You put on a well-tailored suit. You look in the mirror and you know it, you look great. The suit enhances your features and makes you stand out. The focus is all on you.
When choosing a frame and mat for your artwork, the goal is the same: to complement the art, to draw attention to it and to make it stand out.
When I work with clients I understand that choosing art, like creating it, is a very personal experience. The color, dynamics, rhythm, and images combine to evoke an emotional response that is unique to each individual.
Usually my customers entrust me to choose the mat and frame for them or we work together to create the desired effect for their home or office.
Since not everyone has the advantage of working with an artist, I put together a few guidelines to help you choose a mat and frame for your painting or print.
- It’s about the art, not the wall color or furniture.
Let’s face it, if you move, change jobs or have kids, your wall color will change. If your dog is left alone for too long and eats the sofa, your furniture will change. Surroundings change but art, if matted and framed to highlight the work, will look good anywhere. Like you, it’s a complete package regardless of the setting.
- Choose an accent color for the mat.
Mats come in a variety of colors and widths. When choosing a mat for your artwork, pick an accent color from the piece or chose a contrasting color. The mat should blend with the work or make it pop. It should not overpower it.
In the painting Soft Red, the focal point is the movement of the lighter colors. By adding a maroon mat that complements the background colors and a black frame, the focus is on the action in the painting.
Here is another example. This a print of The Green Parasol by Guy Rose. By pulling the dark blue from the woman’s clothing for the mat and green from the hanging leaves for the frame, the eye is drawn inward toward the lighter colors and the focus is on the figure.
- When choosing a frame, look for color, movement, setting and texture in the work.
Most frames are made of wood, plastic or metal. Frames come in different widths, shapes, colors and sizes. Wood frames may have an engraved design or edging, may be two toned or beveled. Like suits, frames are a matter of personal choice, color and style, but the same rule applies: The frame is secondary to the art.
In the example of the Victorian Fairy, I chose the earth tones from the painting and added a grass green mat and textured wood frame. The frame hints of a setting in a wooded area or fairy garden.
Likewise, for this print of Soft Green with Cadmium Red, a moss green mat contrasts with the darker green in the painting and extends to the green wood frame. The focus is on the movement of colors and evokes a garden or other botanical setting.
This is Radiant Landscape #18. The wagon, with the barn in the background made picking a frame made from barn wood an easy choice. The texture of the frame lends an authenticity to the scene. Notice I did not use a mat. The original artwork and frame work well together without one.
- Ornate gold frames are a good choice for Traditional art.
Gold frames add drama and a heaviness to the artwork. They suggest affluence and luxury and accentuate the rich, heavy fabrics and dark dramatic colors.
This painting is Sleeping Beauty by Edward Burne-Jones. Because of the rich colors and heavy dark drapery, the drama extends from the painting to the dark maroon mat and gold ornate frame.
This is small print of Renaissance Woman with Fruit Basket. Like the previous Sleeping Beauty painting, the heavy, rich colors of the fabrics in the painting are enhanced by a wider maroon mat and gold frame.
- A black frame with a white mat is the Tuxedo of the art world. Like Contemporary art, everyone looks good in it.
This is a classic, understated look for Contemporary artwork. Metal frames are also an alternative for wood. A black metal frame would look just as good in the example below.
The sweeping movement and dynamic dark colors in Transitions with Red and Black need no additional help. Just minimal white contrasting mat with plain black frame.
Soft Blue Transitions – White mat, black frame, looks great.
Transitional Primary – Small print, big impact.
A note about mat width and frame size: Generally speaking, smaller prints or paintings may need a wider mat and frame to help draw attention to the artwork. Conversely, larger paintings or prints with more movement may not require a frame or mat at all. Canvas prints are a good option for these.
Canvas print of Radiation with Cadmium Yellow Green and Brown – no frame or mat is needed. The focus is on the explosion of the yellow as it pulls you towards the center and radiates out.
- Still not sure? Just ask yourself, ‘Does the frame and mat make the artwork pop?’
Neither frame nor mat should distract you from the art nor capture your attention. Instead they should work together to keep your eye focused on the work.
Remember, like tailored clothing, art is an investment. Whether you purchase an original or a print, something about the work speaks to you. Accent or contrasting colors are a good choice for the mat and frames that complement the texture, setting, or movement of the artwork complete the package. The overall effect of the painting, frame and mat are a reflection of your style, mood and tastes. It reflects your personality, draws attention towards it and makes people take notice.
Prints of all works pictured are available at dean-triolo.pixels.com