Frames are to a painting what a good haircut is to a human face.
Artists from most cultures have been framing images for thousands of years.
From ancient Egyptian decorative borders to solid and ornate cathedral motifs, frames provide visual cohesion, symmetry, symbolism and protection to an artwork.
Frames as we know them today appeared first in 12th Century Medieval Europe.
The integral frame was a slightly hollowed-out piece of wood lined with linen and gesso (thin, white acrylic paint) upon which artists would paint.
This would later evolve into formalized framing.
The European Renaissance period saw the Artist Gentile Da Fabriano create Adoration of the Magi in 1423. The design of the original framing follows the Medieval style, but this is the first time a frame was separate from the painting.
The original frame of Da Fabriano’s work was designed by the artist himself as a commission for a wealthy patron. In the 14th Century, frames were designed by furniture makers and craftsmen rather than the artists. The craft of framing became an artwork in of itself.
In modern framing, the mat look is a chic, popular framing style that is great for photographs and smaller artworks. A picture is adhered to a piece of paper so that a wider border is created around it before being finally framed.
It creates a balanced, classy look and a larger surface area that draws attention to a piece without overwhelming it. Other terms for the mat are mount and passepartout. The kinds of frames usually used with a mat or mount are thin and sleek.
There are many creative ways to elevate the feel of a piece using mats. A cut mat is placed over an artwork to frame it. For a double mat look, an artwork is placed on a smaller piece of paper, usually of a different colour, and this is then adhered to a larger white piece.
Float mounting is a framing technique where a painting is stuck to a piece of foam board and then framed. This creates a solid, 3D-effect where the artwork casts a shadow and appears to be floating within the frame.
Pieces that require mounting on a mat can also be floated above it for a little extra dimension. This technique is popular at art galleries and exhibitions.
Shadow boxes are deeper, box-like frames that are commonly used for displaying mementos, photographs and other keepsakes. Box styles range from rustic, cutesy and fun to sleek and classy.
The edges of a frame are an important aspect of their look and feel. Edges can be tapered, rounded, square, or beveled. A beveled edge is a surface that is not perpendicular to the other surfaces.
The simplest artworks can be imbued with style, personality and class when framed correctly. Good framing also helps place an artwork within its correct context. Big ornate frames are ideal for detailed historical artworks but aren’t that convenient for a home or office space. The ideal frame should showcase an artwork in its best light, and make sure that that the artwork is indeed the focal point rather than the other way around.
The medium of the artwork is one of the most important factors to consider. There is usually more leeway with oil paintings as they do not deteriorate easily. However, they might need a small amount of air flow which should be considered if placing it behind glass. Oil paintings are often visually heavier as well and can be paired with bolder frames.
Graphite, charcoal and other more delicate media and materials benefit from being placed on a mat. This is particularly important if the canvas or surface is older and worn. This way, even frayed edges become part of the artwork’s charm as the mount allows every detail to be seen.
The time period is an important factor to consider when framing older paintings. Grand historical works for example, might be well suited to heftier ornate frames. A modern line drawing could use something sleek and simple.
Visually, the look and feel of the space matters. When choosing a frame, it should suit the artwork as well as the décor of its environment.
Frames with neutral colours are the most popular in modern interior design.
Black and white frames don’t clash with most colours and are suitable for a wide variety of art styles.
Black is commonly used to create a sleek, classy appearance while white is more commonly used for a fresh, rustic or quirky feel. Neutral frames also work well against coloured walls.
Beige or greyish frames offer a more subtle frame finish and pair well with less obnoxious artworks. For those needing a more natural look, muted shades of blue and green work well.
When it comes to matting, it is usually best to avoid colour completely. White mats create a clean, fresh look that causes the art to pop out. Of course, it all comes down to personal taste and you’ll only really know when you’ve married painting and frame together.
Shape, size and colour all work together to create the perfect look. Thin, black frames are usually used to create a classy, minimal look. Sleek metallic frames appear modern and cutting edge.
This is popular for smaller and medium sized artworks, as well as photographs.
Thicker frames often create a more rustic or homely look, especially if they are visibly wooden. However, depending on the material, colour, and the way it is painted, a thick frame can be sleek and clean as well.
Creating a trendy frame wall with smaller artworks and photographs is a fun way to showcase and protect these items. A combination of thicker, thinner, square and round frames can be used.
When dealing in digital art the frame options are limitless. They’re also a lot cheaper because they don’t require manufacturing. Furthermore, they’re eco-friendly since no trees are harmed in the design of a digital frame.
Digital galleries offer a wide range of frames for all types of artworks whether it be photography, generative art, avatars or digital drawings.
It’s a strange and impractical phenomenon that when you buy frames in the real world, you only get to see the frame on a demo painting in the frame shop.
Galleries should offer a feature where you can try any frame with any picture giving you the assurance that the perfect match has been found.