Thursday, December 10

A Practical Way To Frame Watercolor Paintings

Today’s Image
Metal Sectional Frames

Today’s blog is a about a practical way to frame your watercolor paintings-- at least what I think is a practical way. I’ve blogged about framing before, and I like to bring it up every once in a while because it is part of the whole art process.

If you’re a regular viewer, then you know I embrace frugality. Let me explain, if you will, being frugal is not the same thing as being cheap. I see cheap as being focused only on price with little or no regard for any intrinsic value and certainly not quality.

Frugality, however, is a lifestyle that seeks to find a balance in value and quality for the purpose of not wasting or needlessly squandering assets. It is the antithesis of consumerism and over-the-top spending. I see frugality as part of “being green.”

Okay, enough of that; back to my practical picture framing.

I am assuming that if you are a watercolor painter, then occasionally you want to frame your work in order to enter an exhibit or as a gift or simply to hang in your studio. I frame my watercolors for all these reasons.

Let’s face it. Framing can be expensive, or what I think is expensive; that is, upwards of $200US for a medium-sized painting and even more if it’s a custom frame job depending on the cost of living in your areas. The Plexiglas alone can cost $40-100US.

Let me add, I don’t want my paintings to look cheap. No, I want them to look professional. I don’t want the viewer to even notice the frame(s) in either a positive or negative way. It’s the art they should be looking at. An artist friend once heard a professional artist say that a frame is similar to a nice pair of shoes for an outfit—they should complement the outfit and neither detract from it nor attract attention to it. I like that, and wanted to pass it along.

So, being frugal, I asked several of my artist friends, some of whom are also frugal, what they do to frame their paintings.

Here’s what to do:

Purchase sectional metal frames (in black, silver, or brass--and Today's Image) in the lengths needed when they are on sale half-price. I can’t find a brand name, but I buy them at one of the chain arts & crafts stores in my area. They are usually on sale every third week or so. (You can’t assemble the frame without hardware, so don’t forget to get it in the little plastic bag next to the frames. You will only forget it once if you have to make an extra trip back to the store!)

Buy the less expensive foam core as the backing for your picture and frame. The arts & craft store I mentioned carries foam core in 30 x 60-in (77 x 153-cm) sheets for about $6US on sale, and you can cut them yourself to the size you need (very carefully, please) with an X-acto knife or similar.

Rather than buying the high quality and more expensive .25-in (.6-cm) Plexiglas at the arts or framing stores, I get the thinner, and less expensive, acrylic sheet. A big-box home improvement store in my area carries the Optix brand of acrylic sheets in the .08-in (.2-cm) thickness. It’s perfectly suitable, AND they will cut it to your exact measurements for FREE. You can’t beat this deal.

One piece that I DON’T scrimp on is the mat. It’s so integral to the beauty, or whatever, of your artwork that it needs to be done right. Buy a quality mat, and let the framing professional cut it for you. This is one time I don’t mind the cost (at least not too much). A 24 x 30-in (61 x 77-cm) mat cost me $13US.

Assemble the frame yourself. If I can do it, so can you. The metal sectional frames are relatively easy to put together. You have to align the corner pieces just so, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it. I first assemble three of the sections with two of the sections being the longest sides. Then stack the acrylic sheet, the mat, your painting, and the foam backing. Carefully slide this “sandwich” into the three assembled sections, and then assemble the fourth sectional side. Don’t forget to install the springy curved pieces that hold the picture tightly inside the frame, but WATCH OUT—those things can really spring back in your face, so you should wear eye protection.

All that’s left is to add a wire hanger, and your masterpiece is beautifully (and frugally) framed and ready for the spotlight.


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