Getting Started With Custom Framing
Custom framing your Hooey Mountain art can seem like a daunting task for many, but in the end, it can be worth the extra effort. There are so many wonderful frame options out there and while sometimes we just want to go with the easiest choice, picking up a hint of red to match the skier, or adding a rustic or contemporary frame to match the room just might be the thing that gives the art the WOW factor it deserves. Whether you choose to go to your local framer or work with someone online, here are some terms and tips to get you started.
Glazing provides the physical barrier between the art and the rest of the world. It is what people typically think of as the “glass”. There are a number of different options of glass or acrylic with different pros and cons for each.
Basic Glass – Pretty straight forward. We all know what glass is.
- Least expensive
- Easy to clean.
- Less likely to scratch than basic acrylic
- Requires a spacer or mat to separate the photography from the glass.
- Can have a slight green tint to it and darkens the art.
- Basic glass has no UV protection.
- Basic glass is reflective.
- When framing a large piece this is an important factor. The weight of glass can sometimes put added stress on the framing joints joints, causing them to fail over time. Larger pieces can be difficult and expensive to ship with glass. Some thinner moldings cannot handle the weight of the glass and cannot be used with this option.
- Size limitations. Some framers will not use glass over certain sizes, or will require significant strengthening of the frame, adding cost and more weight to the project.
- Should the art slip off the wall, the glass is likely to shatter, possibly damaging the art. Art framed with glass is not insurable.
Conservation Glass – Much of the same pros and cons of the basic glass described above but is a clearer glass (and not green), provides some UV protection and slightly less reflective. Art should never be hung in direct sunlight but having some UV protection will help with fading. This option is slightly more expensive than regular glass, but still relatively inexpensive.
Museum Glass – Best UV protection for glass, non-reflective, scratch-resistant, non-static. Most expensive glass option. One common brand is Art Glass.
Spacers – Photography should never be framed directly touching glass. If your artwork is pressed against the glass, one of two things can happen: the moisture from temperature changes can seep into the paper, removing the ink or causing discoloration, or the image can adhere to the glass as the moisture dries, resulting in ripping or peeling when removed from the frame. It can also cause the photo to ripple. Many people choose to use mats to separate the glass from the photo. For a more modern look, you can skip the mat and add a hidden “spacer” that keeps the art from touching the glass. Spacers come in a few color options and depth. Your framer can advise you on the best choice to use. Spacers are not required if using an acrylic glazing for your physical barrier.
Acrylics – sometimes, referred to as plexiglass, there are a wide range of acrylics out there and depending on who you talk to, they go by a number of different names with different qualities. Here are some basic facts.
- Does not require a mat or spacers
- Less heavy than glass
- Great for large sizes
- More expensive
- Care needs to be taken when cleaning to not scratch the surface on all acrylics. Best to wipe with microfiber cloths and not paper towels.
Standard Styrene – Will sometimes come with ready-made frames bought from places like Walmart or Amazon. They are very thin and typically scratch very easily, they sometimes have a slightly cloudy quality to them. They will bow over time. If you buy a ready-made frame, consider upgrading the glazing with a framer or at your local glass shop. Remember if switching to glass, you will need spacers and best to involve a framer. If switching to a higher-grade acrylic, you do not need spacers.
Frame grade acrylics – There is a wide range of options here and depending on who you use for framing, you can get wildly different products. The difference tends to be in the thickness, which will ultimately affect it’s weight and if it will bow over time, and hardness which will determine if it is more likely to scratch over time. All frame grade acrylics have some UV protection and are defect free, making for a very clear barrier. These are less likely to scratch than the lowest grade acrylics but will scratch over time. Very static. Can warp on larger pieces. Clean with a soft cloth only. Great for shipped frames. Also comes in a non-glare, but that can look cloudy.
Optimum Museum Quality Acrylic – This is the top-of-the-line choice for framing your art. Has 99% UV protection, anti-reflective, anti-static, and scratch resistant due to a hard coating. Significantly more expensive than the other acrylic and glass options. One common brand is TruView.
There are so many options here. Depending on your art, the shape and finish, your molding can really add to the art. One thing I try to avoid is distracting from the art. The frame should fade away and let the art shine. When looking at contemporary molding selections, I personally prefer the molding always be deeper than wider, or a perfect cube shape if available.
