Framing – A Necessary “Skill” for the Visual Artist

Collection of medium-small sized framed paintings (11×14 & 12×16 openings)

In June I painted 30+ paintings. My July has dawned with the need to prepare those 30 and a dozen or so more for presentation. The former is a joy, the latter…not so much.

Collection of small (8×10 openings) frames paintings

So much of my life as a professional artist entails doing necessary “stuff” that is not necessarily full of joy. In the end, I do receive tons of satisfaction from doing any job well… Having a clean house is satisfying. Admiring the “gallery” walls of my home graced with my collection of magnificent paintings each day gives me a wonderful feeling. However, I spend much more time on marketing and presenting my work, than on the actual act and joy of painting it. Sigh.

However, I believe, a painting’s presentation may be as important as the painting itself. A framing package can make or break a painting.

Collection of medium-large (16×20) framed paintings

And mano, mano, do good frames cost lots of my poor starving artist dollars. I hunt for deals year round. To save on those costs, I scope out online or wholesale resources, build relationships with local framers and suppliers, and complete much of my own assembly. I do not cut or glue together frame moldings or cut my own mats because I believe it is important to make sure those are done professionally. I don’t want uneven corners or overcut edges on a mat corner to degrade the quality of my presentation.

That said, even “simple” assembly takes some finesse. The proper toolage will save your fingers and back, and limit the flow of curses. My essential framing tools?

  1. Metal ruler (at least 36″)
  2. Framing point driver
  3. ATG adhesive dispenser
  4. A wall-mounted bracket for butcher paper on a roll
  5. A ratchet screwdriver OR even better…
  6. Power drill/screwdriver
  7. SHARP hobby or snap knife
  8. Pencil
  9. Needle-nose pliers
  10. Metal lever with a beveled edge (like the back end of a bottle or paint can opener)
  11. White gloves
  12. Lint-free cloths
  13. Gum or kneaded eraser

My essential bulk-order supplies?

  1. Metal screws, Phillips head (the shortest length available. I buy in bags of 100 to save)
  2. D-ring hooks (two per painting. I buy them in bags of 100 to save)
  3. Coated hanging wire (I buy by the roll. Specified to hold up to 25 lbs).
  4. Butcher paper (Installed on my wall-mounted bracket)
  5. Felt bumpers (circles of felt with adhesive. I don’t like plastic bumpers, they tend to be ripped off during transport)
  6. ATG Adhesive (in my dispenser). This is double sided tape (more like a strip of glue on a roll). I buy in bulk through online wholesalers.
  7. Frames (I am always scouting for sales and wholesale deals). For custom cuts, I have a great local framer. Fast Frame of Carson Valley.
  8. Mats (I often by standard watercolor paper sizes precut in bulk from online or local wholesalers). For custom cuts, my local framer lives up to his marquee name Fast Frame
  9. Foam core backing (I like buy standard sizes precut in bulk from online wholesalers)
  10. Glazing (glass or acrylic. I often buy standard frame sizes in bulk from online wholesalers)

I would take pictures of all these supplies and tools, but then for all the time involved in taking and preparing the photos, I could be painting, right?

Many of the pictured paintings will be hanging on the walls of the Artsy Fartsy Art Gallery in another week or so, as part of my featured artist show. Artist reception is July 18th, from 4-7pm. Come on out and show me your lovely face? Maybe fall in love with one of these treasures and take her home? The gallery is located at 405 Nevada St, downtown Carson City (just off the main Carson St drag), in an adorable little building, corner of Telegraph and Nevada St.

I appreciate all comments, questions, and suggestions. Thank you for stopping by.

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2 thoughts on “Framing – A Necessary “Skill” for the Visual Artist

  1. Judith Williams

    Thank you. I have been painting for a while but considered myself a beginner and have not been serious about selling until recently. I friend has a friend with a gallery and he wants my work so I am trying to get a few things framed. I have been buying nice frames with glass at thrift stores and usii g them and they look pretty nice. Is it important to use new frames? And when you sell do you offer the painting either framed or unframed? Anyway I hadn’t intended to ask questions just to thank you for the info.

    1. Colleen Post author

      Hi Judith, Thank you for your comment and questions. I don’t think you need to use new frames; just clean, unchipped, quality frames, that complement the painting itself. The same goes for all mats and glazing (glass, Plexiglass, Acrylic). Also, pay attention to the backside; Dust cover, labels (with title, medium, your contact info), and bumper pads are professional. Use D-ring hooks (no screw hooks or sawtooth hangers), and use hanging wire that has a plastic coating. A dust cover is really essential for any piece that has a mat and glass (watercolor, pastel, etc.) to keep dust and debris from getting inside the frame over time. Once I frame a piece, I don’t offer it for sale unframed (Too much work and money expended to frame it. ha!), unless I later take it out of the frame for another reason on my own. For watercolors framed under glazing (my main medium/presentation), the standard rule is to use relatively small profile frames (less than 2″ wide, typically). The frame profile (width), should be half, or less, than the width of the mat. Some watercolor artists have moved to mounting and framing their paintings without glazing. I have done that a few times, but not often. Some watercolor societies have free tutorials on how they expect paintings to be presented.


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