top of page

Tips for choosing the best Frame for wall art - Part 1

Updated: Jul 29, 2021

In these articles, I'll explore what frames are for; what the choices are; how to make good choices around framing art.

[Credit and disclosure: photos in this post are either from Nations Photo Lab, who do a lot of my printing, or are from my own shops.]

Why do you need a frame for wall art?

"A frame is a way of constructing a little world around something."

- Brian Eno, "A Year With Swollen Appendices"

Put a piece of art onto your wall, and you've brought in a piece of another world into yours.

A picture acts like a little window (with a frame): it is an opening into that other place, and we need boundaries around windows and doors to distinguish the "inside" from the "outside".

And the picture may need a boundary, just to tidy up its unfinished edges, and to make it clear where it ends (if it's a "field" painting or a pattern). Long, wide art can readily be perceived as a landscape, even if abstract.

But what kind of frame is best to "introduce" the art to your world?

Is That All a Frame Does?

Like your window and door frames, you need to make some choices about your art frames:

  • Does the frame help the picture (by showing you where it is; by guarding its space)

A "gallery wall"of several framed pictures over a desk
You notice the framed pieces first
  • - or does it take over and distract? Is it giving the art enough room (or is it cramping its style)?

Light green abstract art in dark wood frame
A light picture, but dark frame shouting
  • Does the frame's texture, colour, tone and width suit the walls (and the picture)?

Wall art with wood frame against brown cement wall
Natural brown frame matches art, earthy decor
  • Does the frame style contradict the art, other decorations, and the room, or enhance them (e.g. by creating a pleasing pattern)?

Large grey room with four empty square black wall art frames on wall
Bold square of squares, neutral frames, large room

Example of framed art harmonizing with the room
Loose, black casual cat with loose, black casual art

  • Is it worth the expense? - Good quality frames can cost a bit. And you might prefer a casual approach to art. (One of my customers used a design as one of a string of pictures, hung up like flags, over her new-born's crib.)

Can You Frame Art Without a Frame?

"No frame! Freedom!" (says the picture). "The paper is my boundary!" "No framing costs!" (says you). You could just blu-tak, staple, pin, tack, glue or paste, paper-printed art onto the wall. But beyond these cheap-looking methods, you can also consider:-

Use a Single Hard Backing Sheet

This is quite inexpensive, and allows you to fix the picture to the wall without it distorting or necessarily needing the support of hangers.