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How to Choose a Picture-Perfect Art-Print Frame

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It's never been easier to own original art than it is right now. With the advent of online crafter's markets like Etsy and Folksy, more and more artists are able to get their work out there--and the perfect piece of art for your home is probably only a few clicks away. Prints like these tend to arrive unframed, though, which leaves you with a dilemma: what's the perfect frame for this piece, and what will set it off the best?

Your best bet is to visit your local framer's. Framing a work of art is a skilled job, and a clip frame from the supermarket simply won't cut it! Custom-framed artwork can set off any room, and the right frame is essential for properly displaying the art you love.

Professional framing shops tend to offer multiple options, meaning you need to decide which frame you're going to choose. Read on to learn how to do that for the best.

Start from these two simple rules of thumb.

There are no hard and fast laws of how to frame a picture, but there are two main points that are generally true. Don't stick to these points slavishly, but bear them in mind while you're making your choice!

  1. Small, relatively simple prints tend to look best in thick, ornate frames that help them to stand out.

  2. Big, busy prints need the frame to vanish—pick one that's as plain as possible.

Generally speaking, the busier your image, the simpler your frame needs to be.

Look to the art itself for clues and inspiration.

Artwork generally knows how it wants to be framed—you just need to figure out how to ask it. There are three main ways of doing this: colours, shapes, and styles.

Colours are the easiest for anyone to understand. If there's a particular shade of green in the art that you especially love, look for a colour-matched frame or ask your framer to colour-match in the matting and use a frame that sets the print off well.

Shapes require you to unfocus a little and look at the artwork in an abstract way. A painting of the sea could look great in a frame with a wavy pattern while art of the solar system might find its home in a frame with a circular design along the border.

Styles are a little more specific, but they can be a lot of fun to play with. For example, pop and comics-style art often look good in plain, solid black frames that mimic the border of a comic book. Fairytale art can be perfectly set off by a frame with a pattern of trailing ivy while a 1950s scene is a fantastic fit for a retro 1950s-style border.

Consider where the picture is going to be hung.

It's more important to consider the artwork itself than the room in which you're hanging it—but that doesn't mean you should ignore the work's context entirely. Don't pick a frame solely because it matches your other decor, but use those considerations to break ties when you aren't sure which of several frames to pick.