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Artist Tip: Five Framing Strategies

July 12, 2011

Professional framing is usually expensive, but the majority of the cost is radically conflated over the cost of materials and framers themselves are poorly paid.  [Been there, done that.]  Most artists are on a budget and can’t incur the costs of professional framing.  There are ways to get framing done on a budget.

I previously thought that it was better to just sell the paintings on their own and let the buyers frame works to their taste, but it turned out I was totally wrong and framed paintings sold the fastest.  People don’t want to have to do any problem solving or have any hidden costs; they want to stick it on the wall.  Here are 5 ways to frame your work for less:

  1. Skip the Frame:  Buy or stretch gallery wrapped, finished edge canvases, thus eliminating the need for any frame.  I have been clinging to the slim 3/4 inch depth so anyone who wants to frame a work can do so if they wish.
  2. Thrift It: Buy second-hand frames from garage sales, second hand shops, flea markets and other low cost venues.  Battered frames can be rejuvenated with wood putty, sand paper, primer, paint or spray paint.  I’ve actually managed to trash pick my share of expensive custom frames being in a large urban environment, including high quality oak and brushed aluminum.  Evict the prior art work that had resided in the frame with a clear conscience and claim that frame.
  3. Dollar Store: Bring a sewing tape measure and raid the dollar store for smaller frames.  Check the sizes, because the declared size of the frame is often inaccurate.  That’s why it’s in the dollar store.  I find a painting on wood panel, Masonite or canvas board is easily fit into a basic dollar store frame.  I do well finding  8” x 10”, 6” x 8”, 5” x 7” and 4” x 6” frames. 
  4. Build It From Scratch:  Have some woodworking grandpa or handy person show you how to take frame molding or basic household molding from a lumber store and make good 45 degree angle cuts with an electric / power miter saw. You’ll need a fine grade saw blade.  You can buy a cheaper hand saw and miter box rig, but these are a real pain in the ass to use.  If you are going to the trouble to build frames, invest in the power saw and remember to use your safety glasses.  Also buy framing clamps that hold the corners until the wood glue dries, then nail the frame corners together.  I have also used brads nailed into the back of the wood to hold the corners.  I’ve been off of building frames for a long while due to a lack of space.   It helps to have a garage or basement to build in, some place where sawdust isn’t going to create havoc. 
  5. Build a Fame With Pre-fabricated Frame Sections: Some art supply stores also sell frame sections that are pre-cut and ready to assemble; these have two sides to a package -usually in wood and aluminum- and are very easy to assemble with a flat head screwdriver.  This is a cost effective option for odd sizes, as long as the sides of the painting are in whole inches. 
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Categories: Artist Tips, Uncategorized
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