Category Archives: Picture Framing Help

Cardboard Frames!

A short and sweet entry today … an age old story in our game, but worth bringing up every now and then.  Artist comes in, panicking about some exhibition pieces which needed to be in that day.  She had brought black ready frames from a well known high street chain.

When she got to the exhibition hand in day, they told her that she had the wrong hanging system on the back and therefore they wouldn’t accept it.

She brought the pieces into us to get some d-rings and string for the back, replacing what was already on there.  The Frames she brought in were made of compressed cardboard (you’ll find this a lot with factory made ready frames), and so when we went to put the screws in, the frame was of such poor quality, that the hangings were just not going to be secure enough.   We basically got around the problem, but I wouldn’t bet my life on those pictures not falling off the wall any time soon!  (of course we did warn her of this).

In the end, I reckon the extra screws, d-rings and yards of picture cord ended up costing half as much again as the frames in the beginning!

For advice, ideas and options for how to save money (but still thinking about your buyer and presentation) or when to spend out on getting something framed professionally see some related blogs I’ve written previously:  Art Versus Budget or Better Framing Sells Work – Simples! 

Black is the new black …

Black mounts … Ooooo scary!

We get this quite a lot; people seem to have a phobia about black mounts.  They are too heavy, unfashionable and not neutral enough.  The customer will cry “Black? Yuk!” and look at it as if you really don’t know what you are talking about.  Next time this happens, if you are confident that Black would be the right choice for the picture, quietly put it down with the other choices.  Quite often, you’ll hear “oh actually…”

It all depends on your picture of course and what frame you decide on.  Sometimes choosing a mount just because you think it’s neutral can make it look wishy washy, dead or worse still …  just OK.

Black can look stunning and make a picture really jump out.  It can be that extra punch it needs.  It can go with a contemporary look or a more traditional look.

Set of family black & white photo’s. Oak frame provides a nice contrast to the black mount. Used white core mountboard to give a crisp white edge on the two outer pictures. It’s a nice contemporary look which makes the photo’s jump forward rather than merging into the mount.

If the picture is dark in nature, say like a black and white photograph, choose a black mount that has a White core to give a crisp edge.  If you want it to blend in or the picture is light, you could choose a black core.

Note: the core is the colour you see on the inside of the mount when you cut through it.  For example, you can get a white mount with a black core running through it, like the picture below.  Try to avoid anything with a cream core (although this can work with a very old picture) as the core will tend to yellow over time.  Most Framers tend not to stock cream core anymore as it’s not of conservation quality.  Anyway, I digress.

So, there’s not a lot else to say really but all I’m saying is … don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.

More examples below …


With the medals mounted initially on a neutral board and the script on white paper. Once again the black mount provides a contrast with the squares and the frame.

Close up of the same frame


Certificate, black draws you in and pulls out the greeny/olive colouring in the certificate and frame.










Sometimes a little subtlety is required!

Memorabilia works well with black, used white edging to emphasize

“letter box” type black mount with white core. Blends with frame and then the outer part of the frame compliments the photo.

Similar colouring and same frame

…and stretch 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Stretched Canvas

A phone conversation with a client has led me to write up this one.  Come on, admit it, this has been a burning question in your life.  Just what the heck is a stretched canvas?  Well, since you ask…

So, I’m on the phone, giving out a quote for a fairly large canvas to be stretched, when I give the price, I hear a slight gasp.  Assuming it was a gasp at the price and not at my wonderfully engaging phone manner, I ask if that’s what he was expecting.  He replied that he had previously had a photograph of his Children printed on canvas (online), delivered ready “wrapped” and to hang on the wall for half the price.

Ah, I asked him to take a look at his current picture and tell me how the sides or back is finished off.  He confirmed it had been stapled and then the fascinating conversation of methods and materials ensued.   “Hello”? “Hello? Are you still there?” …

He went away satisfied with the explanation and decided quite rightly, that the previous service was the one for him and off he went happy.

It’s really important to be able to tell your clients the differences so that they can make an informed decision based on budget and knowledge of what they want.  Yes, ok, we lost him on that order but in the long run, when he or one of his friends needs something doing professionally, hopefully he’ll come our way first.


Like most terms these days, they all get a bit mixed up.  You might hear “stretched canvas” or “gallery wrap” or “wrapped canvas”.  They all mean roughly the same thing but there is a bit difference in methods, quality and skill.  For example, you might want the whole image to wrap around the frame, so you can see it on the sides of the canvas.

I’ve lost count of the times we’ve had a customer in who’s been on holiday to Vietnam or Australia and brought back a canvas.  They’ve paid pennies for it from a street artist, it’s an original piece.  They’ve taken it off the stretcher bars to roll it up and transport it.  They bounce into the framing shop to get it re-stretched and then you tell them how much. Their usual reply is, “The artwork only cost me a fiver!”

The bottom line is whatever works for your budget and style is absolutely fine.  If it’s an oil or an acrylic piece though, I would strongly recommend getting it done professionally.

The basic difference

The shop brought canvas, prints or printing companies that print your photos onto canvas, basically they use a soft, bendy type wood.  They stretch/wrap the canvas around the “frame” and they simply staple it to the wood.  This is fine but does have a tendency to sag or the cheaper materials can crack as you stretch it.  They are also usually a standard size.  So if you have a piece that is non-standard, you might have to pay out for it.

