How to Custom Frame Artwork

Framing artwork can involve many more decisions than framing a photograph or poster. From original oil paintings and watercolours, through to limited edition prints, you don’t want a frame that not only enhances the piece, but also provides more protection to preserve the piece and its value.

Framing a photograph, poster, or regular digital print can easily be done using an online custom framing service where you choose from a limited number of frame styles and matboards. But custom framing artwork is best done by visiting a framing store and getting professional advice from framing specialists. If you can, take the artwork with you, so the framing specialist can check all the dimensions, and also see what material it is painted or printed on. For paintings, they can also see whether the canvas needs to be stretched before framing. And while they will give you great advice, they will want your input too.

The Actual Frame

Online custom framing usually limits your choices to a few frame styles and sizes. But visiting a framing store, you will see that the range of frame styles and frame materials are far greater. And the frame can be made up in almost any size. A good framing specialist will select a few styles and materials that they know will complement the piece. You can help by telling them what your budget is, and having photographs of the wall and room you want to hang the piece in. If you can, measure the width, depth, and height of the room, and have a swatch of the wall colour with you. It is more important for the frame to complement the artwork than it is for it to match any frames you already have hanging. But it should still work well with the rest of the room.


Matboards—or mats—serve a dual purpose. If using glass or Plexiglas, the matboard will keep the glass from touching the artwork. Matboards also work with the frame to enhance the artwork but aren’t always needed. Your framing specialist will advise whether a matboard is needed, and help you decide on colours, style, and material. Sometimes a single mat is all that is needed, but multiple and step mats work even better for some artwork. Below is a list of matboard materials to choose from.


The most common matboard material is paperboard. It is made from acid-neutralised wood pulp and is suitable for use with photographs and low- to mid-range artwork.

Rag Mats

Made from a cotton rag core with a backing paper, rag mats are acid-free. Like paperboard, they are not suitable for high-value artwork but can be used for photographs and watercolours.

Archival Mat Board

Also known as conservation mats, these are more expensive and most suited to high-value artwork that needs a high level of preservation.

Types of Glass for Framing Artwork

As with matboards, not all artwork needs to be covered with glass when framed. Acrylic and oil paintings are best left uncovered so they can breathe as they cure. Your framing specialist will offer the best advice on this, while also advising on which type of glass to use.

Conservation Clear Glass

While not as reflective as plate glass, conservation clear glass is still reflective. It does block up to 99 percent of UV rays but is also more expensive than plate glass.

Museum Glass

Recommended for high-value pieces, Museum glass is also the most expensive option. In addition to blocking up to 99 percent of UV rays, Museum glass is also non-reflective, leaving your artwork always perfectly visible.


If you’ve just spent a considerable amount of money on a new artwork, don’t spoil it with a frame that does nothing to enhance the piece. Speak to a professional framer for the best advice on how to frame the piece, and whether or not a higher level of protection is needed.

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