Picture Frames, Picture Framing and Picture Framers' Blog

Welcome to our weblog about picture framers, picture frames and picture framing. It is published and maintained with the goal to share information, knowledge, tips, ideas and opinions about this industry. All posts are grouped in the sections listed below. For help with orders, please visit our Store Help and FAQS page, or use our Contact page.

Our 10 Best Solutions to Your 10 Worst Picture Frames Problems

Everyday life is replete with problems and issues, small medium and big. And so it is with photo framcustomer-relieved-found-picture-frame-solutiones, picture frames, clip frames and just about every other type of frame there is. In this post below we have enumerated a compendium of the top ten annoyances involving and revolving around these useful, but often frustrating, decor essentials. We hope that at least some of the solution proffered herein will be of use to you.

Problem 1: Should I get my print custom framed or do I just put it myself in a ready–made frame? Generally speaking, this will depend on whether the print ( read poster, photograph document or any paper-borne art) to be framed means much to the Customer and whether or not it has any or some sort of intrinsic value, be it financial, historical or other criterion. In addition, if it is a fine art print or a lithograph, serigraph, Limited Edition, signed ... and numbered, remarqued, or is some  way different from common commercial or mechanical reproductions then it is advisable to have it custom framed. For a price estimate of custom picture framing prices please free to use our Picture Framing Prices Estimator.

Custom framing by professional picture framers generally means that the art will be properly framed with good materials thereby prolonging, if not preserving, its original condition and value. On the other hand, if the print or poster in question is inexpensive, an online POD (print-on-demand), a personal laser or inkjet job, and open edition or a readily available commercial reproduction, then an off-the-shelf ready-made picture frame will do fine. In many instances commercial posters are printed in standard sizes such as A3, A4, A2 and A1 which makes it easier and cheaper to shop for ready-made poster frames such as the ones readily available at our online store.

Problem 2:  If I go for custom framing, will I need a mat? Once more this will depend on the nature and value of the art being framed.  This is where the Customer needs to ask him or herself  “does the photograph, or art that I want framed, have any sentimental value to me, such as that which a wedding photograph might have ?”. If affirmative, then yes, a window would both enhance the appearance of the framed art, as well as protecting the emulsion from the glass, since the latter is raised away from the surface of the photograph.  On this subject we suggest reading the following post “Why you should get photos picture framed with a window mat or window mount” which further details the advantages of matting photographs.

Perhaps the salient point in window matting artwork is that, while this does enhance the appearance of the framed art, it can also add around 50% to the cost of an unmated picture frame.  This largely due to the fact that the surface area of the art, the materials used, and the labour involved can increase by half as much.  The last thing to bear in mind is that matting does tend to make a frame bigger than what it seems.  Ergo, if your print or poster just fits the niche or wall space you have in mind, then adding a mat will probably necessitate a décor arrangement rethink.

Problem 3: How will I know what size frame I should get?  This isn’t as much of a problem as it first sounds.  The first thing to do is to measure the print or poster that you want framed. Australia metricated it measurements way back in 1974 so it is quite probable that the art being measured will probably be a metric size. Now then, when measuring a poster or a print, chances are that it might be an A0, A1, A2 A3, A4 or A5 International Standard Size. If so, the centimetres equivalents for these sizes can be found at our Picture Frames and Picture Framing Sizes Information Chart  And if the size isn’t an A size and it’s in Imperial inches, then the same Chart also lists all the common ins. ( inches) sizes with their corresponding metric conversions, both in linear and with surface areas.

May we also proffer some advice when buying both posters and frames online. We believe that it is best that Customers buy the art first, rather than the frame, or frames, first. The reason for this is that while the size of a picture frame is invariably accurate, a POD print is often printer at a near enough size.  For example, you can pretty much take as gospel that the inside size ( frames are always measured on the inside, or the glass size, never on the outside) of an A2 picture frame will be 42x59.4cms, give or take maybe a millimetre or two.  However if a POD print is, say, 40x56cms or 62x44cms then it will be either too small or too large to fit into the print. On that tenor, of measures and measuring,

Customers ought to be aware  how to correctly measure picture frames, photo frames, or any frame for that matter. It’s quite easy to make mistakes when doing so and our page Measuring Picture Frames shows the only, right way to do it:  Thus, the information, so far, should take care of both tasks, how to measure art and how to measure picture frames.