If your canvas is large, again, I would recommend getting it done properly.  The sheer expanse of canvas needs proper support and might warp on your wall.  A framer will fit suitable cross bar support for you.

If you take it to a professional framer to be stretched they will use the correct tools, skills and materials to stretch the canvas on to a more substantial wood frame (sometimes known as stretcher bars).  Rather than stapling they might use “tacks” or “pins”.  They are much sturdier.

They treat it kind of like a drum.  Getting the right tension, is the where the skill and the time is.  Essentially, that’s what you are paying for, believe it or not, it can be a bit fiddly and not everything is suitable to be stretched in this way.

Your Framer will normally fit “wedges” into each corner of the frame.  These are banged into place and as inevitably over time, the material will move, you can take it back to the Framer at any point for maintenance.

Some Framers will fit a back onto the canvas but it’s perfectly fine to keep the back open or get it framed.

If you want to go into it more technically, try these sites for useful explanations.  Or if you are really worried about standards and want to understand more, I’m sure someone at the Fine Art Trade Guild will talk to you about it.  Their website is always linked at the side of this site, as it’s a good constant reference point to have.

Framing Sports Shirts, Memorabilia and other Garments

Framing a signed Football or Ruby shirt is very popular but people are often shocked at how much it can cost.  I’ll aim to give you an insight into why it costs what it does.  It’s worth bearing in mind that  paying the money to have it done correctly, especially if it’s signed, could make it more valuable in the future for collectors.

We see it all here, signed caps, bats, medals, trousers, a pair of angel wings that Graham Norton once wore on TV!  People get the strangest things framed (which is why we love doing it!).

Apparently, you can buy “readymade” frames to fit your shirts into, I’ve never used one, but knowing how fiddly it can be to get a garment straight, stretched and secured properly, it’s not something I would have taken on without experience!

The cost will vary dependent on the size of the piece and what “extras” you want done.

The bit that takes up the most time and therefore costs money is stretching, straightening and securing the piece before the framing is even thought about.  As a general rule this type of framing job can take anything from 2 hours to a whole day depending on what’s being done, how heavy, or what material the garment is made out of etc.

As ever with framing, different framers do it different ways but at the very least, a good framer will use decent materials, make sure nothing that could possibly damage the item is placed onto it directly and also secure it in a way that won’t damage it.  This is the very least of what you should expect to ensure the item is kept safe for a long time to come.

I’m not here to give you a lesson in how to frame a garment, but to give you an idea of what goes into it and scratch the surface of what options could be available to you.

Firstly, think about how you want it displayed.  Do you just want, say, the club name & signatures to be displayed or the whole shirt, sleeves and all?  The later would make the item larger, but would look better.  There would be space and budget considerations here.

What colour mount card would you like?  Tie in with team colours or your home decoration?

Apart from the time it takes to get the shirt looking right, part of the cost is attributed to the depth/size of frame needed to house the item.  Normally, you would need a fairly deep frame.  If you think about it, you’ll have quite a bit of material to fit in, not to mention the thickness of glass, the backing and mount surround.  So usually the frame would be more “boxy” to allow room.

Then what about the extras?  You might want some wording at the bottom e.g. Manchester v Liverpool and the date perhaps?

Or perhaps a plague screwed to the outside of the frame or how about a photo of the person who’s signed it.  If it’s something you’ve won, you might want a certificate or medal put in the same frame.

Medal example plus a close up below

The options are endless, which is why a framer is not usually able to give you an exact price until the options are discussed fully and would need to see the piece to make an accurate quote.

If someone is charging less than £100 and can turn it around double quick, then you should question why this is.  If you don’t care, then that’s fair enough!  I would expect though, for prices to start at £150.00 basic.  I’ll take my hat off to anyone who can pull it off cheaply, quickly and well executed…not saying it can’t be done, but would just make some deeper enquiries before committing.

Some more examples below … as you can see, the possibilities are endless!

Freddie Mercury T-shirt which apparently he wore

Customer really wanted to keep her child’s baby clothes

Graham Norton’s Angel Wings – which we think the customer won in an auction


Practical Guide to Picture Glass

No, I’m sorry I’m not putting on a cape, whilst chanting “I say you buy one, you get one free” that’s window glass, it’s different.  But just as you get different types of window glass, (e.g. toughened, self-clean etc.) so too is there different types of picture glass.

Not the most fascinating subject but really good to know what you are possibly getting charged for.  Picture glass comes in different thicknesses.  If you have a large picture or a very long thin picture to frame, you will need to have thicker glass than normal.  This will minimise the risk of the glass cracking.  You can also buy picture glass which has been toughened or laminated for safety.

I’m going to break it down into the following:

Standard Picture Glass

Sometimes known as plain glass, this is the lowest grade of glass offered and is perfectly fine for a lot of framing work.  Please see the blog where I previously detailed the differences between standard and non-reflective glass.

Non-Reflective Picture Glass

This is a diffused glass and it can get me a bit hot under the collar when customers come in with the misinformation that all pictures must be done in this.  It certainly shouldn’t!

