What Do I Need to Frame a Photo?

Written by Mark Rogers

“What do I need to frame a photo?” is a common question from DIY framers. While many people turn to pre-made kits from department stores, those kits can’t always give you the custom look that you want. Whether it’s a different mat size or color, a larger frame, a deeper frame, or any other “out of the ordinary” element, there are times you need a custom frame for your artwork and photos. In these instances, taking your pictures to a professional framer is an option, but buying and framing them with custom frames yourself is considerably cheaper and not as difficult as you might think.

The first step to framing your own photos and artwork at home is to understand all the elements of a proper picture frame. Once you understand what’s needed, you can make style decisions to give your framed photo the perfect – not off the shelf – look.

For DIY framing, you’ll need:

  • Picture frame
  • Backing board
  • Mat board
  • Glazing
  • Hanging kit


The frame is the most obvious item you’ll need. When custom framing, the options are nearly endless – from sleek, modern frames to ornate, classic frames. The first step is to envision your framed piece. What type of frame do you imagine? How big is it? How wide is the frame and how deep-set is the art? What color and material is the frame? Once you have an image in mind you can start searching.

Frame Destination carries a wide variety of metal and wood frames in a range of sizes, depths, and finishes to help you make your vision a reality. If you’re not sure which frame will look best with your art, try ordering a sample kit to see your options in person.

Backing Board

Backing board, or mounting board, is important to help keep your photo stable. Mounting board comes in several options, including archival-quality to protect your pictures from pollutants and yellowing and even black backing board.

If you opt for a non-adhesive backing board, be sure to also purchase a photo-safe adhesive to securely attach your photo. If you’re not sure which backing board is best for your project, contact the experts at Frame Destination and we’ll be happy to advise you.

Mat Board

The mat board is the border material that surrounds the photo inside the frame. In many store-bought kits, the mat board is white, off white, or occasionally gray. However, with custom framing the option for mat board colors are nearly endless. You have your option of soft neutrals all the way to bright, vibrant colors – there are even options when it comes to the exact color of your white mat board. When custom framing, you can add two or three mat boards for a layered look and additional pops of color.

To help you decide how large your mat should be and how to position your photo within the mat and frame, see our recent blogs:

Like backing board, archival-quality mat board is available to help protect your photo and make it last longer.

When you use Frame Destination’s interactive, online frame building tool, you’ll be able to see what the mat looks like in the frame before ordering. If you opt for more than one mat board, you’ll also be able to see the layering effect and decide how much of each layer you’d like to be visible. You can also order sample color kits to see the mat color in person. This is particularly helpful if you already have a display location in mind as you’ll be able to see how the mat interacts with the room’s lighting.


Frame glazing is the “frame glass” and can either be glass or acrylic. Each has its pros and cons; for instance, acrylic is shatter-proof and lighter weight, but is more prone to scratching.

The best way to decide between glass and acrylic glazing is to determine where your photo will be displayed. If your photo will be displayed around children or in a high traffic area, the shatter proof qualities of acrylic might be the better option for your framing project. Another consideration is the size of the frame. For particularly large pieces, lighter weight acrylic often makes hanging easier and safer.

When choosing your glazing, you have your choice of glass or acrylic with the following finishes:

  • Standard, no additional finishes added
  • UV-Filter to protect from harmful UV rays that can damage and discolor images over time
  • Anti-Reflective/Non-Glare to help keep your photo visible in difficult lighting situations

Hanging Kit

Finally, if you want to hang your framed photo you’ll need a hanging kit. Different types of frames require different hanging hardware to ensure its installed in the right location to not disrupt the frame. While there are different hanging kits for wood frames, side-loading metal frames, and back-loading metal frames, all kits generally include frame brackets, screws, hanging wire, and wall bumpers.

When you order a complete framing kit from Frame Destination, the appropriate hanging hardware is included. 

Optional Items

In addition to the basic framing needs, there are specialty items available to help further protect your photo or artwork while it’s framed.

Dust Cover

Also known as backing paper, this light-weight yet durable paper can be attached to the back of the frame, covering all the “internal” components – including the mount board – and protecting your framing materials and artwork from outside contaminants.

Frame Spacers

Have you ever seen a photo that looks like it’s stuck to the frame glass in some places? When the frame glazing presses up directly against the photo or artwork it can cause damage, and even trap moisture if it gets into the frame. Frame spacers add a protective air cushion between your artwork and the glazing, preventing many of these issues.

With these simple items, you’ll be able to frame your own photos and artwork at home – saving money and achieving the exact look you’re envisioning.

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2 thoughts on “What Do I Need to Frame a Photo?”

  • […] board gives custom framed photos stability and is an essential part of picture framing. Mount boards, often also referred to as foamcore, come in a variety of thicknesses, your choice of […]

  • Becca Holton

    This DIY had some interesting ideas on picture frames. However, I'm planning on having a custom picture frame made. This gave me a good idea of what type I want, especially those questions that came after that point about how the first step is to envision the framed piece. http://osframing.com/home.html

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