some of my favorite frames for art

by | May 26, 2021 | Decorating | 9 comments

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 was delighted when I found an old plaster frame in my stash (purchased at a yard sale) that fit my cow/calf painting You Come Too.  (You can find a print HERE and they are currently 30% off!)

my favorite frames for art | boxwood green butler's pantry miss mustard seed

I also used an antique wood and gold frame for this sepia portrait study hanging in my studio…

my favorite frames for art | art studio | miss mustard seed

I also had the perfect antique frame for this sepia portrait of one of my ancestors…

my favorite frames for art | miss mustard seed

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.

Local antique stores, antique markets, flea markets, thrift stores, and yard sales are the best places to find frames inexpensively, but Etsy and eBay are also great resources.

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?

my favorite frames for art | miss mustard seed

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.

my favorite frames for art | miss mustard seed

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.

my favorite frames for art | family room | box beams | miss mustard seed

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.

my favorite frames for art | color chart on linen | miss mustard seed

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.

my favorite frames for art | miss mustard seed

favorite frames for art | plein air frame

Lastly, I love the plein air frames from Blick.  They come in several different sizes and finishes, they are inexpensive, and they are a traditional choice for oil paintings.  You can find those HERE.

my favorite frames for art | plein air frame | miss mustard seed

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…

DIY Art | framing old pieces of paper

framing a baby dress

custom shell art

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.

9 Comments

  1. Meredith

    I bought one of your paintings earlier in the spring, and didn’t like the idea of putting it behind glass – thr best part of oil paintings is seeing the texture of the brush strokes! So I bought a frame that was bigger than the painting, took out the glass and covered the backer with some drop cloth (no antique hemp here, unfortunately 😂) and then just pinned the painting to the cloth. The frame is a warm wood so all the textures and colours compliment each other perfectly and the painting, even though it’s small, shines because the other elements highlight it. My next hunt is to replace the Ikea frames I have all our old family photos in… a collection of old wood frames is in order! Also – totally agree with gold leaf on every surface I can stick it to! 😁

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      That’s a great idea! I love how framing doesn’t have to be one way. There are so many creative options.

      Reply
  2. Sandi Graham

    I love the Blick Plein Aire frames . Like a nice wide frame for my landscapes .
    The antique frame that you framed your sepia portrait in looks great.
    The portrait is just amazing work. Can you tell me what the media is ?
    I’m not sure if it’s paint , oil or acrylic or if it’s my medium pastel. Thankyou
    For all your information on all things.

    Reply
  3. Jill

    I’m always on the lookout for frames at thrift stores and flea markets – I’ve found many beautiful ones for $5-$10. Since I paint in oil, I saved all the glass that came with the frames and eventually sold the lot of it to someone who could use it.

    Another good place for new frames is FrameUSA – their American Value frames are very pretty and reasonably priced.

    Reply
  4. monique odman

    In NYC I brought lots of frames from sidewalks, I found one a week ago ready for garbage pickup. Some I paint over, some I repair a little or a lot; 20 years ago an artist left a bunch of very old frames on the street a block away. I took a very big one almost 3 feet on the long side, very carved, missing many raised parts. Even damaged it is a beauty, the awful pandemic forced me to do home projects. And finally, a few weeks ago, laying flat on a table I dusted it and started to repair every missing pieces with FIMO! Painstakingly I imitated the very 3 dimensional missing carved parts, a mini sculpture work. I actually baked the last little part today, glued it and painted all of them the color of the rest and the frame looks great and whole again, I may never put anything in it because it stands as a decorative item in my studio.

    Reply
  5. PJ

    I would welcome advice on how to take apart frames in which the matting has become soiled. I have several pieces that have been in storage and need a bit of freshening, but am not sure how to go about the process. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Dana

      Remove the backing tape, and staples, then remove the backing. After which you should be able to remove the picture and take it to a framing shop to get a new mount cut. Keep the old mount when you take it, as it’s easier to measure for a new one. Hope this helps.

      Reply
  6. Paula

    Oh how I enjoyed this read! I’m just putting my toe in the water to begin painting again after many years of laying it down, for reason of not enough time, don’t have a real place to paint, out of practice, uninspired…and the list goes on. Bottom line is fear that it won’t be good enough. Silly, I know…but I see how you practice practice practice; like learning to play the piano…Thank you for your inspiration!

    Reply
  7. Connie

    When my daughter was in college she wanted to frame some large Degas prints. We found framed prints on 90% off sale that had the right size frame. Tossed the prints that we in them and used the frames. Thinking outside the box on a budget.

    Reply

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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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