LAPADA Guide to Choosing the Perfect Frame for Your Painting

Steven Beale
Steven Beale
Trinity House Paintings

Choosing a suitable frame for a painting is a complicated blend of finding the right period, style, setting, and proper protection, all the while making sure you end up with something you love and that displays your artwork in the best way possible. Simple? We think not.

To help guide you through what can often be a difficult and complicated decision-making process, our fine art specialist Mark Lambert has offered his top tips on finding the perfect frame.

The Old Ones are the Best Ones

Okay so old frames obviously aren’t always the best but, when it comes to making sure a painting is presented at its finest, sticking with a piece’s original frame often is your best bet. Even the oldest and most damaged frames can be faithfully restored to their former glory and this can save your painting from any unnecessary wear and tear that comes with changing frames.

However if you really don’t like a certain frame and decide to make a change, remember to keep the original in storage. If you resell a piece at a later date, selling it with its original frame – or the one it has been with longest – will often add greatly to its value.

Let the Painting do the Talking

 When choosing a frame from scratch, it’s usually recommended to let the painting guide you with its style and period. Try not to worry about where the painting will be displayed or whether its frame will match the decor of your home or other frames that will be placed nearby. While mismatching a frame with an artwork from a different time or style can make a statement, it’s often one that will end up detracting from the painting in the long run. Instead, do a little research into what was popular during the time your artwork was created; for example Victorians favoured bright gold and heavily gilded frames while Impressionist-era artists favoured more dusty, broken gold.

Keep Your Painting Safe

 Frames are not there only for style and focus, they can also play an extremely important job in protecting an artwork over time. When choosing your frame, bear in mind your mount and what particular requirements your piece might have for conservation. This often depends on the medium and materials use to create your piece; watercolours usually need to be placed behind glass to protect against fading caused by sunlight yet glass placed over oil can cause unwanted reflection. Similarly paintings on paper need very careful conservation treatment – you will need to choose a frame and mount that supports the piece while still being able to be removed if necessary at a later date. It’s also recommended to use completely acid-free materials to avoid degradation.

Be Bold

 That being said, there’s no reason you can’t make bold choices when framing your favourite paintings. Big pieces don’t necessarily need big frames while small paintings can often work extremely well set in large, ornate frames.

You may also need to take into consideration whether a painting even needs a frame at all. Gallery wrapped canvases can often be hung as they are while many contemporary artists, such as PJ Crook, incorporate frames into their composition.

If you do want to opt for something more unusual while remaining faithful to your painting and ensuring your frame is still complementary, you can also opt for a wash or bolder material. For example we have lots of experience in using washes to frame watercolours, picking up washes from the piece and depicting them in the frame, as well as using moongold (a combination of silver and gold leaf) to create a softer gold effect.

Still having trouble making a choice? The golden rule to remember is this: a frame is intended to do just that – frame a painting. A frame that distracts or draws the eye away from a piece is not doing its job properly.

At Trinity House we offer advice on framing, conservation, lighting, and everything else a buyer needs to know about properly displaying their art. For more information on our services, visit our Art Advisory page.

By Mark Lambert, Fine Art Specialist, Trinity House Paintings


Click here for LAPADA approved framers.

Related Items for Sale

View All