How to Choose a Frame

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A picture gallery’s job is to display each picture artfully so it has an impact as a work of art. The picture frame’s job is foremost to protect and enhance the picture. While a picture frame can itself be a beautifully crafted piece of art, it first of all must complement the picture, not distract from it.

Consider how a frame impacts the viewing of a picture.

You first notice the frame’s overall shape, size, and color from a distance. Surface, pattern, and material details become apparent only with a closer approach.

First impressions are important. So when you choose a frame, the first criteria should be shape, size, and color. The frame shape usually, but not always, matches its picture. For example, a square picture is usually placed in a square frame. However, a square picture can also be framed with a rectangular mat containing a square window.

A frame with a mat can be much larger in size than its picture. This allows the framed picture to fill a larger space on the wall

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Frame size is based on the space where the frame will be displayed and the size of the picture. For example, a gallery above a sofa should use 60-75% of the available wall space above the sofa and should be 6-12” above the sofa. A single picture gallery over an 8-foot wide 2.5-foot tall sofa in a room with an 8-foot ceiling could have a frame that is 4.8-6’ wide and 3-4.5’ high. The height is smaller than the width because of the sofa below. A gallery with more pictures would have smaller frames.

Of course, rigorous adhesion to the space guideline is not always the best. The white sofa table stands against a white wall with lots of space on either side of the wall. Here, the picture frame is the width of the table and helps the table fill the wall space on either side. A wider frame would overhang the table sides and look odd.

Obviously, within the allowable space for a frame, the frame must also fit the picture either with or without mats.

A good frame color ties the picture into the display space so you feel that the picture belongs in the gallery and room. It should not garishly distract from the picture or conflict with the picture. The frame color can tie into a room by matching the color of any dominant furnishings or using a dark, average, or light median room-and-picture color.

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