You can read the case for when it should be used, in my previous blog (as mentioned above).  If you can’t be bothered, I can give you two nuggets of information to bear in mind, don’t use it on raised or 3D framing and don’t make the mistake of thinking that it has anything to do with conservation!

 Mirror Glass

This comes in different forms.  The flat/plain mirror glass is available in differing thickness and is usually slivered or antique silvered.  It’s usually the cheapest option because most picture framers can cut it to size just like normal glass.  Bevelled mirror glass usually comes in set sizes but special sizes can be cut.  This would normally be done at the framing suppliers so would make it a bit more expensive.

Toughened and Laminated Picture Glass

Toughened glass is quite straight forward and I don’t think it needs much explanation.  What you might not know though is that when it’s broken it disintegrates into small granular particles.

Laminated glass is the same strength as plain glass but has a plastic interlayer.  It can come with UV protection.  You often see this type of glass used on table tops or shop counter tops for example.

Plastic Glass

Usually seen on Clip Frames you can order what is termed as “plastic glass” from a Framer.  The lowest quality is Styrene, but it might not be as cheap as you think.  Not all Framers have the ability to cut it on-site.  This means that they may have to order it in cut to size, which pushes up the price.

If you are going to have plastic for safety reasons or because you want to make a large picture more lightweight, I would recommend you go for the best quality you can afford.  You can order Acrylic that is scratch resistant, reduced static and comes with UV protection, so acts more like glass.

Conservation Glass

I’m applying the term conservation glass to anything that is top grade.  There are many different types and manufacturers.  If I had my way, everything would have this glass!  Once you see the difference up against other glass, there is no contest.

Museum quality glass gives you a “true view” of your picture.  Sometimes, it’s almost like there is no glass on the picture at all.  You can get different levels of UV protection up to 99%.  The clarity of your image is superb.  It also usually applies a high level of reflection control so as not to spoil your viewing of a picture.  You’ll find this grade of glass in Museums and top Galleries.

There’s a lot of techy talk you can delve into about this type of glass if you’ve got an hour to spare!

How To: Guide on framing photography – Part 4

General framing materials to use and conservation considerations

To be honest, these days most good framers will use the minimum standard conservation materials and practices.  My personal opinion is that it’s good practice to do so.

The term “conservation” can mean many things to many people but there are different levels of conservation and it doesn’t always have to be really expensive.  It really does depend on the piece.

A Framer would normally make recommendations and it is your choice whether or not to follow those.  Usually they will explain why they have made these recommendations, but if not, just ask!

Our framing shop, like many others, uses what is termed as “minimum conservation practices and materials” as standard.  This means that we apply the basic rule when it comes to “conservation” in everything, whether it’s a limited edition print or your child’s first picture.  The basic rule is: don’t let anything that might cause damage, touch the actual image showing.

When you bring a piece in for professional framing, it is assumed that you have brought it in because you want it done properly, thus the basic “conservation” rule will be applied.  However, we do understand that in some cases budgets do come in to play.  We can only strongly make recommendations to customers, ultimately it is their decision.

Depending on the piece and value of it, the rules vary after the basic one.  For example, if it’s a 100 year old Tapestry, apart from glass and other material considerations, whatever is done to the piece should be able to be reversed (i.e. return to its original state).

With modern Photography this is usually different because it can normally be re-printed and because of the differing qualities of inks and papers other factors apply.

If it’s an old Photograph though, there are steps that can be taken.  This can include all manner of options including taking it to a Paper Conserver who would normally be able to restore the actual original (up to a point).  This is a whole different kettle of fish and personally unless you are a qualified Paper Conserver as well as a Picture Framer, this should be handed to a professional.

Just as a matter of point, this is a bug bear of mine, people who take on work they don’t know how to do and potentially making the situation worse.  By all means take it in for “consideration” but don’t touch it if you are unsure.  As framers we would normally have the suitable and trusted contacts to use in this situation.  But please make sure that you are clear to the customer what you intend to do and how much it will cost.  Also make it clear that the piece will be going off the premises.

Right, moving on then …

So where do I start?

In my opinion there are a couple of basic rules when framing photography in particular.  They are; don’t allow the glass to lay straight onto the photo and please don’t just go for black, pale wood or aluminium every single time (unless the photo really lends itself to any of those that is!).

OK, so the latter is your choice, but there really is some lack of imagination when it comes to framing photography.  It doesn’t have to be a bold outlandish change, sometimes it might just take a very subtle change in tone or finish to give it a different feel.  For example, if you really have to have black, you might consider a “black wash” style frame.  This could just be a little softer than the sometimes heavy block of black surround.

Sometimes, the photo really lends itself to, say, Black.  But there are all sorts of different styles, shapes and finishes when it comes to Black.  Instead of just going for the obligatory melamine type look, why not look at a contemporary painted black finish or a deep style frame?

Framing photography can be quite hard to get right actually especially colour photography.  Then, if you start looking at black and white photographs, quite often they are not strictly black and white in tone.  Some are softer, some have a grey hue, some have creamy hues, and then there’s Sepia … and what about subject matter e.g. wildlife, abstract etc…Anyway, I digress!

NOTE: I have included some photos of work framed here and at the bottom.  I really apologise for the quality but usually the pieces are flying out the door at the time, so it’s a quick snap!  You should be able to click on the photo’s to enlarge.

