Framing art on paper

Though I love to paint on canvas and paper equally,  the artworks that I sell most are works on paper.

They’re more affordable, easy to ship around the world and I think, it’s also easier to make the decision to buy work on paper.

Photographs and art on paper are such a great way to start collecting art.  I remember after years of slowly renovating of our first apartment we were finally at the stage of buying something to put on our walls. We chose three works on paper from a gallery near work. I remember that exciting, heart pumping feeling of buying original art, not a print, but something someone had created by hand.

When we bought them the gallery offered to put us in touch with their framer and we were shocked at the time that the framing cost as much as the artwork. However, we decided to go through with it. When the framing came back we were really impressed. It was done so perfectly, it was so immaculate looking that it made the work look even better, more like an object that we’re going to hold on to long term. And here, seven years later, the art is in the same condition and I feel confident that it’ll stay that way hanging around our home in the years to come.

Since then I’ve found out more about framing and so would like to share what I’ve learnt with you and what the options for framing work on paper are.

 At the bottom, one of the artworks on paper we bought seven years ago,

At the bottom, one of the artworks on paper we bought seven years ago,

I recently asked people on Instagram about framing and while most said that professional framing is the preferred choice , the cost sometimes means that we opt for an off the shelf frame. I recommend getting quotes from a couple of different framers if you haven’t used one before or are new to an area.  I got quotes when I moved to West Auckland and they were wildly different. And I was surprised that it wasn’t the little framer down a side street that I expected to be the cheapest that was the most reasonably priced.

Once you’re at the framers you need to make the decision about how you want your artwork framed . Here are some options.

Float mounting
This is when the artwork appears to be floating between the glass and the backing. The art is attached to  foam core and mounted on a white mat and spacers are used to separate it from the glass.

I think this style of framing is suited for original art on paper. It looks professional and elegant and really draws attention to the art.
It can be pricey but I think that it’s good to look at the long term view of it. You’re probably going to hold onto your artwork longer than you will most of your furniture, taking it with you as you move homes. Think of how many years of value it will give you in the future by making your home look and feel a certain way.

 I love how you can see the rough edge of the paper because of the way it’s been float mounted.

I love how you can see the rough edge of the paper because of the way it’s been float mounted.

Another option is matting, where a window for the art  is cut in a matt board. I think this looks best with smaller paintings and drawings. I’ve put some of my smaller acrylics and watercolours in mats. It’s a good way to add space around a picture , especially if it’s near other artworks for example in a gallery wall. Some framers seem to offer a wide range of colours for matts. I prefer a plain off white.

 Here I used a mat in a readymade frame.

Here I used a mat in a readymade frame.

Full bleed

This is when the image covers the whole of the area inside the frame. I think this is great for film posters, travel posters and art prints. If the art isn’t a regular size then professional framing could be needed for this too.


Oh, another thing I should mention is glass. When you go and talk to a framer they will ask you about what kind of glass you want.


Clear glass

This is the cheapest and offers basic protection from the environment and most of the time this might be fine.

Non reflective.

Think about where you want to hang your art.  If it’s a very sunny bright room, you might find it disappointing  if everytime you look at the art you bought , you see the reflection of yourself and your room. You might want to use non reflective glass.

Museum glass or UV filtering glass.  

This glass claims to stop 99% of UV rays from damaging the artwork. This can be a good choice for watercolour as it can fade over time with exposure to sunlight and the colours become less vibrant . Acrylic can fade too, but at a much slower rate so unless it was in a really bright area I wouldn’t choose this option.

 One of my Mini paintings in a small frame with a mat.

One of my Mini paintings in a small frame with a mat.

So far I’ve talked about professional framing but there are times when we just don’t have the budget but we can’t wait to get the art onto our walls.

Readymade frames

The best readymades I’ve found are the ones that framers make and sell off in a range of  regular sizes. These are usually decent wood and the joints look well made. With the ready made frames I think they can look better with a matt. In Auckland I’ve picked up some good ones at the framers in Royal Oak shopping mall , at Homestead Picture framers and Factory Frames.

Another option is to buy a frame and then get a matt with a custom window cut. Ask a framer to do this, you can even do this online. I know Factory frames offer this service in NZ. I think a small piece with a wide matt around it can look stunning.  

 An A5 acrylic painting in a small frame with no mat

An A5 acrylic painting in a small frame with no mat

And you can always pick up a cheap frame at the big stores that sell homewares. If you’re buying an off the shelf frame, sometimes they have cardboard protection over the corners. I try to peek underneath or even pull them off until I find one where all the joints line up properly.

I found some small frames at Kmart that were perfect for displaying my mini A5 paintings. At this size they do the job and work well with these little pieces. I think the problem with the cheaper frames is when you move up to larger sizes and they are less stable and I’ve had them come apart as I change artwork.

if you live in the US there’s an online Framer “ Framebridge” where you can send them your artwork, upload your measurements and they custom frame your art for the price of an off the shelf frame. We don’t have this in NZ so I haven’t used it but it seems to have good reviews and the frames look great.

If you are buying direct from an artist it’s worth asking for a recommendation for a framer. It might even be worth asking the artist to arrange the framing as artists often get a discount for using the same framers regularly. I’m always happy to recommend, and l can also ask my artist contacts in other cities and countries for their inside knowledge.

This is my first attempt at writing a blog post , so I’d love to hear from you on Instagram or email.