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Framing Artwork Part Two: Works on Paper.

tools for framing canvas art
Collage by Sara Michalak

This is the second tutorial in my little series on quality framing with an artists budget. This tutorial focuses on framing paper work under glass. Check out the first tutorial for details on framing canvas pieces. Some of the information below was also covered in the first tutorial, but applies to framing both paper and canvas artwork.

Below I cover tips for selecting a frame, framing and attaching a hanging wire, followed by a video tutorial and a list of suggested tools.

Before we get started on the tutorial, let's talk about the reasons you need to frame your artwork:

  1. If you are displaying your work in a gallery they will want it framed and hung with a wire. Most galleries will not accept your work if its hung with a gator clip or has an easel back.

  2. A decent frame will ad value to your artwork. Most artwork looks incomplete without a frame.

  3. If a piece is poorly framed with an old outdated frame or a bruised and marred frame it will devalue your artwork. If you do not value your work enough to take care of it and place it in a decent frame, other people will not value it either.

  4. Lastly, a frame protects your creation from the elements.


How to select a mat and frame.

Good quality frames at reasonable prices are available through several art supply websites, but how do you know which ones will be of good quality and fit without seeing them in person?

Find the correct size: The window of your mat should match the size of your artwork. If your artwork is 8x10inches, the window (opening) in your mat should be 8x10 inches. Most mats will actually be slightly smaller than the size advertised so they overlap your artwork on each side by about 1/8 of an inch.

The outside dimensions of your mat should match the size of your frame. If you have a 11x14 inch mat with an 8x10 inch opening, it will fit in an 11x14inch frame.

Check the depth of the frame. Your frame needs to be deep enough for your glass, mat, artwork and backing to set inside. The depth of a frame is sometimes referred to as the rabbet. The rabbet is the area from under the lip of the frame to the bottom of the frame.

Check the materials. It's a good idea to use acid free mats and backing, (foam core), whenever possible. Acid free materials will cost slightly more and will also better protect and preserve your artwork.

Glass also comes in different grades. UV blocking or gallery grade glass will keep your artwork from fading but also costs more than regular glass. If you choose to use regular glass, just make sure your work is not placed in direct sunlight - it will fade fast!

Plexiglass and UV plexiglass are becoming more and more common and are sometimes preferred over glass. Plexiglass is lighter and safer to ship but generally costs a little more than glass. It also scratches and scuffs very easily - especially lower quality brands. If you choose to use plexiglass, make sure you are using a high quality framing grade. Be very careful when you are cleaning plexiglass. Even cleaning with paper towels can sometime leave scratches on it.

Composite wood and plastic frames can damage more easily and split when you put screws in them. Their finishes can also rub off or chip more easily. That's not to say that they cannot be used, but you need to be gentle with them; especially if they are narrow or thin. If you are using a non-wood frame, try and select one that is at least 0.75 inches wide or wider so it doesn't split apart when you anchor your wire. Solid wood frames tend to be a higher quality and weather the best. They are also available online at a reasonable cost.

Here are a few websites that offer decent quality frames at a reasonable cost:


How to attach a wire to hang your frame.

Wire comes in different gages and you should use the right size for the weight of your artwork. Wire packaging will tell you how many pounds it can hold. (I usually use plastic coated wire because it is easier on the fingers)

Generally, wire is attached to a frame by screwing in a D-Hook. I also use screw eyes for very small pieces. Both can be found at a hardware store.

Hooks should always be attached 1/3 of the way down your frame. (Attach 1/3 of the way down your artwork if not using a frame.) There are truly no exceptions to this rule. If you attach your wire any higher or lower, your work will flop on the wall and the hook used to hang it will probably be visible. Hooks should be attached on the center of the frame or canvas stretcher if not using a frame.

There is a correct way to attach your wire to the hook and it does not include tying a knot!

This link will take you to the exact place in the video tutorial where I show you how to attach the wire. View the video


Video Tutorial

This tutorial gives examples for framing artwork under glass and in a frame. The collage I am framing is by Sara Baker Michalak.


Tools list and websites to order them:

  • Linen Hinging Tape

  • Framing staples (points)

  • Hand-held staple pusher

  • Framing Awl

  • Brown Framing Tape

  • 20 lb coated framing wire

  • Small D-Ring Hangers

  • Wire clippers

  • Screwdriver

  • X-acto Knife

  • Dust cover paper

  • Ruler



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