The photograph’s below were a pair.  They could have looked quite stark and cold with a white mount and black frame.  If you look at the first photograph closely, the Sun produces a warm glow over the cold landscape, which we have reflected in the mount.  The frame we chose is a dark brown, contemporary frame, it also has lighter brown flecks in it (slightly distressed frame).  The frame picks up on the colours in tree bark and branches.


In this photograph below, the same toning was applied to branches.  The mount was already in black when it arrived, which actually worked well as there were some really dark shadows in the picture.

More examples at the bottom …

So, what’s wrong with the glass laying straight onto the photo?

Depending on what inks or paper have been used, or whether it’s glossy or matt etc. There is a risk that your photo could stick to the glass.  This can look unsightly or if you go to have it reframed and you want to change the glass, you might have to get it re-printed.  There is also the problem of glass causing brown marks on your photo’s (called foxing), you see this quite often on old photos.

This can happen to any paper that’s against glass.  There are a number of reasons why this happens including condensation and the acid in the glass eroding onto the picture (a bit like rusting).

So, what should I do to stop this then?

There are two ways of overcoming this problem.  The first is to put a mount (acid free of course) onto the photo (a card border).  In this situation a mount is used both as a practical and aesthetic solution.  As standard we prefer to use the Conservation White Core range.  It comes in a great variety of colours.

Once again, there are different grades of “conservation” mountboard and many different manufacturers. Depending on the piece we also use Museum Cotton Board, which is 100% museum quality.  Of course, costs will differ!

Secondly, if the photo doesn’t lend itself to having a mount, then you could use a slip.  This does the same job of keeping the glass away from the photo plus it can look really effective.  A slip can come in many forms.  Most commonly, we make wooden slips or slips from mountboard.  It’s also good if you want to keep the overall size of the photo under control.

I know the picture below, isn’t a photo, but it’s a good example of a slip in use.  This piece would  have lost it’s simplicity by adding in a mount.  The slip on the inside of the frame is  made from mountboard and is matched to the colour of the paper.

The print below is another example.  In this case there is a deep slip (if you look hard!). The slip is wooden and matches the frame (they are both plain Ash, then hand stained to tone in with the picture). Once again, adding in a mount could have added complication to the picture.

Here it is again in full view…

 Tape that!

I love it when a customer comes in and asks to buy a roll of tape from us, the look on their faces when we tell them the cost is amazing!  This is an important point actually, and it sort of gives you an insight into why framing costs what it does when it’s done professionally.

We don’t use Masking tape (or Sellotape for that matter!) to secure a picture to a mount or board.  We use a PH Neutral tape, once again it’s about not using damaging materials directly on your image.  I wish everyone knew all this, because once you get down to the details of picture framing, it goes some way to making people understand what’s involved and therefore why we charge for our skills and services.  Oh dear, I’m really on one today!

Acid free backing baby

Yeah, ok not very rock and roll but once again the rule applied is that any materials directly in contact with the image should be acid free.  This should include what lies on the back of an image.

Yes, you guessed it, once again there are many schools of thought and materials available to back your pictures.

For protection, the finished back that shows, in my opinion needs to be quite sturdy, so we tend to use MDF or Art Back.  It’s very important to note that we always use an acid free barrier board in-between the picture and the back.

Glass and Plastic

OK, so, if you have a fine art photograph, limited edition or just a photo that you think is worth conserving.  Then you also have to consider the grade of glass to use.

There are all sorts of options here including whether or not to use plastic on large pictures.  Rather than repeat myself, I have previously written an explanation on the difference between plain and non-reflective glass.

Mostly, people tend to go for one or the other on photo’s, but there are times when you need to consider it further.

Glass comes in lots of grades right up to museum quality glass which is the highest protection you can buy.  Then, it comes with a high percentage of UV protection and depending on which make you get, it can look as if there is no glass on it at all!  We use a lot of this type of glass.

I’m not going to go into a full explanation of the grades of glass here as I am intending to write a separate blog on this.

Glass also comes in different thicknesses.  If your piece is large or long and thin, you will need to use a thicker glass, otherwise there is a high risk of it cracking.  Yes, unfortunately this will push the price up to!

Contrary to popular belief, what is termed as “plastic glass” can actually be more expensive than you think, mainly because you are having to get it specially cut.  Quite often the usual framing equipment is unable to cope with cutting this material, so it may have to ordered in, already cut to size.

It can be a great option for large pictures as it obviously makes it a lot lighter and easier to handle.  There are still grades to consider here though.

The lowest and cheapest grade would be a Styrene “plastic glass” but this is easily scuffed and scratched and can be a nightmare if you want to clean it.

If you want something of better quality, go for a scratch resistant Acrylic “plastic glass” with UV protection.

I would apply the same rules when keeping the plastic away from the actual image, but I’m not 100% sure of the official line on this.

So, hopefully this gives you an idea and basic understanding of what is available in terms of the process and materials when framing photography or other artwork.  It is key to remember though, that each photo or piece is individual and therefore costs will differ.  I’m sure it’ll at least give you the ability to ask relevant questions.

The tones in the photograph below were quite silvery / grey.  They wanted to have a frame that looked distressed and slightly on the vintage side rather than ultra modern.  The black mount brings some drama, and we’ve used a white core to give it a crisp white line  on the inside of the mount.  The frame is a distressed silver grey.

