Scott Kilgore Photography Nature, Wildlife, Auto Racing, Train, Railroad Photography, Fine Art Photography
Frame and Mat Information For Our Prints
These notes are for people framing their own prints. Hopefully, they will be helpful and useful.
Our prints are made in sizes that are fairly simple to mat and frame. That does not mean that you will always be able to use a pre-cut mat and an off the shelf frame, though most sizes up to 12x18 and 12x36 can use premade frames. There are precut mats available for 8x10, 8x12, and 11x14 print sizes, for, respectively, 11x14, 12x16, and 16x20 frame sizes. However, custom cut mats are not expensive for these sizes, and are very nicely cut, at least on the mat cutting equipment used by the Hobby Lobby chain art and hobby supply stores, a vendor I highly recommend for custom cut mats.
A simply run down of what frames and mats are required for each print size is listed below. These are just basic guidelines for do it yourself or simple custom framing.
Since any artwork can be custom framed and matted, it is probably rather redundant to even put "custom" in the table at all. Most people are interested in using a pre-made frame that is in stock. I have listed "premade" for frames that will give a balanced even border for the listed print, and or, mat size. Naturally, if you wish to use a frame that will give a noticably large border on one or more sides, you will have many more options.
Sectional frame kits are always an option. While usually aluminum, some are available in wood. Many of the aluminum frames are of very good quality, are strong and stable, very easy to assemble, and best of all, very easy to hang.
A simple tip:
When using an aluminum frame, hang the framed art by 2 or more nails under the lip of the frame. If the nails are level, your art will always be level. And the frame will set frimly against the wall. Take the wire and clips and throw it in a drawer, or the trash.
I prefer aluminum frames in black because they have a very subtle appearance that only complements the subject without detracting from it. I also like them for all the technical reasons I gave above.
I recommend acid free mats whenever possible. However, over the past 20 years, I have noticed the Kodak and Fuji archival papers that we use are very resistant to damage from non-archival materials. So if a mat is going to be used for only a short time (under 5 years), it will probably be acceptable to use a standard mat for the smaller prints.
Of the chain art and framing centers, the best deal in custom cut mats seems to be from Hobby Lobby. They have computerized mat cutters in each store, and the quality of cutting is very high, at least in all the stores I have used. In fact, I have never gotten as perfectly cut mats anywhere else. And their prices for this service are less than Michaels or Aaron Brothers, or any of the independent frame shops I have used in the past. The paper mats (not acid free) are very inexpensive. The only downside to Hobby Lobby is that most stores do not stock acid free matboard or backing board. In most stores, it seems that you have to order it. This does not cost extra, but it does take extra time.
Aarons Brothers carries a variety of 8x12 precut mats for 12x16 inch frames. Aarons pre-made frames fall in quality somewhere between Michaels and Hobby Lobby.
Ready Made Frames
In this case, I recommend Michaels for frames. The quality of their pre-assembled frames is far better than Hobby Lobby. The quality does vary and you still have to shop carefully. At Michaels, the best quality off the shelf frames are easily better than all but the most carefully made custom frames. Lower quality ones can be really quite bad.
Look for aluminum frames with strong corner pieces that fit tightly together. Aluminum frames are stable and easier to hang than most wood frames.
Look for wood frames that have wood splines at the corners. This is a stronger way to make a factory built frame. It would also be a better way to make a custom made frame, but most people would never pay for a custom frame made that way. I know that oak is very popular, but red oak is also one one the woods most subject to warping. It is one one the least stable woods, right down there with yellow pine. Since most tropical species have tight, interlocking grain, they will frequently make the most stable frames. The frames that came from Thailand were usually very well made of teak and other desirable tropical species and all the better frames had splined corners. Domestic woods are also available in these frames. I hope the production has not been shipped off to China.
Regardless of the species of wood, check to make sure that all surfaces of the frame are finished. Wood is most stable when all sides of the wood are equally sealed with a good, even finishing coat. It is also a good indication of the quality of the frame.
Very high grades of museum or conservation glass are available that have glare free surfaces that do not dedrade and defuse the artwork below. Unfortunately, cheaper grades of anti-glare glass make the artwork below look fuzzy. If you are thinking of using a regular quality of anti-glare glass, save your money. Even some of the glass toted as museum glass will soften the resolution of high resolution artwork such as these prints. And it would be a shame to put a high quality print under glass that has a fuzzy surface. Clear glass does not soften the resolution of the prints, but there will be some glare, though if you have good overhead light, there should be very little glare.
As for UV protection coatings, the window glass on your home or office is probably much more UV resistant than the thin coatings on the glass used for artwork.
use either very high grade conservation glass (which is very expensive) or standard clear glass on the display print in our gallery, or for galleries that handle my work. Over the years I have found all the other types of glass to be not worth the expense.
Do not place a photographic print in contact with the glass. A mat or a spacer should always be used behind glass.
Many people today like to use foamcore board as a backing and mounting material. The problem with this is that foamcore is not, and can not be by its very nature be a stable conservation material. All foam deteriorates and out-gasses as it deteriorates. It is not stable over time. It is also not particularly stiff or protective.
The traditional conservation backing material for many decades has been dual tempered hardboard (Masonite). It can also be combined with an acid free backing board, which is a mat-board like material. The backing board would be sandwiched between the print and the dual tempered masonite (hardboard). The acid-free backing board can be dry-mounted to the masonite (if it is clean hardboard), but I do not recommend dry mounting photographs to any substrate. I have found even "archival" dry-mount adhesives deteriorate with age, yellow, and at least with paper, will damage the mounted piece.
The drymounting process itself will damage photographic and inkjet prints if the operator is not very careful. I had a large 30x40 print destroyed by a reputable framer a couple years ago because I made the mistake of having it dry-mounted.
Whenever possible, I do not recommend permanent mounting of prints. I recommend "hanging" the print on the backing by only taping it with conservators tape at the top of the print. You may get some light floating or waviness to the print in the frame, but you won't have the print ruined should anything happen to damage the backing. If the print is mounted and anything happens to the mount adhesive or the backing board, the print is likely toast.
Please note that there are truly archival mounting procedures available. Unfortunately, you are very unlikely to find anyone doing this at a regular frame shop. Once again, any use of a heated press should be avoided. Also, non-reversable glues cannot be used to mount artwork, if you expect to save it, should anything happen to the backing, or the artwork delaminates over time. Fortunately, silver halide photographic prints can be mounted with water soluble adhesives that are reversable. Since the development of a photographic print is a "wet" process, careful removal by a qualified person can save a photographic print mounted in this way. Any type of inkjet print will be destroyed in the process. They will bleed. More information is available by contacting our gallery representative in south Texas, the Fourth Street Gallery. They can provide services for this type of reversable archival mounting.
Your best protection is to never display any artwork in direct sunlight, even when that sunlight is coming through UV protective multipane window glass. Artwork is best displayed under controlled interior artificial light only. Note that this is critical with watercolors as they can fade rather quickly in sunlight.
Try to keep all artwork in a moderate humidity environment. Sea or desert breezes may feel great to us, but not your artwork.
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