In recent weeks and months, I’ve been asked a few times about framing original art, so I thought I would share some of my favorite frames in a blog post.
Let me kick this off by saying I don’t think there is a “wrong way” to frame art. A frame becomes a part of the artwork and is completely subjective. It’s based on personal preference and style. So, these are my favorite frames for art, but there is a whole wide world of options out there and it’s just a matter of finding what works for both your aesthetic and the specific piece you are framing.
favorite frames for art | antique & vintage frames
Since I love antiques and a more classic design aesthetic, I love the look of antique frames and will use them whenever I can find a frame that fits and suits the piece. To me, they give an original painting, specifically an oil painting, a sense of history and age. I started oil painting primarily because I love the richness and personality original paintings lend to interiors. Putting my new paintings in older frames adds to their personality in my opinion.
I also used an antique wood and gold frame for this sepia portrait study hanging in my studio…
I also had the perfect antique frame for this sepia portrait of one of my ancestors…
The tricky thing with antique and vintage frames is finding one that’s the right size and style. Since I paint, I am always on the lookout for great frames, particularly those in standard sizes. If I find one at a good price, I’ll buy it knowing I’ll eventually have a piece to put in it. If the frame isn’t a standard canvas or panel size, I can cut a panel to fit.
favorite frames for art | thrift store finds
Frames are almost always plentiful at thrift stores, but it can be tricky to find ones that are more than cheap plastic and wood. They can be found, though! Just look regularly and keep an open mind. Don’t look at the art, but the frame. Alternatively, if you’re looking for art, pay attention to the art and not the frame. Sometimes a great frame doesn’t sell because the art isn’t particularly desirable or art doesn’t sell because the frame is detracting from its beauty.
Also, look at shape, scale, and size over the material or finish. Frames can always be painted, refinished, or covered in gold leaf to give it an entirely different look. For example, I found a sweet frame at a thrift store that was made of plastic and it was a bright blue. I ended up painting it and most people would never guess it wasn’t wood. Can you tell which frame is painted?
It’s the ornate one in the top right corner!
favorite frames for art | customizing store-bought frames
You can take customizing beyond thrift store finds and add your personal touch to store-bought frames, too. I almost always look in the sale sections of stores that sell frames and art to see if there are any frames that can be painted or gold-leafed. (You can find a tutorial on apply gold leaf to a frame HERE.) This is a great way to get a higher-end look on a budget.
The frame that is over my fireplace was bought on clearance for $11 at Hobby Lobby years ago! I covered it in imitation gold leaf and it’s held many paintings, chalkboards, and even mirrors over the years.
Another way to customize store-bought frames is to have a mat custom-cut to fit the frame and the art, especially if it’s an irregular size. Custom mats are much more affordable than custom frames, so this gives you a little bit of both while keeping the price reasonable.
favorite frames for art | white frames & mats
For sketches, watercolors, color charts, and other little pieces, I love a simple white frame and a white mat. I think it really lets the artwork shine.
Most of the pieces I’ve framed in this manner don’t even fit the mat opening in a traditional way. I just mount the small painting to a piece of watercolor paper and frame that. It makes the art piece sit up a little bit, almost like it’s in a small shadow box. I think the look is pretty cool!
I bought the frames in my office from Target a few years ago. You can find similar ones HERE.
favorite frames for art | plein air frame
The thing that I love most about a frame is it can make humble art look important. My grandmother framed a painting done by one of my younger cousins (I think she was in preschool when she painted it) and it elevated the piece and made it even more special than it was. Just try it! Pick up a pretty frame and try different things in it…kid’s art, a simple sketch, a color swatch, a piece of fabric, a pressed flower, an antique bit of crochet work, ribbon, a page from a book, a letter… The options really are endless.
A frame really is a small first step to creating custom artwork for your home.
If you’d like more ideas to create custom art, here are a few posts to get you inspired…
PS – As a note, it’s best to not have oil paintings behind glass because they need to “breathe”, but I put a few small ones behind glass because they were painted on unconventional substrates (index card dividers, raw linen, etc. All of my paintings on panel, canvas, etc. are not behind glass.