Same principal on this photo but with a different frame, my camera has taken this in a bad light with an orangey hue, so below I have a close up of the frame chevron.

A neutral mount with a plain Ash wood which has been hand stained in Walnut, it matched in the colour of the Otters.  Plain woods are great with wildlife subject matters.

This black and white photo had quite creamy soft tones as well as silvery greys.  We used a double mount, neutral on the outside and sharp black just showing on the inside to give it some punch.  Quite a large outter border gives it some space from the frame.  This frame is a distressed silver with brush stroke type finish (silvery grey) on the outside and a distressed cream light gold flecks on the inside to pick up on all the tones. 

How To: Guide on framing photography – Part 3

Common problems and how to rectify them including dry mounting and other techniques

There’s obviously going to be a cross over here, so to reduce the risk of repeating myself, it may be worth reading my previous blogs first (Introduction & Part 2).

As Framers, generally, the biggest problems we get are: photographic paper cockling, finger marks on the prints and damage, such as creases in the photo.  Some of these problems can be sorted out at the framing point and some just can’t (i.e. a re-print will be needed).

I’m sure there are huge amounts of hints, tips and processes and some methods will be preferred by different Framers.  The key thing to remember is that as long as you know what is available, you can make a pretty informed decision.  Normally, your Framer will go through options with you and guide you to your decision, based on the type of photograph you have brought in.

In the beginning ….

So, you get this lovely photograph printed whether it’s by a dedicated printing company, your photographer has got it printed for you or you’ve printed off an amazing blown up holiday snap from home.  You take it to be framed (obviously taking good care of it, per Photography blog Part 2 ).  So far so good …

You take it to a Picture Framers and they explain that your photo is or might cockle over time (term explained later).  You decide not to go with the optional advice.  The photo is fine at first but over a short or long period of time, it cockles.  Then basically, it looks rubbish and it begins to annoy the hell out of you.

Who’s fault is it?  Well, actually it’s not really anyone’s (although it can be down to quality of paper and inks) and sometimes paper is a funny unpredictable thing but we’ll go into that later.

In an ideal world, getting something mounted onto a fairly robust backing (basically kind of flattened) at the same place that you’ve had the prints done would be great.  It’s much less likely to get damaged that way.  But, unfortunately, that would make photos/prints hard to transport.  So, mostly they are rolled up in a tube for ease.  This is the stuff of nightmares for framers!

What the heck does cockling mean?

Cockling is a term used to describe paper that has “rippled”, gone “wavy” or puckled.  You may have seen in a public place, a poster or photograph that when the light catches it, it looks bumpy.

All paper can cockle and this can happen if the paper hasn’t been treated properly in the very beginning (e.g. a Watercolour artist has not stretched their paper before starting, so when it dries, it cockles or buckles.  I quite like this on Watercolours though, as it gives it a “real” feel.  However, some purists hate it!) or it could be down to the environment it has been stored in.

Paper is very susceptible to the environment, there’s not a great deal you do about this unless you are the British Museum archive rooms or something!  Yes, moisture and temperature can all affect paper of any kind.

Bad mounting practices can sometimes cause cockling too.  For example, if you mount a photo yourself and you’ve a) used a cheap tape and b) taped it all the way around, it’s bound to buckle and recoil … I will talk about mounting techniques at some point in the future!

If something is cockled it is nearly impossible to rectify this by just trying to flatten it out, even with heavy pressure.  Some people make the mistake of thinking that if you put the picture straight against glass (something we wouldn’t recommend anyway) it will sort itself out.  It won’t.  In fact, framing it just like that will not sort the problem out I’m afraid!

So, in an ideal world, the piece should have been treated properly from the outset and the paper and materials should be of good standard.  But we all know that life just isn’t like that, don’t we?  So, we have to find ways around the problems.

Sticky issues …

Another common problem that makes a Framer go grrrrr, is putting sticky labels on the back of photos.  Some “professional” photographers do this to advertise themselves.  Unfortunately, this negates being able to do any kind of pressing with a problem photo.  Quite simply the sticker leaves an “impression” which you can see from the front.  This is also the case if you have written on the back of a photo (e.g. with biro).  Please stop doing it!

So, aside from the sticky situation, how can we sort some of the common problems out?

If you’ve done all the obvious (as discussed previously) then there are four main options for rectifying the issues:

Stretching the paper

This is something that you should only let a professional do!  I can’t stress this enough.  A Paper Conserver is the person you need!  If it’s a sentimental or valuable piece, we would recommend this option.  It’s not as costly as you might think and most Framers will have a Paper Conserver they trust on their contacts list.  Of course in the case of a photograph, it’s probably best to either get it re-printed if there is extensive damage.  Or find someone who can scan & Photoshop it! In the case of an old photographer though, I would leave it.  It’s all part of the charm!

Self Adhesive Board

For photographs or posters that have little monetary value or you think it’s something that you are not going to keep forever, then this can be a cost effective option.

Ideally, this should only be done for photos of a certain size.  It’s one of those jobs that looks easy but there’s a knack to it!  If it gets stuck in the wrong place, you’ve had it!  It basically involves self adhesive board, a roller, patience and a steady hand!  Hmmm, well, I wouldn’t try it!  But a Framer usually has these skills!

