I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist and art director
who can take projects start to finish in a variety of styles.

Good designs sell –
my designs sell out!

Friday, September 21, 2012


I can walk past waist-high messes without batting an eye, but a crooked picture makes me anxious for a chance to straighten it.  I do it when nobody’s looking because I don’t want anyone to feel bad about their crooked pictures, or maybe I don’t want anybody to know I’m like “Rain Man” about such things.  In a disordered world, I look for symmetry and consistency when I feel stressed.  I guess that’s why I make patterns as a meditation.

It also makes me good at framing, which I did recently for a friend.  I was glad to do it because her husband died a while back, and he was a tremendous photographer.  It makes my heart happy to see his life’s work hanging on walls instead of hiding in boxes.  It made me even happier when my friend had a party and more people got to see Geof’s work. 

I usually think of framing as a necessary evil of creating.  It’s just something you do, like painting walls.  I’m conscientious about it; I just don’t expect anybody to notice, and it never occurs to me that someone else might find it hard to do.  As a result, I thought I’d give some tips…

Standard-sized frames are cheaper than custom-made frames.  Save money by making your art or photos adapt to the frame.  Garage sales and thrift stores are cheaper yet.  I like these because I can study odd frames for inspirations about what to put in them and make the art to match.

Cutting your own mats saves money too.  With a little initial investment, a compact mat cutter will pay for itself.  Mats keep the glass from touching the image and give your eyes a rest before the frame, plus, the color of the mat can complement the image.  Buy acid-free mat board.  Think about the color of the room and the color of the image when choosing your mat board.  If you’re really unsure what works, white, black, gray, or beige are always safe.

Visualize how much space you need around the image before the edge of the frame.  11” x 14” frames usually get about 2” around the image.  18” x 24” frames usually get about 3”.  I lay the mat board on the table, put the frame over it, then the art/photo over that to get an idea of how it will look when it’s all put together.

If you buy a mat cutter, I’m pretty sure it will give instructions on how to use it.  In addition, I find it helpful to put a piece of scrap mat board under the mat I’m cutting.  This makes for a cleaner cut and prevents tearing.  I test my measurements in pencil before cutting, and I change my blade often.  Yucky cuts are hard to fix, though I have used an X-acto knife and/or sandpaper for minor repairs.

Wash both sides of the glass and check for cat/dog hair before finishing up.  You can use glazing points or small nails from the hardware store to hold everything together on garage sale frames.  Be consistent when putting on the hardware for hanging on the frames, especially if you’re framing a series that will be hung together.

It makes me crazy that people will spend as much, or more, on framing than they will for art.  If you save money by doing it yourself, you’ll end up with more money for creating – and if you’re not an artist, it gives you more money to support the arts!


  1. Framing seems exact and mathematical in nature to me, so I have a natural aversion to it! But these tips are GREAT! (I learned the one about making your art a standard size the hard way when I went to frame the REALLY big piece currently hanging in my living room!)
    Lovely pattern, and I'm a big fan of orange, so this one was an immediate 'like!' when I saw it!

  2. Hi Linda I really agree about wonky pictures...I can't leave them alone either. Great tips re framing, I agree that a neat frame just makes a picture. Love your pattern.
    Happy weekend,
    Jane x

  3. Now I can see why you excel at including symmetry in your designs! (which I totally suck at! LOL).

    Thanks so much for the tips on framing, Linda. Now I will remember to wash, wash, wash BOTH sides before finishing up! I always seem to find something stuck on the inside of the glass after I'm done. So frustrating! :D

  4. My canvases are always hung on the stretcher bars without a frame. An old friend once told me that it didn't matter - you could pin stuff to the wall as long as it was up for people to see. Still, for the effect, I agree there most art deserves and needs a frame for that finished touch. Nice art Linda!

  5. Just because I can give advice doesn't mean I always follow it. I've got a big, non-standard painting in my living room and have framed a lot of dog hair. Learning through experience, right? A cheap tip for canvas is to use rough lathe wood, which I think is about 1 1/2" wide. Just nail it on the sides of the canvas with about 1/4" overhang and saw the ends square to the abutting piece on the next side. If you really want to be fancy, you can sand and paint it, but I hardly ever go that far :) Thanks for the comments!

  6. I tend to be a symmetrical person, too; which is why I have a hard time with the breast stroke. I want to move my arms and legs at the same time. I'm told that doesn't work. :)

    You explained the framing and matting really well. It makes me want one of those contraptions!

    I like your "non-symmetrical" creation. It looks like it's been made with gift wrapping tissue.

  7. I have done a lot of framing over the years, and yes, as you say, it's not difficult. But like you, I'll like to have it well done (and I don't like crooked pictures either - although I never thought about myself as Rain Man. Which may say more about me than I though...). For a little different style with the mat board, it can sometimes work beautifully with a wider board on the bottom edge. You last point I am totally in agreement with. Don't spend a lot of money on framing and hardly anything on the art itself. The other way around please!

  8. What a great idea about finding frames at garage sales! I've got piles of drawings all over and I think to myself I must frame some and try to do something with it, but it seems like such a huge task. These really are great tips! Might inspire me to do some framing once I'm able to gather the right tools.

  9. I recommend both: DYI framing and professional framing. But you need to be fussy about framing because it can make or break a painting or drawing.
    Linda, most people are so terribly afraid to clean a frame. They accept layers of dust on frames afraid to damage them. Maybe you could do a post with wise words about that too.
    Cheers, Paula

  10. It never occured to me that someone might be afraid to clean a frame, but now that you've said it Paula, I bet you're right about that.

    Otto's right about adding a bit extra to the bottom side of the mat. That's the way I learned to do it because it helps ground the image. I was just trying to keep the instructions simple enough that people don't feel intimidated to try doing it for themselves.

    Sorry for the delay in replying to everyone this week. I've been internet-impaired, but plan on getting back to normal soon. Thanks for the comments!

  11. sometimes though, I like the tension a crooked painting adds to an environment... it all depends on what you want to communicate.
    Maybe there's some justification for framing some artwork crooked too.

  12. I can see the value of framing something crooked once in a while, but maybe I'm too OCD to let the frame hang crooked? :)