custom framing solutions, thoughts, ideas and things to remember

Whatever the custom framing solutions you are looking for, the answers are out there. As a custom framer and an artist I can say there are a few necessary elements that make a good framer, worthy to take on your art and photos and beautifully frame them for you to enjoy for many years to come! Even if you have an amazing framer there are times you can do some of it yourself…framed canvas photo

Seen it all…… (almost)

I have been a framer since 1999 and I have seen a lot of things from the strange things I have had to fix (ruined by other framers) to the odd things I have framed. I have framed everything from a fork used on a movie set by a famous person to a dirt clod crusted rug that a client spent over a thousand dollars to frame as an inside joke with their contractor… No joke.

I have spent many, many hours choosing framing with a client only to have them go with the first frame I recommended in the beginning of the process… or spent half a day with someone only for them to decide custom framing was too expensive when they had a complicated order but did not want to pay for it (as if I did not need to eat or pay bills or rent or survive in any way – wanting everything for nothing….). I have had customers try to match the framing to a pillow on the other side of the room the framed piece was to hang in rather than the art they were framing (bad idea by the way) not realizing or wanting to hear that art should always, and I mean always be framed to match the art…. always. All the time. No matter what. In fact, I have had to have some sign a waiver stating that they declined the professional advice of their framer so that when they did not like what they chose that they could not blame me and insist on a refund. It has happened, not often, but has happened more than once.

framed baby photosI could go on all day about the things I have seen as a framer, but rather than that I want to get into the things that can help you not only understand what you are looking for when you go into a frame shop but understand why it costs what it does and know when you may be able to do some or all of it yourself –

Design matters…framed fine art lithograph

This part is pretty simple…. If you have a western print do not put a modern frame – if you have a modern painting a gold leaf traditional frame is not the best to put on it. As a framer I would make more money if I promoted the frames that were on sale from my suppliers – I have worked for other framers that wanted me to push the “on sale” frames for the sake of shop income. I understood, but could not do it – even when I was running my own shop. To me, and maybe this made me a terrible business person, but I believed in making the art look it’s very best so my customers would trust me knowing I would do a great job and sell them what was best for their art and photos.

framed artIt is an investment…framed child's art

Custom framing is not cheap. Plain and simple. I have had people come in with a $2.00 piece they got at a yard sale and be shocked that it would cost $90 to frame it as if my suppliers would give me a discount because of what they spent on the art or I should donate my time to save them… I don’t know, but the labor and materials cost what they cost no matter the cost of the art or photo.

Framing materials are purchased at wholesale and sold retail, which is the same as any store you shop in. That is how the business owner makes his or her money. What they usually sell though, does not involve labor so their income is solely in the sale of the product. Custom framing is much different because it’s a retail shop as well as a service shop. You pay for materials and labor. The framer is not making enough money to pay rent and all their household expenses on just your sale although sometimes the cost of framing may make it seem that way. Here is a breakdown:

1. Mats, backing, frame stock and liners, glass and Plexiglas are all purchased at wholesale and sold retail. Simple.

2. Labor – the framer cuts the frame to size, cuts mats and glass – that “labor” is pretty much in the retail cost of the materials.

3. The labor that, from my experience, people do not understand is the labor fees of mounting and fitting. Mounting is the way the “package” is put together. That is all canvas stretching, sewing, taping, gluing or hot pressing to make the art and mats like one piece and ready to put in the frame. Fitting is the cleaning of glass, making sure there is not even a speck of dust in there (sometimes VERY frustrating to get all the dust out) and getting the art with the glass into the frame and finishing it all up to put on your wall. I have literally spent all day on one piece, especially if it is a difficult piece on the process of mounting and fitting for a fee of a hundred dollars (less or more depending on the piece)… It is a tedious, time-consuming, extremely boring job.

silver frameframed artframed artDesigning framing has always been my favorite – the labor is long and boring and not always worth the money made. Even though it is sometimes a lot of money spent by the customer it is not all profit and we work for literally every penny we make.

Framing is an investment but if done right it is something that you will enjoy for many years. My first framing on my own work was done in 1999, the year I began my framing career – I enjoy it now as much as I did when I first framed it…

Do some or all of it yourself…photo with simple metal frame

There are many pieces of art that just look better when custom framed. I really think everything looks better with custom framing but the reality is we can’t always afford custom framing for everything… This is where framing it yourself comes in. For many photos you can get standard frames almost anywhere that sells them. Places like Michael’s or Aaron Brothers. You can do many pieces yourself that will look great all on your own.

What about the pieces that do not fit the standard sizes available? My answer is that you can have your framer cut a mat to a standard size and then you can fit it in a frame on your own. Many framers won’t suggest this. I understand they want to make money and will likely try to sell you on a frame as well. I gave my customers the option and I told them when it would save them some money. I was honest with them when I thought a frame from me would be best vs. when they could just have a mat made by me and finish it themselves. I felt it important to save them money when it made sense. That created long term customers for me because they knew they could trust me.