Dry Mounting or Hotpress

Quite a few Framers use this method on photography.  Indeed it is an option we also sometimes use.  There are different definitions of this but I’m referring in particular to a machine, manufactured by Hotpress.

It’s a high temperature press, which uses mounting tissue to seal and press the item onto a board (usually mounting board).  It is not recommended for everything and some Framers just don’t like it.  There is a lot of debate about the harshness of this process.  However, it can be very good when used correctly.  We would never recommend it for anything with high value or original (or limited edition) artwork of any kind.

It’s not without it’s problems and some people are adamant it’s a method to be avoided.  If, for example, it’s pressed onto the wrong board it can produce a ripple effect across the picture, which I find can be unsightly.  The bed also has to be kept clean so that dust can’t get trapped in it.  Of course, there is dust in the air, so with any method you could, in theory get a rogue speck!

In my own personal experience, this method can sometimes spoil a nice glossy photo as it the finish seems to lose the lustre somewhat.

Light Jet or Jet Mounting

This is my preferred option.  Hope I’ve got the term right, that’s what I call it anyway!  (I’m checking with my Printer who does this for me, so there may be an update on this!)  Usually, a professional printers will have this or similar equipment.  You can look up on Google on all the techy side, how it works etc.  In my opinion, the finish looks far more professional.

For a start, you can choose your finish.  At a basic level you can choose from glossy, matt, silk or crystal.  This then gives you far more artistic input into the finished framed product.

From a framing point of view, it’s wonderful.  For example, recently, we had a photographic print done in this way and it was so easily handled.  You can touch it, wipe it, polish it, I love it!  It looks good behind glass or you can just have it done as it is and display it that way.  Much more flexibility as far as I’m concerned.

Having popped to the Weston Universities end of year Art Students Show, I noticed how many of them had used this option.  Many had displayed their work, frameless.  Pieces had been mounted onto 5mm foamboard to give it a 3D effect.  Simple and effective (although, I’d prefer a frame with that!).

There are, of course, differences in cost but whichever method you choose, find time to talk it over with your Framer.  If you are not happy with the options given, try another or ask your current Framer to investigate.  We love finding out about things we don’t know of!  After all, us Framers can’t know everything!  We are constantly learning, updating our skills and new methods come along all the time.

Next blog in this series is: General framing materials to use and conservation considerations.

North Somerset Arts Week Article 2011 – Advice for Artists

This has been published on the NSAW website under resources for Artists & will be mentioned in the Newsletter … some of it you may have already read elsewhere on here, but thought I’d have it up on the blog anyway.

Advice and suggestions for framing artwork for arts trails and exhibitions

With another successful NSAW in the bag, time soon turns to the next one!

So, you’ve decided on taking part in an arts week for the first time or you have already taken part before and are unsure about whether or not to bother getting any of your work framed.  It’s not worth it, right?  Well, that’s for you to decide.  In this article, I aim to give you a few options to at least think about.  Hopefully these points will be helpful for future exhibitions or arts trails.

I would like to make clear from the outset though, that if you are taking part as a school or just as an amateur for the experience, then framing is a nice to have, but not an essential.  Let’s not get hung up on it (no pun intended!).  Most people viewing will understand the difference between people who are doing something as a hobby or semi-serious/ starting out and those that would like to make some sort of living out of it.

But first, I’m going to get my little moan out of the way!  If you are already a reader of my framing fairy blogs, you will have noticed that this subject can get me a bit hot under the collar.  But I’m not moaning for moaning sake, hopefully what I’m trying to do, is to help you sell more work!

When wondering around galleries and exhibitions, I naturally can’t help looking at the framing, it becomes a bit of an annoying habit of mine!

Unfortunately, I constantly get disappointed when I see dirty mounts with overcuts or shoddy frames with digs and chips in them.  Sometimes the framing is so uninspiring it just sucks the life out of the piece and leaves me cold.  On some, there’s an alien life form going on in there, bits of dust from Mars or debris from the last war … OK I exaggerate, but it’s our job to look closely!

Sometimes the frame just doesn’t suit the picture at all and believe it or not lacks artistic input!  Perhaps they’ve opted for safe “gallery” type frames.  These can be just like the generic ready framed prints you might get in any big chain store or high street chain gallery.  A lack of imagination could put some buyers off.

Sometimes, it becomes obvious to anyone that either the frames have been shunted around from exhibition to exhibition and are looking a bit tired or the artist has brought cheap ready frames to house their amazing work or recycled old frames whether they look good or not.

All too often, I see pieces of art with a high price tag, only to be let down by the surround.  Don’t under estimate your potential buyers, they can be put off by the lack of investment (and I’m not just talking momentary here, I’m talking time and thought).  How can you expect someone to love your work and ultimately pay money for it, if you don’t.  The thought of having to spend out on a re-frame might put them off too.

Now, don’t get me wrong, before you all start shouting at me! It’s an expensive business, framing, especially if you exhibit regularly or you have lots of work to get framed.  Your work might be on sale or return at a gallery.  Or maybe you’re an amateur Artist who doesn’t think their work has any value?  All of which are perfectly understandable!  These are real issues and as framers we should understand the problems our customers face.

