Some would say a canvas – or even a photograph – is only as valuable as its frame.

While that statement stretches the truth, we can say, with some veracity, that your masterpiece's palette, shading and light are set off to best advantage in a complementary frame.

A printed canvas or a photo on canvas; a watercolor or oil painting; a triptych, a still life...

Whether you have just learned how to draw a poppy in a field or are an expert at portrait drawing, art connoisseurs opine: frames and framing contribute to the aesthetics of any picture or painting and are as much part of specialist art supplies as pencils or a good drawing tablet.

The trouble is, unless you are a carpenter as well as an artist, you may well fear the cost of setting your work into a quality, hand-crafted frame.

Especially because: the bigger the canvas, the higher the price. Still, framing your still lifes is necessary, unless you plan to leave your best pieces rolled up, in a closet.

Framing your work isn't just about giving it the value it deserves. A sturdy frame also protects your sketches, watercolors and photographs.

One of the best ways to set off your art is to mount it. A mount can be either a thick piece of cardboard or a thin piece of wood, inset into the frame, to narrow the viewer's focus onto your work.

You could also use a shadowbox type of frame to give your painting an especial depth. This type of frame works wonders on pastels and watercolors, or any freehand or ink drawing you might have rendered.

Just by these few mentions of various frames, you can see that encasing your art requires the knowledge and talent of an artisan – much as painting a pleasing scene or the human figure does.

And, just as someone learning how to draw must arm himself with colored pencils and an eraser, so a picture framer must have the proper tools to complete his work.

You could say that framing your figure drawing is an art unto itself.

In this article, Superprof specialises in showcasing art by discussing the price of properly displaying any pencil portraits still lingering in your sketchbook

Matting your art give it a narrower focus
The use of a marie-louise gives exclusive focus onto your art. Source: Pixabay Credit: StockSnap

Frames for Paintings or Pencil Drawings

Any artisan, joiner or framer would tell you: you should not frame a charcoal sketch the same way as you would a watercolor.

During your drawing lessons, you drew a lovely line drawing from a one point perspective, and wish to display it to its best advantage in your dining room.

For such a work, you would need a (wooden or metal) frame composed of four mouldings, which would rest on an intermediate frame, or mounting, also called a marie-louise.

By contrast, framing a watercolor would require a beveled mat, otherwise known as a passe-partout, and a glass cover, to protect it from dust or stains.

The passe-partout and marie-louise are meant to provide contrast to your displayed image.

If you have painted a seascape, for example, your matting should not be aquamarine in color, because that shade would feature prominently on your canvas.

An off-white or ivory mount should encase your picture of the turbulent sea.

However, your frame could be aqua colored, which would give special accent to the hue you used to depict the crashing waves.

In these days where you can learn to do anything from the Internet, DIY'ers (do It Yourself-ers) might be tempted to frame their painted canvas themselves.

It is possible, and could be less expensive, but a novice woodworker would obviously not achieve the same rendering as a professional.

And, s/he may go through many pieces of moulding before getting the cuts and setting exactly right.

If you wish to have a custom frame crafted for your artwork, be it a large, costly canvas or a small piece, you should expect a bit of a cash outlay.

Considering the materials involved, the tools and precision, the time to set the frame...

Yes, there would be a certain amount of time to permit the frame to set, as the craftsman most likely used wood glue to join the pieces, at least initially.

Below are some prices to consider as you cast about for your ideal framing solutions:

  • The basic frame would be ideal for posters, watercolors, and some canvases. Depending on size and materials chosen, you will run into a range of fees, from around £20, to over £100.
  • The complete frame includes mounting and glass. Again, depending on size and materials, you may find prices as low as £15, to more than  £100.
  • The shadowbox, a so-called American framing style, gives depth and a sense of remoteness to your art. Such a frame might cost £35 to start.

And then, you may consider different levels of protection for your artwork:

  • Conservation framing ensures the highest level of protection for your masterpiece.
  • Commended framing could be considered a baseline of art protection.
  • Budget framing offers a minimum of protection from dust and stains, as well as economic construction.

In all cases, one must consider the size of piece: the larger the work, the costlier the frame.

Should you have painted an epic a la Jackson Pollock, you may fare better by simply stretching your canvas on an internal frame.

Of course, none of these questions arise should one pose their design on a virtual canvas with your drawing tablet.

If you've painted an epic canvas, you may consider a narrow frame
Large canvasses of modern art generally display well with a narrow frame Source: Pixabay Credit: Piro4D

Determining the Cost of Frames by the Size of the Canvas

Confession time: art merchants are notoriously close-mouthed about any prices relating to their business.

That includes those who are dedicated to the protection and preservation of art by framing and encasing it.

There is a reason behind their seeming obtuseness.

Any custom framing request involves many particulars. What type of materials should the frame consist of: wood? How thick? Painted? Sculpted?

Will you require mounting? A marie-louise or a passe-partout?