Here is a list of the most common standard sizes that you can find at stores. That way you know what size to ask for your mat’s outer dimensions to be cut to:

3×5, 5×7, 8×10, 11×14, 16,20, 20×24, 22×28, 24×30, 24×36

the smaller frames up to about the 16×20 are fairly easy to find. You can buy them on amazon or Walmart while the ones in the larger sizes seem to be better from a place that has a lot of frames to choose from like Michael’s or Aaron Brothers.( most photos in this article are photos of items in my house that I have framed, with exception to the bear print).

If you want to keep it simple and, as a designer, I love simple… stick to a certain color – some like wood tones and others silver or gold. I use black on all my family photos because it goes well on all of them. Sometimes gold won’t work if you have a black and white for example, and wood tones won’t all match which is not a bad thing to have a variety of wood tones – but if you are the kind of person who wants them all the same color it’s good to keep in mind how easy it will be over time to get all the same color. That bothers some people so when choosing, if that person is you, choose a color that is basic and you will be able to find for the next frame you need to do on your own.

framed old stuffTo sum it all up…

Framing can be expensive so save the framing for your most special pieces of art or photos. It’s OK to get standard frames and ask your framer to cut a mat to fit it. It will save you money and still look nice. Frame your art to match your art in both color and style and you will enjoy it for years to come. I welcome any specific framing questions you may have so please leave comments and I will get back to you with an answer as quickly as possible.





This set of old utensils my husband found at an antique store – even though he did not know what he was going to do with them. He just liked them. I found a vintage looking frame with accents of the gold in the black frame that matched the utensils. The utensils are mounted to a black silk mat with clear thread so no glue was used. I do that so if the client says the item is valuable (or if they don’t know and find out later it is valuable) the value will not be compromised….





10 thoughts on “custom framing solutions, thoughts, ideas and things to remember

  1. I agree with you- the frame makes all the difference. You can take something cheap, put it in an expensive frame and it will make the whole piece look really expensive!
    Your experience with people thinking it should be cheaper reminds me of my experience as a graphic designer. For some reason only certain fields can charge a lot- like lawyers! We also need to pay the bills!

    1. Thank you! and yes, any art or creative field seems to get left out of the knowledge that the person doing the work needs to eat and take care of families etc. My hope is to help people understand that to have things done well requires investment and that the investment is worth while. have a wonderful day and check back soon – we are always writing new art/design articles to help bring awareness and understanding to those in search of art and design services! Have a great day!

  2. I can relate to the value of custom framing. I am not an art collector but I was once gifted with a precious art work that requires framing. Initially I was shocked by the cost of framing it but then if the artwork is valuable, why wouldn’t I invest that money and thus there was no haggling. I paid for it and the artwork hangs proudly in my home. Granted if you have many valued items to frame, it may really burn a deep hole in your pocket.

    1. It is an investment but if done well does not need to be done again. I do have many, many custom framed pieces in my home – I do it all myself, but it does elevate the look of a home when there is well framed art. I have art painted by my great great grandmother, in the original frame – so talk about long lasting framing! it is well worth the investment and you will enjoy your art for the rest of your life!

  3. Thank you for a great article, I really enjoyed reading it.

    You are absolutely right framing makes all the difference to the artwork. Custom framing looks expensive to a lot of people as they don’t appreciate or understand the time and patience it requires to do a good custom frame job. However, if people can afford it custom framing is the way to go and it will last a lifetime.

    For photos, I have used gold frames however I find the best for me is black frames and having all photos in same black colour frames looks amazing!

    1. thank you for visiting my site! I have been a custom framer for a long time and have seen it all. even as a framer I know it can be an investment for sure, but to help my customers get that custom look for less I have always given options to lower the price, mostly because I know how much they will enjoy the custom framing in their homes! have a wonderful day!

  4. Wow. you are so talented. I especially loved the old spoons and fork in a creative. I might try this one as I have some of those items here at home and if they look anything like your creation, i will be really happy.
    Your site is so interesting and informative – you have a nice writing style
    I will be back to see more
    Great to visit

    1. Thank you for visiting my site and don’t hesitate to send photos of your spoons. I might have some ideas and I’m happy to help you out if I can. If you do the framing yourself I mounted the spoons by sewing with clear thread onto the mat. It takes time but won’t damage anything like glue can 😊

  5. I love art and I always comment on the framing as you are right, it is so important.
    Your site is really gorgeous and so informative. i loved the photos and I’m going to try to frame a couple of really old spoons I have here at home. I loved that photo on your site
    Your site is warm and inviting and it was a pleasure to visit

    1. thank you for visiting my site and I am so glad you enjoyed reading and liked it. You saw exactly what I want our site to express, who we are and how we want our visitors to feel. check back soon as I will continue to post articles about art and framing! have a wonderful day!

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