painting-frame-harbor"When should artists frame their paintings?” is a very common question that I am often asked.

Framing makes the painting look much more professional and finished (to the average viewer), but may not always be the best option.


So, when is framing a good choice for an artwork?



We will explore this question, pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of framing for an artwork. Also included here are a few very good framing tips.


Advantages of Framing a Painting


  • When a painting is framed correctly, the artwork is enhanced. The focus is on the painting that hangs on the wall.
  • Unframed paintings often have nails, staples, and drips of paint showing on the side. This may turn away some art buyers who are looking for “finished” artworks.  
  • Framed paintings are often much more sturdy than unframed, and less prone to falling.
  • An unframed painting often requires a wire attached to the stretcher. When the wire hangs over a hook or nail, it is sometimes difficult to get the artwork completely level.
  • It is much easier to sell art that is framed. Most people love something framed to hang on their wall, to compliment the other features of the area, such as furnishings, and other artworks. 
  • Framing puts a higher value on the artwork. Framed paintings tend to sell for much more than unframed. Many artists add more than the cost of the frame, since choosing the frame is a design element, and affects the overall presentation of the piece.


Disadvantages of Framing a Painting


  • When a painting is framed, viewers cannot see the artist’s process. Paint often flows to the sides of my paintings. Sometimes a texture and mix of colors, similar to what I see on my pallet, is created. Most of the time I decide to cover this over with paint, but on the odd occasion, I have left it there to show some of my process. It gives my painting a rough look, but I only leave the painting in this condition when it enhances the theme of the composition.
  • If not chosen properly, the frame may distract from the painting.
  • Sometimes it may be very difficult to find a good frame that actually enhances an artwork.
  • The art buyer may choose to change the frame in order to match their decor.
  • Framing can be very expensive, especially if artists choose to frame every single painting.  A solution to this is to only frame the painting after an art buyer commits to purchasing it, then add the price of the frame to the cost of the painting.


Tips for Paintings Without Frames


  • Total Freedom of Web Design! Paint on the sides of the stretcher. I do this for many of my larger paintings. I often paint a solid color, something that matches the painting. I prefer darker colors for my colourful paintings, so that there are no distractions from the overall composition.

  • Some artists may even continue the painting on the side. The sides of the stretcher has to be primed too, making sure no staples or nails are showing. This is often done when the stretchers are deeper, and there is plenty of extra surface to continue the composition. Also, this technique seems to look better when applied to simple, smaller abstract pieces.


Tips for Paintings with Frames


  • framed-painting-oceanThe wider the frame is, the less focus that your painting will have. Viewers may admire the frame more than the actual artwork, and we certainly don’t want that!

    So for picking out a frame, try to get a thinner one that doesn’t take away from the composition.

    It should be said that this is only a general rule, and that artists can choose any frame they like, based on the result that they are hoping to achieve.

  • Get a few frames in sizes that you normally use. Have them for display purposes only, and to help choose a good frame. When someone decides to buy your painting, simply purchase a new frame based on the display one.


What are your experiences with framing? Do you use frames for all your paintings or just certain artworks? Have you framed paintings yourself?

Please share your thoughts below…

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  1. When I was painting with watercolor, I had invested in a double acid free matte which complimented the large autumn painting that I had done. I also chose what I thought was a most appropriate frame, which set off the painting but did not overwhelm it. To my delight I sold the piece to someone that I knew. At one point she had said to me, "You'll have to come and see the painting hanging in the living room." I almost fell over. Not only had she changed out the mattes, she had changed the frame as well. I was then that I decided that I would keep things simple. From then on I would let the new owners chose their own frame and mattes to match their decor as this lady had done.

  2. @BJTuininga
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    It just goes to show that the art buyer has control over how the artwork is presented in their home, and rightly so! After all, frames and mattes aren't usually artworks in themselves. They just enhance the presentation.

    As your story proved, this presentation can also be affected by where it is displayed. And if your painting wasn't displayed optimally there, she had to either change the matte and frame, or change the colors in the living-room. Obviously, the first option was the easier choice! :)

  3. This was good. Buyers can sometimes ruin a piece with a bad frame. But I am marking up for my time and expertise in finding one now - have not been adding as much as I should. Thanks!

  4. Works in watercolour or pastel I always mount and frame. I find that a mount / frame enhances the painting. I buy plain mounts and quite often paint the bottom mount a colour that matches the painting. This makes the mount part of the painting. I always use very plain frames.

  5. @Margaret Shaw

    Thanks for sharing your framing technique here!

  6. I have just started making my own frames for my oil paintings, and I couldn't imagine producing a painting without a frame now.

    I have a couple of paintings that look fine with the sides painted and no frame, but for the most part the work looks much much better with the frame.

    The colour of the frame is important, but if in doubt a nice wood stain or black seems to work quite well. Especially so if you can use some of the frame colour within the painting somewhere.

  7. I have switched to using many wide Gallery wrap canvases and do not frame them. For other works I have gone to minimal metal black frames or the wood illusion frames, buying only when there is a good sale!


Thank-you for your comment!