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Photo Mat Resources

To Frame Or Not To Frame: Presenting and Preserving Your Work

SUMMARY: Just as packaging plays a vital role in product marketing, so does how you present your artwork. Some images can be marketed unadorned, but more often than not, you can add significant value to your art by adding mats and frames that enhance and protect your work.

Consider framing as an investment--a good frame job will add both monetary and aesthetic value to your art while increasing its lifespan. Itís also likely to increase your sales as many buyers look for artwork that can be bought and displayed with little or no hassle. You might even find that framing can be an extension of the creative process. How a mat and frame enhances--or possibly detracts--from an image might be something you may want to control. And, by selling your work already framed, you know it left your hands displayed in a way that preserves the integrity of the art and properly protected from the elements.

Professional Framing
Some will argue that all mounting, matting, and framing have to be done by a professional. Although framing is meant to enhance a work of art, the wrong frame can really downgrade an otherwise stunning piece of work. There are many factors to consider when completing a frame job like type, size, color, and quality of the mats and frames. For example, a frame thatís too narrow might make a piece look cheap and if itís too wide, it might overwhelm the art. Not only is a professional framer familiar with this and other such nuances, but they have the right tools and experience to help you make decisions on how to best display your art.

If you have a good eye for composition (what artist doesn't) and have done your homework, you can do your own framing for significantly less. One rule of thumb to go by, is that the mat you chose will provide about 80 percent of the final effect and the frame, 20 percent. If you chose mats in standard sizes you can save in framing costs by using standard sized frames that you can pick up practically anywhere. Also, buying mats in bulk in color combinations that would work with several of your images will cut costs. You can also acquire used, framed art at thrift stores, flea markets, garage sales, etc, and repaint and restore the frames. If youíre feeling more ambitious, you can also build your own frames--do an internet search or visit a few chat rooms and get tips from other artists on how they do it, where they get their supplies, and what tools youíll need.

Matted Only
Itís also a good idea to give your customers the choice to buy your art unframed. This lowers the price of the piece--especially if youíre doing custom framing--and will appeal to potential buyers concerned about costs. If youíre selling your work unframed however, youíll always want to have it matted and enclosed in poly bags or shrink--wrap so they can be seen and handled without being damaged. Using standard mat sizes as much as possible will allow your customer to find a frame easily and more inexpensively.

Conservation Quality?
Given a competitive marketplace where price is very important, conservation-quality matting and framing can be cost-prohibitive. Standard mat board is still high quality and generally works for any image that does not have a high value in itself. Conservation mats should be used, however, when your image is an original, a high quality print, a limited edition, or any highly valued work product. If you do choose to use a conservation quality mat, make sure you also use acid-free backing and conservation clear glass that blocks UV rays.

Whether you chose to do it yourself or leave it for the professionals, remember that a successful frame job is one where people remember your work, but not so much the mat or frame. And, the time and money you spend on presenting your art at itís best will bring great satisfaction.

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