam Core 32 x 40 sheets – for backing mats
- Picture frame moulding or pre made frames
- Joiner- for connecting frame moulding at corners
- Basic woodworking tools, miter saw and sander
- Point Driver and points for securing mats and backing board into back of frame
- Brown craft paper- for covering the back of the frame
- ATG tape- for securing brown paper
- Framing Tape- to hinge the mat and foam core
- Mat cutter
- Picture hanging wire and hardware for hanging frame
Just to mention a few. As you can see, it can be overwhelming to begin matting and framing. However, if you are going to be doing a large volume of work to sell, this can be the most practical solution in the long run. Plus, you are learning a new skill and can also offer your services to other artists in your area. If you are not ready to invest the time and effort in framing for yourself and you still do not want to pay the extra expense of a professional, there is one more option, ready-made products or PRE made. You can purchase mats and frames that are pre-made in standard sizes. Most of these products are designed with a photography industry in mind. So when you are planning your painting you might want to consider this. Below are Standard Frame Sizes:
- Frames: 5 x 7, 6 x 9, 8 x 10, 9 x 12, 11 x 14, 12 x 16, 14 x 18, 16 x 20, 18 x 24, 20 x 24, 22 x 28
- Mats: 5 x 7 (3.5 x 4.5), 8 x 10 (4.5 x 6.5), 11 x 14 (7.5 x 9.5), 12 x 16 (8.5 x 11.5), 16 x 20 (10.5 x 13.5)
*mat openings are about .25 inches smaller all the way around than the picture size to allow for overhang.
- This is a good solution for quick framing if you are using standard sizes, however, most watercolorists work according to the standard size of watercolor paper which is 22×30. See below:
- Full sheet: 22 x 30
- Half sheet: 15 x 22
- Quarter sheet: 11 x 15
- 1/8 sheet: 7.5 x 11
What this means to watercolorists is that all of the mat and frame sizes above are NOT standard, therefore, requiring CUSTOM framing, which again is very expensive. What is a watercolorist to do? Well, Cheap Joe had the same problem when he began selling his paintings. He wanted a complete system that could be purchased at a reasonable price so the artist would not be overwhelmed with extra expenses. The answer to his problem and watercolorists all over was the Perfect Show Mat System. These kits come complete with mats in both single and double, the backing foam board (1/8 in.), and the acetate envelopes, all of which are acid free and archival. The inside measurements are designed for the watercolor paper sizes, while the outside dimensions conform to the standard frame sizes. So you have a custom mat that fits a standard frame, making it an easy and inexpensive way to display your watercolor art! The sizes of the perfect show mat system are available as follows:
- 11 x 14 with 4.5 x 6.5 opening- for framing 5 x 7 or greeting sized paintings
- 14 x 16 with 7.5 x 9.5 opening- for 8 x 10 photos or possibly 1/8 sheets (7.5 x 11)
- 16 x 20 with 10 x 14 opening- for quarter sheets (11 x 15)
- 16 x 20 with 11 x 15 opening- for 12 x 16 block size
(be careful when ordering the 16 x 20 sizes as you have 2 specific opening sizes to consider.)
- 22 x 28 with 14 x 21 opening – for a half sheet (15 x 22)
- 32 x 40 with 20.5 x 29 opening- for a full standard sheet (22 x 30)
Starting with a mat and backing enclosed in a clear plastic envelope can be the best and most cost effective solution. You will provide protection for the work while displaying it in a professional manner. As well as allowing the customer to decide how much they want to invest in a frame that suits their taste and decor.
So, whether you are displaying your work for sale, for yourself or even your toddler’s first finger painting, presentation may be the most important aspect to consider. The choice is up to you ,whether to DIY, to go PRO, or something in between! In the end, the happiness of the recipient is what makes creating art that much more enjoyable and worth while. I hope this basic information helps you to make a good and profitable decision about the presentation of your artwork.
Happy DIY Day!