Is DIY framing ever a good idea?
Even before you’ve decided where in your house you’d like it to go, the most important consideration you need to give to a newly-purchased print or work of art is how it should be framed. Putting any painting or photograph into a high quality frame can greatly enhance the image and there are plenty of frame styles to choose from to really make your artwork pop.
However, many people take the option of DIY framing once they get their art home, and it’s never been easier to pick up a cheap, off-the-shelf frame that just about fits the artwork you want to put on display. This is all well and good, and few people would argue against the convenience, but there are a range of benefits to using professional framing services when it comes to the art you plan to display in your home.
Should I frame my own artwork?
Framing your own artwork is certainly doable but, like any other DIY project, it requires some knowledge, a lot of practice, considerable time, and specialist tooling, which is why we encourage anyone with the urge to make their own frame to contact us for advice.
Having your work professionally framed not only helps you find the best way to display it, but also gives it the best possible protection from deterioration. This is best achieved through a compromise between how much you are willing to spend, which materials you choose, and where you intend to hang the finished piece. If you’re taking the job into your own hands, there are few important points to consider.
Do you have the right materials?
You may think that the most important part of your frame is the external frame itself — it’s certainly the main thing that DIY framers worry about, as they don’t want their artwork to look cheap or shoddily displayed. However, one of the first materials you should consider is the one closest to the actual artwork: the mount boards.
We’ve seen frames come into our workshop with all sorts of mounting substrates, including some big no-nos like pulpboard and cardboard, both of which can damage the artwork due to the acid content. We use conservation or archival, as well as museum-standard mounting boards. The differences between these are subtle. However, museum boards made of pure cotton are the gold standard. That said, none of the boards we use will harm your artwork. Non-archival is easy to see, though and often the bevelled edge of the mount has turned brown. This leaves a brown mark around the print when it is removed — tell-tale signs that the acid in the board has leached out onto the work.
You should also invest in high quality mounting tapes, which are used to attach the artwork onto the float board, or into the window mount. All too often, we see masking tape or sellotape holding an artwork onto a board. The chemicals and oils that these tape contain can stain the artwork and cause significant problems, particularly on expensive, fragile and antique pieces.
We recently received a Marc Chagall print framed in exactly this way, and the restoration work it took to stabilise the oil stains left from the masking tape alone cost hundreds of pounds — sadly, the marks are still there, despite the paper being stabilised and bleached. At Soho Frames, the spacers we use for floated works are acid-free paper-lined which, again, prevent acid leaking onto the work, and we also offer anti-reflective art glass with various levels of UV protection to help minimise UV damage.
Can you join the wood properly?
It takes a great deal of expertise to cut and join the wood itself. Every component of your frame, mount, spacers, glass, and the frame itself will need to be exactly the right size to ensure that everything fits together perfectly. The corners of the frame should have perfectly cut mitre joints, which will then need to be joined without gaps or steps.
Once upon a time, the common method was to join the corners with nails, however we now use a variety of more modern techniques, including underpinning, butterfly routs, corner splines, jigsaw, and spoon joints. These will then need to be finished with wax and other fillers to arrive at a perfect joint. Raw wood will usually need to be applied with some form of finish, such as shellac or wax, which will protect it from atmospheric pollutants and keep it looking its best. The final part would be to remove any dust, and then seal the frame. Like the frame itself, backing boards also used to be fixed in with nails, but today we use steel “points” which spread the clamping load evenly.
The benefits of professional framing services
To begin with, framing specialists know what they’re doing. Not only will they be able to pick the perfect style and material to complement your artwork, but they can provide a range of options when it comes to mounting and coverings as well. These are less easily available to consumers and are arguably more expensive when they are — finding UV tinted glass to minimise fading of the artwork, for example. But most importantly, these decisions can all be made in collaboration with your framers.
Framing artwork professionally can also help make it more valuable as and when you choose to resell it. If you wish to sell an attractive painting in your collection, but it’s currently in an outdated or damaged frame, this will reflect poorly on the art itself. However, having your art professionally reframed can give it a new lease of life, making it more appealing to potential buyers, and may even help you boost the price you end up selling it for. This also applies if you are aiming to put your art on display.
Finally, we’ll leave you with something we often say to potential clients: if you love your artwork, whatever its value, then frame it well. Remember, you’ll be admiring it for many years to come. Best do it right.