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Picture Framing Tools & Services

More than six months have passed since the painting was finished, and it's now time to think of framing. You can do it yourself, hand over to a friend, or use one of the many framing services available locally or through the Internet.

Mary MoserFrame-making is not difficult, and once the picture framing tools are purchased, you can turn out workmanlike examples at half the cost of your local shop. Some art-clubs have their own equipment, or allow one or more members to provide frame-making services to fellow members at a special rate. Alternatively, you can purchase ready-made frames that come in sections needing only to be glued and fitted together. These can be ordered through the Internet or your local supplier: they're quite presentable, usually relatively cheap, but come in only a small range of mouldings.

To make your own frames, you'll need the following:

Moulding of your choice.

A mitre saw, which ensures that the cut edges of the mouldings fit tightly together in a right angle. (You can, of course, measure up the mouldings, draw a sharp pencil line at 45 degrees and neatly saw off the section. But it's difficult to maintain the line exactly, and few frame makers begrudge the expense of the proper equipment.) A handy addition to some mitre saws is a measuring device that enables you to cut a second section exactly the same length as the first.

Some clamping device. The cheapest is a simple plastic strap that is wrapped and tightened around the frame once the sections are glued and assembled. The more expensive clamps for individual corners provide slightly better control.

Glue, V-nails, brackets and hanging wire.


1. Cut the mouldings into paired sections of the required height and width. There should be just enough space for the canvas stretch to fit snugly into the frame. Use a mitre saw to ensure that the angles are cut accurately, and check that the lengths of each section pair are exactly equal.

2. Apply glue to sections ends, assemble, and clamp tightly in place. Check that the corners are square.

3. Insert one or more V-nails into the back of each join, either tapping gently with a mallet, or using a special device.

4. Remove the clamping device(s) when the glue is dry.

4. Screw in brackets and attach wire/cord to the back of the frame.

Picture Framing Services

Making your own frames will probably be saving money once you've made ten frames or so. But if you're a slow worker, or really don't more more equipment littering the place, then you may prefer to use one of the many framing services listed on the Internet or available locally. You should shop around for prices and choice of mouldings. The more expensive services naturally offer a wider range of mouldings, and some these, especially if imported, can be quite expensive. Internet services are usually cheaper, but you are more certain from a local company that the frame will fit properly and display the painting to best advantage.

Presenting Your Work

Before undertaking the framing, you should make a record of your work in a professional manner. It's not a difficult proposition, though a surprising number of amateurs rush the job, supposing that some quick 'snap' will be sufficient. Far from it, and certainly not if you're assembling material for a CV at some later date, or expect to be fairly judged on slides submitted for admission to an art show. Adjudicators do not want to see hands and feet around the canvas: it's distracting, and suggests a lack of professionalism. Similarly if you ever produce a brochure of your work — which you may need to for publicity purposes, or as a first contact with galleries — the printer will want the best quality in the artwork supplied. Yes, he can correct the badly-lit, distorted and creased photos, but miracles take longer. Vital information has been lost, and even you may not remember, years later, whether that background was really quite as blue as it seems. Get into the habit of documenting your work, even the individual stages of work where paintings are likely to be troublesome, and do so with the same care that has gone into the original painting.

Galleries spend a lot of money on photography. Works have to be taken down and transported to a studio where temperature and humidity are carefully controlled. Then a professional photographer is engaged — it's a specialist field — the lighting is set up, and a range of photographs taken. Occasionally, the photographs have to be taken again, if results don't come up to scratch. Then of course comes the printing of books and postcards, or the reproduction as slides. You'll not go so far, but you will want to ensure that the lighting is properly set up, the paintings are square to the camera, that the background is a suitable color, and that the camera is tripod-mounted to avoid camera shake. And if that seems too much trouble, then you'll phone for a professional photographer, or get a amateur photographer friend to come round.

Recommended Suppliers

1. A limited but perfectly satisfactory range of precut wood and metal frames is supplied by Dick Blick. You simply need to slot the sections together and glue/screw.

2. Framing4Yourself. Offers tools, articles, workshops and free newsletter.

3. Picture Framing Equipment. Supply new and second-hand equipment: more for picture framing services than artists.


How to Make a Picture Frame - Make Your Own Picture Frame [Part 1 of 3]

Woodworking - Making Picture Frames with a Sliding Mitre Saw

Woodworking - Making Picture Frames on a Tablesaw

Woodworking Project - How to Make Picture Frames on a Table Saw Miter Sled - Methods & Skills

Making Picture Frames - Frame Cutting

Making Splines in Picture Frames


'Still Life of Flowers' by Mary Moser. c.1800. Private Collection. Line is here so important that the painting seems almost a colored drawing. In fact a triadic scheme based on similar degrees of purity: much white in the foreground colors.