There is no doubt that if you bulk purchase a set of chain store ready frames, they may look fantastic at the first exhibition and possibly one or two after that if they are kept well.  But what is it doing to your artwork and how about the longevity of the frame when the customer takes it home?  These days it’s not just all about the artwork, people want value for money too.

More often than not, if you’ve invested time and thought into your framing, it helps sell your work.  Just like when you dress a property to sell it, it can help a buyer visualise it in their home and they are more likely to buy it.

You are selling your vision to them.  Wouldn’t you be annoyed if you’d sold a print to someone, and then later found out they’ve chosen a frame that just kills your precious work?  All that time, emotion and inspiration that you put into the piece, how could they!

So, what to do then?  Well, there isn’t a one size fits all, and not everyone will like the suggestions, but you could consider the following:

  • Talk to your Framer!  Establish a good relationship with them.  A good Framer (in my opinion), will spend time with you talking about framing options and will take your comments and input on board.  Not just about colour and style but about protecting your work (if applicable).  It helps if they are in tune with you.  If one isn’t, try another.  They see lots of different kinds of work and should be able to add some valuable input.
  • But you must work together to communicate ideas.  Earlier this year, we had a classic example of this.  An Artist, who loved the framing of their work, loved the imagination and creative input but kept bringing back one or two to change the way some were mounted.  It was getting quite frustrating, as these pieces looked stunning in our eyes and we just couldn’t understand what the problem was.  Finally, the Framer came out with it.  It turns out that there was a particular section on some of the pictures that they just didn’t like but hadn’t explained this to us.  As soon as we were shown, we could see it from their point of view immediately! Problem solved!  Harmony restored.
  • Ask for different budget options.  For example, if you are confident that you can do a professional job of the finishing yourself and you have the time (chasing those little bits of dust, making sure the glass is spotless – which isn’t as easy as you think if you are extremely vigilant!).  Then you may be able to reduce the price by getting good quality frames, made to measure, that go with your work.  The cost is reduced by you doing part of the work.  But be careful of this, it has to be a professional finish & this option can sometimes be a false economy!  Some of the cost of framing is of course attributed to the labour for good reason!
  • Perhaps choose a frame that you can “tart up” for example a natural wood frame can be sanded down, re-stained or varnished (again being careful to get a good finish) or a black painted frame, that you can “touch up” could also be a good option.  These are great options if you have pieces of work that are similar to each other in colour and style as the frame could possibly go with those too.  I can’t stress enough how this needs to be finished properly and it will take you time and effort!  (Bear in mind that your time should also be included in the cost of your finished piece, weigh this up against the cost of getting a framer to do the work for you).
  • If you have no option but to go the cheap ready frame route.  Perhaps, you could get part of your work done professionally?  How about, buying a frame that is bigger than you need and getting a Framer to cut a mount to suit/fit the work and/or do the fitting and finishing of the frame?
  • Or what about just getting pieces mounted?  This way, you show that your work is worth something.  It’s neat and tidy, well presented and the buyer can then take it to be framed themselves at a later date.  This could be a very cost effective option.
  • Or you could always get one or two done to show how it could look framed.  This could show off your work and you could offer a price with it framed or unframed.
  • If you choose to get the whole thing done professionally (the best option – not that I’m biased at all!) you can make sure that you cover your costs by incorporating it into the overall selling price.  Yes, there is always a risk that someone won’t like the frame but you can’t cater for everyone.

On another point, quite often we have found that the framing or re-framing of an existing piece that just hasn’t sold previously, could make it more likely to sell.

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that any of these options will make your work sell.  There may also be other answers to these problems, but I think that’s enough to be going on with!

My best advice would be to communicate with your potential buyers at exhibitions and shows (and of course online!), but also to talk to other artists, galleries and picture framers to get an all round view.

How to: guide to framing photography – part 2

In this blog: a word about photographic papers and inks in relation to framing.  A guide on how to take care of your photographs before they come in for framing

Today, it’s a mine field when considering framing materials and techniques.  There are so many options, conflicting information and differing opinions!  My primary advice would be to gather as much advice, research as far as you can and don’t rush into anything!  At some point you will have to put your trust in someone!  Even within the framing industry the “experts” can disagree.

With home printing abundant, it has become more accessible and affordable.  Whilst this is great, it can present the framing industry, professional printers and photographers with big problems in terms of quality and handling.

A word about photographic prints and inks

It is often hard for us to tell, what kind of paper it has been printed on or which inks have been used.  For a start, I’m not a photographer or a printer.  Paper of any kind is extremely unpredictable and susceptible to the environment (e.g. moisture and other conditions).

Many inks are not stable and can easily be smudged or damaged.  The other day we were working on something that had been printed from home and it was a nightmare to work with.  The inks were wrong for the paper and wouldn’t dry, even weeks later.

I’m sure professional printers will agree that it makes it very difficult to make people understand the difference in quality.  If you are wanting to keep a picture safe that holds special memories, it’s important to look at your options.

As I say many times over on this blog, not every framing job is going to warrant the same levels of framing.  We understand about budgets, but it is frustrating at times!

We get photographs printed up for our own examples at exhibitions and we spend quite a bit of money getting it right (and that’s before we even think about the framing side!).

