I have been designing framed and matte art for almost 10 years now and I have some great tips for you! First of all, don’t feel bad if you think you don’t have an “eye” for design. The art of framing and framing is definitely a learned skill, combined with a little sparkle.

I have had the luxury of working on an art framing installation that has allowed me to spend endless hours combining art with rugs, framed mats and frames with art in dozens of colors and sizes. So without further ado, let me share a few simple rules that will make your final decision painless … and beautiful.

1. Choose your artwork: This is very personal. All I can say is that there is no such thing as an ugly work of art. Beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder. Remember this one rule: let the artwork speak to you. It can remind you of something, someone or some place that will comfort your soul or just put a smile on your face. Perhaps the colors alone will lift your spirits or calm your mood. The rule is simple: if it touches your heart, then for you, it is Art.

2. Choosing a Mat: In the art framing industry, we call the border around the image the “Mat Board” (“Mat” is the short version). Adding a mat is a personal choice. The only way to know for sure if a mat is necessary is to try it on. If you are in a store, hold the mat next to the print. Sometimes you will feel like the artwork or photograph just doesn’t need a mat. Please note that there is an additional cost to consider.

On the other hand, floor mats can be quite complementary and should never be overlooked without consideration. Here’s the simple rule of thumb for choosing a mat if you like the way it looks around your art: select a lighter shade or a neutral color. You can also look for a paler version of a color that is within the print. If the color of the mat is too dark, it will overshadow the image and make it appear lost. So, I prefer the lighter shades of mats. I find that they always beautifully accentuate the artwork.

I also love black floor mats, but only on certain occasions. When I use a stainless steel frame, I find the black carpet to be beautiful. BUT, the image is almost always a photograph and mostly a black and white image. If you want to add a mat to your artwork, play it safe and go cream. If you want to save a few bucks and you think the artwork is beautiful on its own, put down the mat.

3. Choosing a framework: several key questions to ask yourself before you can make this selection.

a) Is the artwork contemporary or traditional? Contemporary is a fancy word for modern. It’s always abstract or photographic, but it can also be floral or scenic, as long as the artwork has clean lines, trendy colors, and a current, up-to-date feel. The traditional is something “old-fashioned” and can seem “consecrated”, as if it had been created many years ago. Still life drawings, mature landscapes, Victorian children are good examples.

Contemporary artwork suits black, brown (including bronze), and metal frames, while traditional ones pair well with ornate champagne, silver, or gold frames.

b) What is the style of the room in which your artwork will be placed? This is not as important as matching the frame to the art, but it is still a consideration. For instance; children’s rooms are very different from dining rooms, while a contemporary kitchen has a different style than a traditional family room. It is worth mentioning here that the trend for 2009 is to mix them. Traditional rooms have attractive modern frames and contemporary rooms are cozy traditional frames. So, focus on the artwork and hang your framed print in the room of your choice.

c) What is the size of the artwork? Whichever style you choose, keep this rule in mind. Never select a large frame for very small print. The frames are supposed to complement the artwork in a subtle way. In simple terms, the frame should be understated, rather than overwhelming. Personally, I only use 2.5 “- 3.5” wide frames for artwork 22×28 and larger.

The thinner frames (0.5 “- 1.75”) are ideal for artwork 18 x 18 and smaller. Although I have seen thinner frames on much larger pieces, I feel like it does nothing for the artwork. Either you are very fond of large art or minimize the frame entirely, opting for a flush mounted frame or a stretched canvas finish. In the end, everyone has their own unique taste when it comes to framed art and all I can do is offer you my simple rules as guidelines. Remember, you are the only one who has to love it, because you are the one who has to live with it!

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