Angie's LIST Guide to
Picture Framing

Picture framing can elegantly show off important photographs, artwork or documents while giving your home a sophisticated look. Choosing the right frame, matting and location will help enhance your home's decor.


The right frame can help a piece of artwork or a photograph stand out in any room.
The right frame can help a piece of artwork or a photograph stand out in any room.

Picture framing basics

Selecting the appropriate frames to match your decor is not always as simple as it seems.

More simplistic design schemes don't necessarily warrant a whole lot of consideration when it comes to framing. However, more unique decor and circumstances necessitate the use of greater caution when deciding on the various framing options available.

There are a few basic things everyone should know before attempting to frame something. Primarily, one should understand the benefits and uses of various framing components.

Frame mats

Frame mats are frame inserts that are used to provide depth and negative space to artistic prints. They separate the edges of your piece from the border of the frame and come in a variety of colors. Keep in mind the mat will overlap your photograph or print.

If your piece has artifacts on the edges that you don't want to be covered, consider not using a mat. Matting is meant to provide depth to your piece. The color of your mat should match the less-conspicuous colors within your print. 

Frame materials

Most frames found in local stores will be made out of a composite material. This is often a particle board base with a laminate finish. Poster frames are generally made out of plastic and can be very flimsy. The material your frame is made out of will depend largely on your budget and the size of the thing you are framing.

Glass vs. plastic screens

Both glass and plastic are very popular in frames of all sizes. They both come with their own unique set of pros and cons.

Plastic frames are very useful in homes with small children. With children running around, plastic screens are a more durable option that will be able to take more bumps and falls than glass. Plastic will become cloudy if it's exposed to sun for extended periods of time. Plastic absorbs more UV radiation from sunlight than glass does.

Frames with glass screens are often more expensive than those with plastic ones; however, they will last longer if they are treated with care.

Deciding on frames and mounting options
Professional interior decorators take a number of different things into consideration whenever they're deciding whether a frame is appropriate or not. These are very simple considerations that can be utilized by any homeowner.

Matting is very useful for photographs and other prints. However, it creates too much negative space when used with framed documents such as diplomas and certificates.

Your frame says quite a bit about the document or piece of art that it houses. Earth tones project an air of sophistication and distinction that pairs exquisitely with diplomas and degrees. The color of a frame used for an artistic piece should always be decided by the colors of the piece itself. Hang your framed pieces in areas that match the flow of your home.

Hanging picture frames

When hanging your frames, keep the following guidelines in mind:

1. If hanging on drywall, always mount the frame on a wall stud. If you cannot mount on a wall stud, then invest in drywall anchors to provide a secure mount.

2. If your frame uses a wire for hanging, install it a little higher than you think you want it. This will help compensate for the “droop” that will occur when the frame hangs on the wire.

3. If you are hanging one frame by itself, then it should be hung at a level that is barely below your eye-level. It causes less strain on your neck to look slightly downward, and it will help your frame to mix with your decor.

4. If you are hanging a few frames, stagger them at slightly different heights. Try to keep them at least 6 inches apart from each other if possible to help keep the images from bleeding into one another. This is not a recommended practice for artistic pieces. It is a very popular practice for hanging photographs of family and friends. When hanging frames of different sizes, create a “median line” in your head that runs the length of the area where you're installing the frames. Hang the frames so that they are bisected by this imaginary line.

Picture frame repair

There are some very common issues that come up after years of using a frame. Some of these issues can be taken care of at home, while others will require professional repairs. Here are some simple issues that can arise over time and tips for how to deal with them.

Faded Finish
Wooden frames will fade with time, and their finish will need to be redone. Remove the art or document from the frame and sand the finish off. This can be done by hand with a low-grain sandpaper. Then, lay down a thin coat of primer over the sanded surface. Once dry, you can paint on whatever finish you like. Make sure you allow the frame to dry in an area that is out of direct sunlight and not too humid.

Broken mounting hardware
Mounting hardware can come loose on any frame over time. Replacing the mounting hardware will require you to take some specific measurements. Remember that the backing of your frame isn't necessarily going to be as deep as the frame itself. Empty your frame and measure the depth of the backing. Use that measurement to find the appropriate size of screws or staples to use in replacing your mounting hardware.


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