I had a mind blowing conversation with a fine art printer the other day in Bristol about the type of paper he would recommend.  Fascinating!

So, unless your photo has no value whatsoever (in which case you probably would buy a ready made frame anyway), it’s worth thinking about the materials.

Taking care of your photo’s before getting them framed

This is such a common problem that Framers have to do deal with.  This applies to all pictures actually not just photography.

The most common nightmares are:

  • Rolled up pictures in a tube or otherwise

Bain of a Framers life I’m afraid!  It’s a contradiction really because it’s the best way to keep a picture safe especially when storing or posting.  The problem usually comes when you come to get them out of the tubes and unravel them.

Quite often even if you are extra careful, the picture can get damaged or creased when you are rolling or taking it out.  There are ways that you can minimise this happening.

Don’t use your fingers to pull the picture out of a tube, shake it out instead (there is a knack to this).  Of course, the Framer will need to look at the picture, to measure it and for you both to choose a suitable frame, so take care when flattening it out on the table for viewing.

I’m sure someone will shout out, there is some sort of gadget for this, but to be honest we’ve tried quite a few things and talked to other framers about this, we all seem to have the same problems.

Some of the damage can be “ironed out” with dry mounting or other methods (more on this in the next blog) but some are unable to be rectified.  Sometimes the damage can be made worse by using some flattening out methods.

Mostly, people don’t notice they are damaged until we point it out.  Sometimes, it can only be seen in certain lights, but it will show when it’s up on the wall.

  • Finger Prints

You would be surprised how many lovely glossy newly printed photo’s come in with big finger prints over them.  Please make sure you handle them with care or with cotton gloves.

Again, normally what happens is, you can only see them in certain lights and that light is bound to be when you put it up on your wall, it will glare at you forever!  Personally, we won’t try to get any marks off as it could end up damaging your print further.  This goes back to the not knowing which inks and paper have been used.

  • General

It may sound obvious but whatever or however you decide to store your item, just handle and transport it with care.  It may save you money in the long run.

By the by, in writing this blog and it being the Eurovision Song Contest today, I now can’t get Bucks Fizzes song “the camera never lies” out of my head.  It’s going to be a long long day …

Next blog – How To: Guide on framing photography – Part 3

Note: This article is meant as a general guide and the opinions and procedures are my own.  For help on a specific item, talk to your local picture framer or seek further clarification from the Fine Art Trade Guild.

How to: frame photography – an introduction

As framers, we get asked a lot about the best way to frame photography.  It’s a funny one, people lump it into one, but there are so many different types of papers and styles.

In my opinion, Photography is still not taken as seriously as it should be in terms of conservation or as an art form in its own right.  I get very hot under the collar when people think of photography as throw away.

It can sometimes be seen as having no value just because it can be re-printed (but of course so can art in the form of a Giclee print!).  It is often said that because of digital cameras, there is no artistic skill involved, but it’s just a tool, a medium like any other art form.

People are generally more creative these days in terms of the way their treasured family, friends, pets and life events are photographed.  Whether it’s in a studio or out on location.  A photo shoot is a treasured memory for all involved.  If you’ve spent a lot of money and invested time in getting these done, then due consideration should be taken to framing these images.

Some Photographers offer great and professional framing options.  But shop around for advice and ideas first.  Sometimes, the choices and the advice can be limited.  Photographers are not picture framers (unless they are of course, then that is entirely different!).  Some Photographer’s work with other picture framers which is a great idea and can work really well.  But be careful of high handling costs!  This is certainly not true for all, but just take a little time to make sure you are absolutely happy.

Of course, not every photo will warrant the highest level of framing.  Still, it’s good to armed with the knowledge before you make a decision.

If you just want to get a “throw away” (and I use the term loosely) family snap framed, then of course, you are probably not necessarily going to spend the money getting it done.  There are plenty of stores that can cater to the cheaper or readymade side for this purpose.

Sometimes, though, if you want something better quality but again, you are not worried about the conservation, you could ask your local framer to make a “made to measure ready frame”.  (I cover this in a previous blog).

To me, if you are going to display anything on your walls, then it should look the best it possibly can and therefore is worth taking it to a framer for advice and suggestions.  Take the time to run through the options, digest them, and then make an informed decision.

In this blog, I will aim to cover the relevant considerations bit by bit, from your regular school/university photo type framing, up to the professional & fine art type framing.

As an amateur photographer myself, I fully understand what a mine field this can be.  These days there are so many factors to consider when framing photographs.  With so many people being able to print off their work from home printers and more access to affordable equipment for amateur  photographers, is no wonder it all gets a bit hazy.  Then there is the question of conservation for old and new photos and what about low level general protection?

I will aim to deal with each part separately, hopefully answering common questions at all stages.  I have broken it down as follows:

  1. A word about photographic papers and inks in relation to framing.  A guide on how to take care of your photographs before they come in for framing.
  2. Common problems and how to rectify them including dry mounting and other techniques.
  3. General framing materials to use and conservation considerations.
  4. How to attach a photograph correctly to a mount and why we use a mount or slip when framing photography.
  5. Considerations when mounting multiple photographs.
  6. Creative and contemporary ideas.
  7. Framing large and / or panoramic photographs.

The above should help you whether you are a professional photographer, camera club member, student or just want to get something nicely framed for your home.