Tips for Framing Art

I love framing art pieces. It can make all the difference and give a piece of art a new life! In this post, I wanted to share three things that I’ve learned about framing and getting art pieces reframed.

My first tip is to frame something unique! I wrote a post on collecting art if you want to refer back to that post for some ideas on gathering art for your home.

I found this embroidered wool rug at a consignment shop knowing it would be perfect on an empty wall in our house. I had been on the hunt for something large but couldn’t find the right thing … until I found this!

I loved the colors and texture but knew framing it would be quite expensive. I put it off for almost a year but finally took it into the frame shop to get an idea for a frame and a quote.

The lady at the frame shop told me it would take two people three hours to sew it by hand onto a backing. It was the method they used to preserve the piece and not damage it in the framing process. When I picked up the piece, I was so satisfied with the finished product.

Another unique piece is this postcard from the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1906. I found it on eBay a while back. It has little holes cut out with colored vellum or thin paper under it and when you hold it to the light … it looks as though it’s lit up. Here it is with light behind it. See how it glows?

It’s such a delicate and beautiful souvenir from 115 years ago! I’ve always loved the history of the St. Louis World’s Fair because my great-grandmother went to it and it’s neat knowing I have a little piece of her history in my house. I wanted to get this postcard framed with the idea that I could still hold it up to the light and see it light up. I went with two pieces of glass and the framers made sure to not hurt the postcard but carefully stuck it between the glass.

It looks elegant and it’s safe to enjoy for years to come!

My friend and I recently went to an antique mall and we came across a booth that had baskets full of old pictures. We stood in the booth for well over an hour pulling out worn photos and showing each other. The baskets were filled with collections of family memories of vacations, baby’s first steps, and sons going off to war. In the pile, I found this picture and in pencil on the back it was dated 1931.

I instantly fell in love with it. The composition of the two dogs on the sides, the ore on the bottom leading your eye to the man in the middle rowing. It reminded me of a photo from one of my favorite photographers, Jacque Henri Lartigue. I purchased the photo and took it to our local hobby store to find a frame. I found a frame and took it to the framing department to have them cut a matte to fit it. A few minutes later they came out with the finished product! It was under $10 to have them make it for me and put the photo, matte and frame back together.

Now this special photo can be enjoyed and not hidden away in a basket at an antique mall. When you want to frame a picture, consider getting a slightly larger frame and custom matte cut for your photo. It looks timeless and also brings your eye into the photo. You can also purchase pre-cut mattes for your picture, but in my case, I needed a custom one!

Next, I wanted to share my favorite tip for purchasing secondhand frames.

If I am at a thrift store and find a frame that I love (that’s a good price!), I will usually buy it … even if I don’t care for the art inside the frame. Framing can be quite expensive, so if I can purchase a used piece of art and just purchase it for the frame, it will cut the cost significantly! I have a little stash of used frames just waiting to be recycled and get some new art in them. I will peruse eBay, EBTH, or thrift stores to find art that might fit into a specific frame. Once I find the right piece, I bring the art and secondhand frame into the frame shop. In my experience, it’s usually about $10-$15 for them to swap the art, seal up the back and put on new hanging wire. SO easy!

When I was getting something framed one time, the woman at the frame shop said that you don’t want the frame to distract from the art. While I agree with that (mostly), I can’t help but love the big beautiful frames that you see when you go into art museums. Paintings through the centuries are wrapped in gilded gold and in my opinion, the frame does distract but only because it is so beautiful!!

I love the juxtaposition of these amazing abstract paintings, painted by my friend Kendra with the gold frames around them. It is classic and cool all at the same time.

I found a big gold frame on Craigslist for next to nothing and saved it in the garage until I found the perfect piece to go in it. Do you remember the postcard from the St. Louis World’s Fair mentioned above? Well, before I took the postcard to the framers, I brought it into our local camera/photo print shop, they scanned it and put the file on a disc. When I got home, I opened up Photoshop and bumped up the saturation, sharpened it a bit, and removed any dust spots. I sent the file off to be printed in a larger size. I had it printed just a little smaller than the gold frame that I had been saving because I wanted to use a matte around it to dress it up a bit. I took the enlarged picture and the gold frame to the frame shop and they helped me pick out a matte and glass. I can now enjoy a big picture of that cute little postcard! I keep it above my desk and love it!

My next tip is to buy art with bad frames. A lot of times, I will find framed pieces and the art inside is in good shape but the frame is trashed. Reframing can make all the difference! If you are able, keep the original glass because getting new glass can be quite expensive. If all you have to do is bring in your framed art, keep the art and glass and have them swap the frame, then this can be a money saver! Whenever I bring in art with a bad frame, I NEVER try to take the art out. I let the framers do that because they know what they are doing. So don’t feel bad bringing your whole piece and having them disassemble it! I got these pieces on eBay and the frames were in such bad shape. I was a bit sad about it when they arrived in the mail but knew it could be a quick fix. Here is the before and after with the new (sturdy!) frames.

I hope this encourages you to get some art framed or to be on the lookout for great frames and the perfect piece of art.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. Happy framing! -Janae

Credits // Author and Photography: Janae Hardy. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • The postcard from St Louis is just magical! How lucky to find something not only beautiful, but with the ‘lights’ effect when holding it up to a window/light bulb. Really, a lovely image with a pretty gimmick. So glad it ended up at a good home with you! 🙂

  • When a frame is in good condition but not the right color I spray paint it the right color. It’s so easy!

  • I adore each and every one of your ideas.
    What type of frame would you recommend for a large painting with diamonds project I finished and I want to hang it in the bathroom above the toilet?

  • You have inspired me to frame some of my machine embroidry things rather than just making wall-hangings with them! I have a stash of old frames I’ve collected but never knew how to frame stuff myself … now I’m off to the framers with them. Thanks so much for the informative article!

    • Frances, that is such a great idea! I’m sure your embroidery pieces will look gorgeous framed 😍

  • I have so many pieces I need to reframe, but I just always heard it was expensive and have been putting it off for years. Do you go to a local framing shop, or somewhere like Michaels?

    • Hi Amanda! Hobby Lobby is my go to for a quick frame swap but I’m sure Michael’s would be a great option too. We have some framing shops in our town that I go to for more custom pieces and new frames. 🙂

  • This is SUCH a good post! I had no idea you could go to a framer with another frame and some art and have them put the two together.. I always envisioned the process as- you bring the art they frame it but this post helped me think about all the different combinations and possibilities. Thank you!

  • Thank you for this lovely article! Rugs and postcards are indeed a nice idea for art on the wall. I just made a typographical stitch image like grandmothers used to do it and the handcrafted stuff looks nice, too.

    Just wanted to say thanks, Google suggested your article to me.

    • Thank you, Simon! That’s so cool that you did a typographical stitch image. I’m sure it looks amazing! 🙂

  • I love picking up frames at estate sales or while thrifting! You are so right — it’s the most expensive and hardest part to get right, but totally worth the effort. Your pieces are beautiful!

    • Thanks, Liz! I agree! It’s definitely worth the extra effort 🙂

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