Wood may have reigned as the chosen picture frame for thousands of years, but the modern picture framing customer has a much larger selection from which to choose. Most often, however, customers narrow it down to just two: wood or the more modern metal.
While the decision eventually comes down to personal preference—not just availability or convention—there are a few other considerations when choosing between a wood and metal picture frame for any artwork.
Check Out The Artwork
The earliest picture frames were made from wood and remained the favorite frame material for years; classic and traditional pieces, such as still life paintings, portraits and landscapes, often look more “at home” within a wooden picture frame. The intricate details and play of light and dark (chiaroscuro, for the art buffs) in many of these paintings are complemented by the warmth and elegant detail—sometimes ornate—of traditional wooden frames. This warmth can also carry over to more contemporary, colorful works that blur the lines between traditional and modern.
Modern works, such as abstract paintings, minimalistic work and photography, most commonly black and white photography, are suited to the simplicity of metal frames. With their no-fuss look, metal picture frames support less intricately detailed works of art rather than compete with them.
Check Out The Room
A framed piece of artwork will have a home somewhere inside yours—look to that room’s style for guidance. A warmly-toned living room outfitted with an overstuffed sofa and a roaring fireplace is the perfect setting for a wide mahogany picture frame, while modern rooms call for metal frames. Though metal picture frames often feature fewer color options than its wood counterparts—white, black and silver are the most common colors in metal picture frames—their simplicity allow them to complement many styles of décor
Check Your Budget
Because wood frames are composed of a pricier material and must be hand-glued and nailed together, they are slightly more expensive than the typically aluminum metal frames. The more ornate the wood frame gets, the more expensive it is.
If you plan on purchasing a complete frame kit, including mat board, mount board and glazing, at museum conservation-level quality, it may be beneficial to first look at your budget. Those who wish to frame multiple photographs or prints—to create a gallery wall, for example—may find it easier on their budget to purchase metal frames or mix and match the materials.
Check Out The Damage Potential.
While wood frames are sturdy, they are sometimes susceptible to damage. Wood frames may also be heavier, which can make it easier to drop, and subsequently dent or ding, them. Customers who plan to move their frames, have children with curious hands, or house pets that love to knock things over may find it easier on their wallets to choose metal frames, at least for the time being. Metal frames can be repaired or have sides replaced, while wood frames wear their scratches and dents with pride.
All of these “rules” can go out the window depending on what you like. A traditional oil painting can be framed in a sleek silver metal frame, no matter what the customs dictate. It’s simply up to you to decide what you like best in a picture frame.
By: Mark Rogers
Memories are not just captured in photographs, and artwork encompasses far more than just two-dimensional paintings. Framing 3D objects—sports memorabilia, medals, flower bouquets and even jewelry or pieces of porcelain—opens the doors to decorating your home with what you truly want to display.
The frame package is essentially the same—frame, glazing, backing board and mat board if necessary—but how to frame 3D objects depends on the items you’re planning to display, especially in regard to their depth and weight.
Framing a sports jersey, for example, is fairly similar to framing 2D artwork, since jerseys lie fairly flat and are not particularly heavy. Framing a flower bouquet—a popular way to display wedding mementos—adds much more depth and requires a very deep frame, while heavier collectibles such as coins may require sturdier backing boards.
The frame, sometimes called a shadow box, must have a deep rabbet. The rabbet contains the artwork, mat board, mounting board and glazing, and its depth indicates just how much space there is for all the components. Frames for flat artwork and photographs generally have rabbets under one inch—far too small for 3D objects. The Nielsen Profile 100 shadow box has a rabbet with a depth of over one inch, providing ample space for a variety of objects.
The backing, either a mat board, foam board or extra-thick mounting board, is used to hold the 3D object in place. You can also cover the foam board in fabric to elevate the appearance and help hide thread or pins. However, fabric may come away from the backing board if the items are heavy and the fabric has not been securely attached.
How To Attach The Items
Unless you’re making a DIY holiday shadow box in which the 3D items are meant to be loose, you need to attach the object to the backing board. How to attach items in a shadow box is one of the trickiest parts of creating one. There are numerous adhesives and fasteners to use, based on the item’s material, weight and monetary or sentimental value.
Stainless steel pins: Ideal for lightweight fabric items, stainless steel pins (also called dressmaker pins) are slender and will not corrode, meaning they will not cause damage to the items. Used with foam board, pins may be visible in the finished frame.