Problem 4 : Why has my print gone all wrinkly and is rippling side the frame?  The short answer to this is: “ It’s because the print hasn’t been stuck down”.  The picture framing vernacular “sticking a print down” means permanently gluing, or mounting down, a print, poster, photo or paper-borne art, to a smooth, flat backing board.  The glue can be applied or rolled with a paint roller ( most common method ) sprayed,  liquefied by a heat process, or with a self-adhesive foamboard.  The latter processes aren’t that common because of the cost of heat tissue, or, self-adhesive foam boards. 

Regardless of the process adopted (wet or dry mounting, pressure sensitive, etc)  the purpose of the mounting is to permanently adhere the entire art to a stiff board.  This “ sticking down” and other picture framing mounting processes are detailed more at: Picture Framing and Mounting  Unless this procedure is taken,  the un-mounted art under the glass will  move, slide, ripple or cockle under the glass.  This will result in that unsightly,  ”wavy”  look one often sees in cheap, second-hand, framed posters at local Sunday markets.

This effect happens because most prints, poster, photos and documents are printed on paper, which is a water-absorbent,  hygroscopic materials.  When paper absorbs water, by way of direct contact, moisture or humidity, it gets bigger, it swells, it no longer stays flat and it deforms, causing the cockles, ripples, or, ” waves”. 

Many Customers think that this undesired appearance will go away when the print is framed and the glass will press the print flat against the frame’s backing board.  Alas, this is unlikely to happen, the print will not permanently stay flat , and it will move, even when pressed against the glass. The only permanent solution to this problem is to glue down, or mount down, the art the “wavy” art to a backing board. However, most professional picture framers will probably decline this task, because, they aren’t able to charge much to do this, or to fix, or customize, ready-made frames. 

More to the point,  they are likely to say that they can’t guarantee what they do will last, because off-the-shelf frames are flimsy, cheaply built and made form the cheapest possible materials.  In addition, picture framers make their money by making custom picture frames and providing full custom picture framing service. 

For these reasons, a custom picture framer won’t be able to help you much with your print cockling under the glass aside from perhaps suggesting making a whole new, custom picture frame.  Some customers try to remedy the cockling themselves by taping the four sides of the print to the backing board thinking that this will help flatten it.  However this has never worked because the untapped surface of the paper is still loose, and it will keep on expanding and contracting  in response to and with ambient temperature changes.  Notwithstanding all heretofore said, the comments and advice herein relate to, and apply to inexpensive, commercial, disposable art and not to valuable, personal, irreplaceable prints or other works of art of value.

Problem 5:   The window mat of my frame is dirty dusty and smudged how do I clean it?  Relax, no need to go out and buy a new window mat, or a mat board sheet, if you’re going to cut one yourself.   In many cases mat board can be kept, maintained or almost restored to its pristine state by deploying a few, simple tricks.  The first one is to remember that, very often,  a matboard is a thick, white, clean paper surface that has to kept clean. 

Taking a couple of precautions such as washing one’s hands prior to handling the board and wearing conservator’s gloves while doing so help a great deal. However if the mat is already soiled, or dirty, washing hand or  gloves won’t help that much, but there are still things one can do. For graphite, lead, pencil and other non-oleous marks or stains it is best not to use the first pencil,  school or pink eraser that comes at hand. 

These eraser are made of poorer materials, cheaper vinyls and abrade prepotently, often leaving smudges, bruises and marks.  Kneadable erasers, on the other hand, are absorbent and have higher quality compositions and are smudge-free, which makes them better erasers .  These can be moulded, shaped, are self-cleaning, and not only clean pencil mistakes, but also can blend charcoal and even lighten pastel hues. 

Another useful tool is a Document Cleaning Pad more detailed featured in this post about cleaning window mats  A last method of resurrecting tired, bruised mats, especially dark mats I stow ripe them with a damp ( not wet ) kitchen sponge. Black window mats, in particular, scuff and bruise easily.  These scuffs often show up a shiny marks which will not clean off or disappear with cleaning.  Gently wiping the affected, scuffed areas in a circular motion, with an ordinary, damp kitchen sponge is often enough to bring a black mat back to its former glory.  This seems to happens because the moist, gentle wipes straighten the up the crushed mat board fibres so that light won’t bounce off and show up a shiny marks.