Would you like reflective or anti-glare glass covering? Or maybe a coat of acrylic?

While any artisan would be happy to provide you with a quote, the actual price tag would come only after the work is completed.

You could estimate your project cost online.

On several websites, you can enter your design particulars – in other words, specifics needed to showcase your piece, and the application would render you a quote.

Again, only a quote.

We played around with the site Picture Frames Express and found that an 8x10 custom frame, gold leaf with a colored mount and black border, covered by anti-reflective glass, would cost a little over £18.

It only took a few minutes to size and sort the available mouldings by price – low to high, select matting and borders; the type of backing (acid-free), and conservation style framing.

You too can find such websites and outline your preferred frame.

Ornamentation-Based Picture Frame Cost

As you could most likely figure, the desired format and framing mode – or whatever recommendation the professional framer makes, as well as the style and size of the piece will impact the final cost.

Here are some aspects to consider when designing your ideal frame.

The Mouldings

Are you of a Baroque frame of mind, hoping for ostentatious goldleaf around your picture?

Or have you created an Art Deco piece that would best be highlighted by a narrow, black, metal frame?

A wooden frame painted gold, with an ivory colored mount that bears an ebony bevel would certainly cost more than a less ornate showcase, coming in at around £100 for a 40 x 50cm piece.

And, the wider the mouldings, the more costly the frame.

You can estimate a price for framing your artwork online, but you may consider...

One good reason to consult with a professional framer – as opposed to a website, is that s/he would be able to make solid recommendations, maybe put forth ideas you'd not yet considered.

Or that you did not know were possible.

Indeed, as your every brush stroke carries value, so does the expertise of one who showcases art for a living. Just as you choose your brushes carefully, so does he know what tools he needs to make your artwork stand out.

To properly display your drawing techniques, consulting with a woodworker who specialises in intricate design and art may run you more than £200, but the effect on your drawing and painting would be priceless.

The Marie-Louise

You may recall from this article's introduction that a marie-louise is a type of mounting used in framing art, especially for portraits or perspective drawing.

Initially conceived as a way to keep charcoal, pastel  and the different types of pencil off of the frame's protective glass, today these mounts serve as an additional aesthetic element to the overall effect of the artwork.

Imagine Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party without such a mount: such scandalous representation would simply not be possible!

Even if for only a still life drawing, opting for a mount between a drawing and its protective cover would increase its overall value.

Marie-louises also vary in price: the thicker the mounting, the higher the cost.

The Passe-Partout

This mat's profile is clean-cut, regular and with fine detail.

That is why this beveled mount is usually custom-made, to specific dimensions that would complement your art, whether you draw animals or prefer drawing people.

It is important to not confound the two types of mountings.

This mount's beveled edge adds mystique and distinction to whatever depiction it surrounds, be it a graphite pencil rendering of a rain-soaked forest or a realistic drawing of the human face.

The good news is that, should you plan a series of portrait painting, you can order such mountings in bulk, for a lower cost.

Showcasing your art in an ornate frame can be quite costly
Large, ornate frames tend to cost more than smaller, simpler ones Source: Pixabay Credit: Ana Terate

Other Aspects of Framing that Affect Cost

Whether you are into drawing faces or if you draw manga, whether you create three dimensional art: a suitable frame will vary in cost.

Many who are just learning to draw give little consideration to drawing materials or how to display their work.

Just as you made a conscious decision to graduate from doodles to basic drawing by taking an art class, you must also consider the art of framing your art, once mastered.

Never would you see, in any art book or museum, a realistically rendered painting with exquisite shading techniques, encased in an agonised, twisted moulding, with awkward brown and yellow striped matting.

If you are going to draw a rose, you must give it accurate representation – including proper framing.

At the beginning of last century, it became very fashionable to protect and display a portrait in an oval frame.

Many with the means would display their likeness, done in cross hatching or colored pencil, gazing sternly in the parlour, from such a frame.

The portrait would then be handed down, through generations: you may be in possession of one!

A genuine antique oval frame could fetch a hefty sum – more than £350.

If you have just completed a pencil portrait of dear old Gran, you may consider putting her likeness in that antique frame.

If you do not have one but wish to recreate the old-time look, such a custom-made frame may set you back more than a standard rectangular frame would.

Its more intricate design and special cuts – for glass as well as the mouldings is where the extra cost lies.

If you aspire to be a portrait artist – if you have completed a self-portrait, even in caricature, framing your work when complete should be as great a consideration as selecting your drawing tools. Even digital paintings can be printed out and framed, or shared via artist's websites or interactive whiteboards.

Putting your drawing skills to use, whether drawing the human figure or in landscape drawing, requires consideration of your finished work.

As long as you are learning how to draw people, how to draw animals, or even casting about for what to draw!, and maybe dreaming of a career as an illustrator, don't forget to give thought to frame proportions for your masterpiece.

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