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How to Make the Right Framing Choices

How to Make the Right Framing Choices

When you buy a new, beloved artwork, it is smart to invest in framing. Here the word invest is intentional; framing costs might seem high, but they are an investment to ensure that your piece will present well and is properly protected from damage. Although pre-made frames are an option, they are limited to standardized sizes, colours, and may not protect artworks from light and humidity damage long term.  If you have the budget, custom framing is always a preferable option.

The benefits of custom framing are worth the cost. When working with a good framer, you receive excellent advice on the range of frame materials they carry, as well as quality work!

A few of our favourite framers in Ottawa:
Patrick Gordon Framing
Central Art Garage
Wallacks Framing

The first step to custom framing is making sure you go to a reputable framer. Ask around and get recommendations. Ottawa has many great framers to choose from!


Florence Yee
painting framed with a brushed gold floating frame. Framing by Wallacks Framing.

When making your framing decisions you want to be sure that the materials compliment the work instead of fighting for attention. A useful way to approach this is to think of the matting and framing as an extension of the artwork, rather than just a vessel through which it can be displayed. Neutral coloured mats, off-whites, and creams are a versatile choice that can be successfully used in most cases. However, if you are looking for some colour then look for recurring notes in the piece you are getting framed. Consider a subtle and lighter complementary colour. Regardless of the colour you choose, mattes in a lighter shade are generally preferable and give the work some space to breathe.

We chose a soft dove grey matte here with a deep brown wood painted frame to compliment this illustration. Framing by Wallacks Framing.

More dramatic and ornate framing benefit some pieces while others need a subtle and modern frame. Think about how strong the piece is visually and whether a bold frame will better the piece or overwhelm it. If so, step down to a frame that is lighter in colour or width.

It is always helpful to ask the framer’s advice. They are well equipped to make recommendations based on the piece, where you will be hanging it, and the aesthetic you are looking for.  


Rémi Thériault, Vimy Memorial, photograph in a modern white shadow box frame with UV plexiglass.
Framed by Patrick Gordon Framing.

Glass may be clear, but it isn’t any less important to framing. Your choices of glass make a crucial difference in the appearance of the work and the longevity of it. Regardless of the quality of glass or plexiglass, non-glare glass is preferable. Museum glass has higher archival properties, including a conservation grade UV coating and stronger prevention of glare and reflections. Museum glass is the gold standard, but plexiglass is less expensive and lighter. Plexiglass also supplies an anti-reflective surface that filters out 50-75% of UV rays. Consider these differences when making your framing decisions as they will affect the cost and appearance of the final product. Museum glass may be the ideal material, but plexiglass is still a good option if you are looking for a lower cost or have weight restrictions for hanging. 


Amy Thompson artworks, beautifully custom built and framed by Danny Hussey, Central Art Garage are a true extension of these artworks.

It is important to note that your choice of frame will greatly impact the feeling and aesthetic of the room in which it is hung. Be mindful of the space in which you intend to hang it as well as how you want it to feel, and of course what the piece itself evokes. White or black frames generate a modern and powerful aesthetic. For a softer vibe, try light coloured, pale woods. A middle ground would be medium to dark neutral woods.

Classic black, natural wood, and white frames are our favourites in general. They have a wide application and reflect the contemporary aesthetic in our gallery. 

Christine Fitzgerald's Threatened series framed in white shadow box with UV plexiglass. Wallacks Framing

It's very satisfying to see a piece you love accentuated by good framing! Use these tips as a starter as you get introduced to the wide world of framing. 

You can also call Studio Sixty Six’ director and designer Carrie Colton for more information. You can reach her at 613 355 0359 or by email at and she will happy to guide you further. 
Tags: framing

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