Monday, August 4, 2008
Framing Fine Art Photographs
Now that so many are on board with digital imaging many of you are looking to print and frame your own work. I have some experience with this as I run a small photography website and offer signed and matted prints for you to frame yourself, although I do frame for friends and colleagues.
Printer technologies have become so good that they can match the quality of a professional lab. A good large format printer can be had for around $500.00. The smallest version of large format printers gives you the ability to print a 13x19 inch print or 44 inch panorama if you purchase photo paper in roll format. There will be many of you who are quite satisfied with ordering your prints from a professional lab. Here are a few that do fantastic work: Costco, Walgreen's and Walmart
The dilemma is that the images that come out of today’s cameras come out in different formats than standard Matt and frame sizes that have been the norm for years in the art world. To counter this problem one must crop his/her work to conform to standard sizes or re size the photo with an appropriate software program like Photoshop. The 3 most common standard sizes that most people will display on their walls are: 8 x 10, 11 x 14 and 16 x 20. This means if you have your photographed matted for 8 by 10 then you would display it in at least an 11 x 14 frame. Following this rule as you display larger art.
When I want to take advantage of my large format printer to print what comes out of my camera I’ll stick a sheet of Epson premium photo paper luster in and print it, not worrying about resizing because my solution is to custom Matt the photograph for a Standard size frame. I have found that a 13 x 19 inch photograph looks really nice displayed in an 18 x 24 inch frame. This will leave a nice 2-½ inch border that is aesthetically pleasing.
I use the Logan Simplex Plus mat cutter. A really good medium priced cutter that allows full control. I look for a cutter that has a hinged arm that will hold your stock steady while cutting. All the Logan cutters come with instructional videos that are done quite well. You can also see how-to videos on youtube.com . I have found that there is no substitute for hands on training. Many of your local art retailers will put on a mat cutting clinic for a nominal fee.
I’m sure many of you have heard about archival inks and papers and that most big name paper manufacturers guarantee against fading for up to 100 years. I have a different take on this archival business. The longevity of you’re art depends wholly on all the components of the framing process. When you buy a frame in the store it usually is shipped with the absolute lowest grade glass from China. You owe it to your investment to upgrade the glass to a U.V. protection at a minimum. Most art supply houses or craft stores offer 3 grades of glass up to museum grade quality albeit quite expensive it does a great job of protecting your art from harmful damage caused by the sun.
The next component to talk about is the backing. When you open up your $40.00 frame from the craft store it will undoubtedly be packaged with cardboard backing that you should immediately put in the recycle bin. I use 3/16” foam core backing that is rigid and will serve as the new back plate for my frame. I throw the store bought one away. The way I hold that foam core backing in place is by the use of offsets which you can buy in any hardware store. They come in various sizes depending on the thickness of the foam core or mat you are holding down.
Choosing your Matt stock is just as important if you wish to continue the process of doing everything possible to ensure long life for your art. The best kind of mat stock is cotton rag made from cotton fiber pulp and is acid and lignin free.
You can see that if corners are cut in the framing process that your art may fade prematurely. This is where I part ways with that thinking I am not ready to spend 3 times the money on the framing as I did on my initial purchase. In most cases the photo can be reprinted for a fraction of the cost of trying to preserve it for 100 years in glass. If the photograph was hung in the direct sun too long and your black mat is now gray then simply have it re-matted.
When photos are matted by a professional they use archival hanging techniques that are non destructive to the art, the T-hinge and the V-hinge are the most common. Making it very easy to re-matt.
For those of you wishing to make a small investment and start custom matting and framing your own work I hope you have been able to glean some helpful advise from this article.
Shawn M. ShalamarImages.com