So you’ve printed some beautiful enlargements, now how do you take them from print to wall art? Of course you can pay someone to mat and frame your prints for you. But if you’re keen to save a little dough with off the shelf products here’s my guide to doing it right and getting a professional looking finish.
In my opinion a framed print doesn’t look finished without a mat. It’s like wearing suit pants without a belt. So I’m going to talk about three components; the print, the mat, and the frame. I always start from the inside and work my way out, so lets start with the print itself.
Measuring your Print
If you don’t already know the size of your print, measure the dimensions! Most frames and mats are prepared in inches, so it’s good to know your print size in inches too. Some of the most popular enlargement sizes (and the easiest to find frames for) are 5x7”, 8x10”, 8x12”, 11x14”, 16x20”.
Finding Quality Frames and Mats
You’ll need to find a framer that offers quality ready-made frames and pre-cut mats that you can buy off the shelf. A quick Google search returns these local stores, amongst many more:
Selecting a Mat
When purchasing a mat, look for an acid free card that will compliment the colour of your frame. I like to match a Spanish White mat with a white frame and a black or charcoal mat with a black frame. However you may like to choose a mat that accentuates a colour within your photograph. If you’re planning to use a metallic frame then mat colours like gunmetal, charcoal and black are a great choice.
Pre-cut mats come in two main options - those with an even width border (which does not always fit standard frame sizes) and those that fit standard frame sizes but which may have an uneven border (i.e. the top and bottom edges might be wider than the sides).
For a clean, simple look opt for an evenly weighted mat (all edges equal width).
For a high-end Gallery look choose a “bottom weighted” mat, where the bottom edge is wider than the other three sides (which are equal).
Choosing the right size Mat
Mats can come with two sets of dimensions. One refers to the internal window or opening measurement and the other is the outside edge measurement. The most important to note is the inner window measurement.
You want the window of your mat (the inner measurement) to be the same as, or fractionally smaller than, the size of your print.
For example if your print is 8x12” then you want a mat that has either an 8x12” window or a 7.5x11.5” window. In actual fact both options probably have an exact inside perimeter of 7.5x11.5” (which allows for overlap of your image) but some suppliers call them 8x12” to make it easier for you.
Choosing your frame
Frames also have two dimensions – the inner window and the outer edge. I recommend that you choose a frame with an opening or window size that is as close to the outer edge of your mat as possible. That way you get a nice wide border between your image and your frame. In my opinion a wider mat looks more professional than a skinny one.
So in our example above the mat with the 8x12” (or 7.5x11.5”) window will most likely have an 11x14” outer edge, which then requires a frame with an 11x14” window.
The colours, materials and style of frame you choose are all personal preference. You may find your options limited when you’re buying off the shelf but that’s why I recommend buying from a framer rather than a photo shop or gift store.
Upgrades and Extras
Frames come with all sorts of upgrades. UV Glass is worth the investment if your photo will be hanging in a location bathed with sunlight. Non-reflective glass is also a great idea for well-lit areas. But for hallways and bedrooms you may not need to pay for those extras.
Most ready-made frames will still come with a basic hanging kit. The standard sawtooth hanging kits are a simple and long lasting option. If you think you’re going to want to move your framed prints around you may like to look at the Command Adhesive Picture Strips, just remember to weigh your finished product and make sure your strip has enough sticking power!
Putting it all together
If you’re planning to mount all of this yourself then it’s worth investing in a roll of acid free mounting tape. This stuff won't show through your mat and it will protect your print. Simply use a couple of small strips on each edge of the back of the print to tack it onto the mat. Acid free tape is available from framers.
For a video guide on mounting and framing your own prints check out this tutorial on Framing Online.
Finally, if you need some inspiration on how to style a gallery wall or hang your prints for maximum impact, check out my Pinterest board for ideas.