Metal Frames – These are great if they fit your aesthetic. Sometimes the corners will shift if these are shipped, but that can be easily fixed with a screwdriver. In addition to basic shapes and colors, I have seen some very cool rustic metal frames offered at high-end framing establishments that look great with my vintage skiers (Bridger Metal Works). Do your research and you might find a very nice option in metal.
- Come in a variety of colors and sizes
- Can handle the weight of glass
- Will not warp over time
- Easy to care for
- Might rust over time if hung in a damp area such as a bathroom or musty basement.
Wood Frames – These come in three varieties, solid natural wood, finger jointed wood or MDF (composite wood).
Solid hardwoods stained to bring out the beauty of the grain and put together with dovetail joined corners can be a stunning frame for a special piece of art. (See Vermont Hardwoods) Some solid woods are stained or painted.
Finger joined wood is many pieces of wood glued together to become one. MDF is similar in concept, it is basically pressed sawdust mixed with glue. Both are less expensive options. The pros are they are light weight, inexpensive and likely will not bow if properly sized and hung. They can be a stronger wood, less likely to warp, but they also risk becoming unglued. Sometimes they are jessoed and painted which is ideal. Sometimes they are “wrapped” with something to create a finish that looks like paint or fake wood to hide the joints. I personally avoid the wrapped woods that try to look like wood. They do not. They look and feel cheap. They are OK for a solid finish that looks like paint for a small piece of art. Unlike a natural wood frame that gets scratched or dented that can be touched up with paint, a wrapped frame can get a snag that is not fixable.
Large art framed with wood will require heavier moldings, especially if using glass. I always ask for some sort of additional bracing to strengthen the corner joints if the frame is over 18x24.
The price for wood frames is all over the place. There are many online framing options in addition to your local options that are worth exploring. Some offer just a handful of moldings in a variety of preset sizes, but a few will really work with you on something custom, like Framebridge.com.
The supply-chain issues for molding has hit the framing industry hard. I did not realize most molding comes from overseas. Before beginning your selection process, ask your framer which moldings they currently have in stock or know they can easily get. This will save you a lot of wasted time. If you want to support local, ask your framer about locally sourced options.
Shadowbox with Float Mounting
This is a framing style I like to use on occasion for my photography or art. Because I present my photos in a more contemporary style, I do not add a mat. Shadowboxing dresses it up and really makes the art shine. This requires a deeper molding and is more expensive because of the time and materials involved as well as that fact that when the piece is finished, it is a larger size. The art will first be mounted to a slightly smaller piece of acid free foam board that provides the lift. That will then be mounted onto a mat board larger than the art. How to mount the art to the foam board depends on the size and value of the art. A framer can best advise you on this. Since the larger mat board will show, it is important that you choose a color that will enhance the art. For my skier series, I make sure the mat board makes the image pop and does not make the paper or snow look grey or yellow. The sides of the interior of the frame will need to be built up with additional mat board or spacers to hide the inside of the frame. For this style frame I suggest ordering my images in cotton rag or glossy papers over luster papers and reduce the white trim size to approx. ½ - ¾” instead of the wide white border.
Regardless of which option you choose, I always add a rubber bumper to the bottom corners of the art. It helps keep the art from shifting and will less likely leave a scratch on the wall if the art gets bumped. Buy a packet of 24+ to have on hand for any art in your house.
Metal frames typically have a secured screwed in option to add a metal wire.
Wood frames have a few options to consider:
- Wall Buddies – These are a relatively new option that I really like. They come in various sizes and work both as a self-leveling hanger and strengthener for the top two joints. They are especially great for heavy art. The only downside is they sit a little bit away from the wall, so depending on where the art is hung, it might not be desirable. Depending on how the piece is finished on the back, you can recess the Wall Buddies Some framers offer Wall Buddies, others may not, but you can ask for them or buy them yourself and add them to the piece.
- D rings - Two D-rings will be screwed directly to the back of molding about ¼ to 1/3 of the way down the sides. Large art pieces should be hung from the two D rings. Another reason for choosing a molding that has the proper heft to it (based on the finished size) is so that the stress of the weight on the D rings will not split the wood.
- D rings with wire – A wire is not advisable for larger pieces. The wire adds additional stress to the D rings and can pull the D rings from the molding as well as cause additional stress on the joints. As it pulls the sides together, the top and bottom of the frame can start to pop out. It is perfectly fine and easy to hang for smaller light weight pieces from a wire.
- Saw tooth hanger – This is an acceptable option for smaller pieces that are not heavy. They should always be hammered or screwed directly into the molding or clipped over the backer board and never glued.