Needle and thread: Transparent nylon thread, also called invisible thread, can be used with fabric as well as heavier items that are the right shape or size. Stitching the items to backing board is one of the most secure ways to attach items in a shadow box, and one of the least damaging. One professional framer, for example, used nylon thread to attach a heavy pocketknife and vintage razor blades in a shadow box display.
Plastic mounts: Specially made mounting hardware is available for frequently displayed items, such as coins, silverware and plates. These mounts are often used with thicker backing boards instead of foam boards, as the items they support are heavy.
Double-sided tape: Used for replaceable, lightweight items, double-sided tape is one of the fastest and easiest ways to create a shadow box.
Hot Glue: Already a must-have for DIYers, hot glue can be used for a variety of materials, including paper and plastic. Hot glue is not particularly strong, so it is often reserved for lightweight items, such as plastic toys.
Craft or Fabric glue: Often PVA adhesives, these glues are multipurpose and can provide a strong bond for a variety of materials. The glue is permanent and can leave residue or cause damage, however, so valuable items should not be attached with craft glue.
Silicone Adhesive: Silicone adhesive is very different from other glues, and it’s often used as a household sealant. But because it can be easily removed without leaving a residue, it is used to mount various items—even stone and glass—securely without damaging them. It is the adhesive of choice for many framers, but it has to be cured for 24 hours outside the framing package, as it will give off certain gases.
There are countless very creative ways to attach items to shadow boxes like a professional, including using tulle: the netting often found in wedding gowns and prom dresses. Some items, especially spherical items such as baseballs or golf balls, can be wrapped in tulle, which is pulled through the back of the foam board to secure in place.
Assembling a Shadow Box
To create a multi-object shadow box—a popular craft for many—it is important to first plan where each item in the shadow box will be secured, and then figure out which method of attachment will work best.
Heavier items can rest on the bottom of the frame, lessening the chance that they will fall and avoiding any unnecessarily difficulty in securing them. The rest is often trial and error—you may find that needle and thread is too difficult or that glue is too messy.
Professional frame shops can create beautiful shadow boxes, and if you are framing delicate or irreplaceable items, it may be the way to go. For a personal touch, homemade shadow boxes may be fun, memory-filled projects.
By: Mark Rogers
Picture frames are much older than you think – in fact, they existed long before photographs. Did you know that the first picture frame has been traced to the ancient Egyptians? In addition to decorative framing borders used to divide scenes in ancient Egyptian and Greek wall paintings, the earliest known frame originated in the 2nd century AD, where a Fayum mummy portrait was discovered in an Egyptian tomb surrounded by a decorative wooden frame.
Frames did not change much from this original model, until they started showing up in Europe around the 12th-13th centuries. These frames were made out of a single piece of wood, carved into a raised border and backing. The painted areas first had to be covered in a plaster and glue mixture (or “gesso”) and the raised border gilded. When artists realized that producing frames this way was both time-consuming and very costly, they looked for faster and cheaper alternatives, giving birth to the modern “engaged” frame design. This frame construction consisted of mitered molding strips attached to a flat wooden panel. While this new design looked similar to the one-piece carved frames it was much cheaper and easier to produce, creating wider availability and use of frames in artwork, though they were still considered a luxury.
At the start of the 14th and 15th centuries most frames were commissioned by the Church as alter pieces or part of the extravagant architectural church designs that were prevalent at the time. Eventually it became common practice for wealthy estates to commission private works of art with frames, which brought on the advent of more portable frames, as opposed to frames built directly into the surrounding architecture. These frames, unlike their predecessors, were designed and crafted by furniture builders instead of artists and architects, resulting in a combination of artistry and new functionality. Picture frames continued to evolve and reflect the design styles of the times, such as elaborate carved ribbons, leaves and other embellishments during the ornate Baroque period. All of this before the invention of photography in the 1800’s!
Even further advances have been made to the industry with the introduction of digital frames, with a wide variety of styles and technologies. In fact, one of the world’s most expensive picture frames is a digital frame valued at an estimated $70,000(!). Made in Korea, the 4-fold frame also serves as a room divider. But a frame can be as easy and simple as applying a filter or border with software on your own phone camera.
As long as society has been documenting daily life via paintings, portraits and photos, frames have been there to protect and enhance the memories.