Problem 6: How should I hang my poster frames?  Appertaining to this subject, we have page titled  Picture Frames Hanging, Help, Advice and Tips  which offers a few ideas on how to do this tricky little task.  Visiting this page should enlighten most Customers and it would not be very useful to duplicate its contents here.  Perhaps the only novel tip that we may add here is that those new-fangled, self-adhesive, nail-less, magic picture hooks some big department stores sell seem to fail more frequently than the old-fashioned, hook-and-nail type.  

Whether this is due to Customers not reading the instructions properly, or buying incorrect weight hooks or other factors, we don’t know.  But we do know that we regularly seem to get 3-4 pictures frames repairs and reglazing jobs a month from picture that have fallen off the wall .  When we quiz the Customers as to what has happened, almost invariably the say that the adhesive hooks failed and came off the walls.  For hanging stretcher-framed oil painting art see one of our previous posts "How do I frame and hang my stretcher-framed oil painting art?"  

Problem 7: I’ve hung my picture frames, but why are these always uneven or crooked?  This is a problem as old as the hills and one we’ve discussed before. To that end please visit our post "Tips in straightening and keeping pictureframes level" Again, it’s not that useful to repeat the same information here except to say that this issue is nearly always fixed by using the nail as shown below:


Problem 8:  My picture frame is up on the wall but why does it stick out so far? When a picture frame hangs out or tilts away too much from its resting wall it’s a sign that it hasn’t been strung at a proper height. The proper stringing height for most picture frames, or photo frames, is about a third, give or take a bit, and as diagrammed below:


Another reason might be that the cord or wire strung at the back of the frame might be too long, shortening it just might work. Generally speaking,  some slack, but not too  much of it, is good for well-balanced stringing, meaning that the picture frame won’t tilt too far forward.  The other cause we sometimes see, of overhanging, is that some Customers use long eyelets, and these cause the cord to tighten further away from the wall.  We generally never fit up eyelets at the back of our  custom picture frames, for that very reason.

Problem 9:  Why does my  picture frame’s glass move around ? This is rarely, if ever, seen in  custom picture frames but it is a common problem with ready-made or off-the-shelf picture frames.  This can due to a variety of reasons.  The frame may not be properly stapled and fitted at the back and-or the glass is undersize,  or the frame has too  much clearance. Taking the frame to a custom picture framer for repairs may not bring much joy. 

Many picture framers refuse to work on ready-made frames because these are often so poorly made that the corners spring or come apart when handled. Unless it is favour for someone we know, we also decline to work on them. We would suggest that this issue isn’t a biggie and, unless contemplating a full custom picture frame re-frame, to leave it alone.  There’s nothing stopping a Customer though, from having a go at this annoyance by inserting spacers between the frame and the glass to take-up the slack. Of course, care must be taken if and when handling the glass as the sharp edges may cut.

Problem  10:  Just noticed that there’s dirt, spots, dust or other specks under the glass, how do I fix that?Again, this particular issue affects much more often off-the-wall picture frames than custom-made frames.  Custom picture framers invariably seal the back of custom frames with either Framers’ Tape, Kraft backing paper, or gummed tape.  They do this to stop flies, gnats, silverfish and other insects or pests from entering the back of unsealed frames and making their home inside.  When these unwanted guests fly, land or creep in between the art, window mat and glass they often die, nest or do their business there.  And even though they maybe tiny, they do leave residues which mark, satin and soil surfaces. 

Household cooking vapours and dust may also enter the back of unsealed frames as well as cigarette smoke and other pollutants.  This why is the rear of any art hung on wall should be sealed, or closed.  Pretty much the only solution to this annoyance is to de-frame the framed dart, clean or replace the affected components and seal the back of the frame.  If this has  happened to a cherished or valuable piece of art, it will be worth to take it to a picture framer for a price quotation.  If this is going on with an inexpensive ready-made frame, do-you-own cleaning would make more sense because of relative costs involved.


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