Quality picture framing is all about three P's---preservation, proportion, and presentation. The goal is to design the elements of the artwork and framing so they create a safe and complimentary presentation. The artwork, mats and frame should be a coordinated presentation with the mats and frame playing supporting roles. The artwork should always be the central focus.
Preservation in Matting and Framing - The frame is intended to provide a setting for the artwork and to help integrate it into the interior room environment. The matting both enhances this presentation and creates an air space to further protect the image. Because it keeps the glass away from the surface of the art, matting reduces the risk of damage due to excess humidity, condensation, and the associated issues of mold, mildew and deterioration.
The quality of the mat board is an important consideration—any valuable artwork, diploma, or document of value or importance should be matted using a conservation quality board (alpha cellulose or rag) to assure safe preservation. A basic acid-free buffered mat board is only suitable for inexpensive decorative pieces, and is not a proper choice for art or documents where preservation counts. For valuable art, especially if it is placed in proximity to sunlight or bright interior lighting, selecting UV protective glass is important to protect against color changes or fading.
Proportion Counts – The intent of a well-designed frame is to draw the viewer’s eye to the art or document to be showcased. To accomplish this, there must be a balance between the visual weight of the frame, the matting, and the art itself. In general, the larger the art, the wider the frame; however, the most important consideration is choosing a complimentary moulding style that enhances the overall presentation. Mat borders are typically two-and-one-half to four inches wide, and increase with the size of the art to be framed.
Sometimes a small art piece may be showcased by placing it in a very wide mat or using a substantial frame moulding. In general, however, choosing matting that is overly wide or distracting in color or design overwhelms your intended centerpiece—the art itself. By contrast, choosing very narrow mats may leave the artwork looking unsupported. This is a common mistake that consumers make—seeking a thin mat on this assumption it will reduce costs. While you may save a few dollars by making the overall frame a few inches smaller, the overall effect will be dramatically stronger with a well-proportioned mat and frame design. If you are investing in professional framing, trust your consultant’s experience and guidance, or seek a framer who has visualization software (such as "Wizard") so you can “preview” your design on a computer before you buy.
Presentation and Color in Design - A proper framing job enhances a work of art, whereas poorly proportioned or distracting framing and matting detracts from even the most beautiful piece. Both the frame and the mats should play off the tones and style of the artwork being framed. In general, it is best to use complimentary subdued colors, avoiding bright tones that compete with the intended focus. If you want a splash of more intense color, typically this works best as an accent treatment—such as an inner mat—that helps to draw the eye inward without overwhelming the art itself. For added drama or richness, textured matting (suede, linen, grass cloth or other fabrics) may be chosen to add richness and visual interest. Special effects such as v-grooves or artistic matting cutouts are specialty options that can be chosen to accentuate a theme or compliment your subject matter.
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