Picture frames often gets called other names, like the ‘wood’, the ‘edgings’, the ‘outside’ or what have you. These are typically made of a machined, moulded, painted, foiled, carved or otherwise decorated and embellished, wood, MDF, PVC, PS or plastic moulding or metal extrusion consisting of ( most commonly ) four, cut-to-size sections, either glued and joined or assembled together.
More than a mere mechanical receptacle, a picture frame also provides the architectural and decorative element for the art. Picture frames can be made in most standard and non-standard sizes and shapes and come in an enormous variety of widths, thicknesses, contours, finishes, shapes, styles and colours to enhance any decorative or collectible artwork.
For millennia, since the times of the Pharaohs and Romans, gold and silver finishes were the most sought-after finishes to be applied to enhance the appearance of picture frames. Later on, wood veneers, both natural and reproduction, were applied to the wood mouldings from which frames are made.
Ebony, Mahogany and Bird’s Eye maples veneered frames were often crafted for the rich and wealthy. Nowadays picture frames have become less than precious furniture and more like disposable, decorating baubles. It thus follows that the woods and materials from which modern picture framing mouldings are now made of, tend to be of the cheapest materials such as pine, MDF composites and extruded plastics.
In picture framing, glazing, means the noun and the verb of covering of artwork such as prints and photographs or other art on paper, with transparent materials. In most cases, this will be a pane of clear, float, picture framing glass to cover, shield and help to protect the artwork from the surrounding environment.
Whatever the type of glazing, it should never touch or come into contact with the artwork. Aside from clear glass, there are several types of glass and plastic glazing including U.V. (ultraviolet) resistant, diffused, non-glare, and anti-reflective.
U.V.filtering glazing is a standard component of conservation framing. It helps to conserve and protect the art from fading by blocking up to 99% of harmful U.V. rays. Clear perspex, or plastic glass, can also be used to glaze artwork as it’s generally lighter than clear glass.
However perspex is expensive to supply with some plastic fabricators charging up to $45 fee just as a cutting charge to set up the panel saw with which cut the plastic sheets. For this reason perspex, while perceived to be cheaper, is not, and picture framers tend to use only with special commission works such as child care centres or aged care facilities where safety concerns override cost considerations. Nevertheless, for general picture framing work, perspex is just seems to be a little too expensive.
This picture frame component is also the one which is the most mis-named. People call it the edge, the surround, the board, the border, the paper frame, the card sleeve, etc. However, its most appropriate name is the mat. Its shape is generally square or rectangular, with bevelled, or 45 deg. edges. Round or oval mats can be cut with special mount or mat-cutters.
A window mat is nearly always placed over and on top of the artwork. The artwork is generally tacked or hinged under the top section. A mat serves as a design element and as a spacer between the art and the glazing.
It is a piece of cardboard, more properly called mat board or mount board, usually of 2 to 4-ply thickness and comes in different colours, and textures. The quality can vary greatly, depending on the manufacturer and price. For archival or conservation framing the mat board should be 100% cotton (rag) or alpha cellulose (lignin-free and buffered).
However for most commercial, non-valuable art such as commercial prints and posters, the much cheaper, white-core, pulp mat-boards are used. Modern pulp mat-boards are much better than the old, acidic mat-boards of 20 or 30 years go. Generally these are ph-neutral, do not ‘burn’ artwork and the core does not yellow with time.
This generic, plural noun includes and encompasses anything that Customers want to be picture framed. Usually it is art on paper such as prints, posters and photos. Not infrequently this can be memorabilia or the picture framing of unusual objects such as hand tools or extremely personal items. It can also be an original watercolour, oil painting, textile, object, or whatever needs to be framed.
The art may be framed simply, with just a backing and plain picture frame, glass and backing board, or multi-matted with special glazing as in the accompanying image. Generally speaking, picture framers charge the same price for paper-borne art, regardless fo what it is.
Thus if it’s a commercial art or reproduction printed on paper, it should cost the same price to be framed. If however the art is an original, like a pencil drawing, charcoal, or a Limited Edition print, then picture framers tend to charge more because better and more expensive materials will be needed.
The choice however, is always left up to the customer. It is not uncommon for customer to have valuable work inexpensively framed. It is uncommon for customers to have inexpensive art framed, unless it has personal significance or it is of sentimental or emotional value.
Most picture framers use 3mm M.D.F. (Medium Density Fibreboard), thick cardboard, foam-board or thin plywood, behind mounted or unmounted artwork to give it a ‘spine’, or ‘back’. This is to add rigidity and also to ‘fill’ the gap between the art and the rear the frame.
The actual backing material choice often will depend on the type of art being framed. For inexpensive, decorative art, MDF will probably be used. For heavier art or objects, plywoods might deployed. For other art, the relatively cleaner foam-boards are likely to be used. This backing is often taped or sealed with Kraft tape to the back of the moulding.
Years ago it was common to close or seal the back of the frame with a dust cover. This is a sheet of tan, thick, ‘Kraft’ paper adhered or glued to the back of the frame to prevent dust and, hopefully, insects from entering the back of the frame. It is not now used as much as it once was.
Some picture framers maintain that this method can actually create, what is in effect a cavity, which affords a desirable living space for spiders, mites, silverfish and other paper-eating darkness-loving insects. For this and other reasons of convenience, many framers prefer to seal the back of the frame by taping it with pressure sensitive, picture framing Kraft tape.
Nowadays most small to medium-size picture frames are cord-stapled. In this method several, pneumatic-driven, steel staples are stapled through a length of curtain cord and into the moulding wood at the back of frames.
For larger and heavier frames, two metal D-Ring hangers screwed to the back of the frame and joined by wire remains the method preferred by many picture framers. The former method is the commonest, being used for inexpensive picture framing.
The latter method is slightly dearer and more time-consuming, and is used for the better artwork and also, in conservation-framing. Either method allows picture frames to be hung on wall picture hooks. The last step in finishing a picture frame is to add at least two or more bumpdots to the bottom section of the frame.
These are generally about 12mm in diameter, made of PVC, plastic or felt. Picture framers will adhere at least two or more of these, self-adhesive, small, square or round felt or rubber pads or dots to the bottom corners of the dust cover or the picture frames.
These bump-ons will stop the frame from touching and marking the wall, helping prevent possible water leaks damage, assist the circulation or air at the back of the frame and also make it a little harder for any wandering insects to crawl inside the back of a frame and nest or fester there.
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