5 Mistakes When Ordering Custom Picture Frames

Written by Mark Rogers

Has buying anything online ever been more convenient? We think not, and that applies to picture frames and supplies as well. Instead of lugging your painting or print to a custom frame shop—which might not be an option for you—with online frame shops you can simply view, click and order. Even though it’s easier, there are some common mistakes almost everyone makes when ordering a custom frame online, especially if it’s their first time.

1. Choosing high-grade materials when you don’t need them.

A frame package comprises not just the frame but the mat board, mount board and glazing, all of which are available in varying degrees of conservation quality. It’s natural to want the best of the best, but sometimes the best materials for your frame package are not necessarily the most expensive.

For example, there are three different types of mat board in terms of material: cotton rag, alpha cellulose and paper. Cotton rag is considered to be fit for long-term preservation in museums, and it is also the most expensive.

Alpha cellulose is cheaper than cotton rag, making it a great middle ground for those who want to keep the costs down but still protect artwork. Our Crescent Select 4-Ply mats (as well as the new Metallic colors) are made of acid- and lignin-free alpha cellulose. These products meet museum standards for preservation, but many other alpha cellulose mat boards do not.

Paper mat board, being the most economical, is sometimes overlooked due to its status as being suitable for “temporary framing”—but temporary may be all that you need. If you’re planning on framing photographs or prints that can be easily reproduced, paper mat board is a great choice. It’s affordable, attractive and still high quality. It can, of course, cause damage to photographs and other artwork due to its acidity, but this process takes time. For easily reproducible work, the potential for long-term fading may not matter.

The same goes for mount board, which is also available in various levels of conservation quality, as well as the glazing. Clear UV filter acrylic is important for a museum, but standard glass may be fine for a simple framed photo in a dark corner of the living room.

2. Relying on a computer monitor to find the right color.

Mat boards are traditionally neutral colors, such as white or cream, but they are now offered in pastel pinks and yellows, deep reds and blues, organic greens and more to help add extra visual appeal to a framed piece. Some new metal picture frames go beyond the standard silver or black, such as the Nielsen Profile 117V, which is offered in metallic red, blue, green, purple and turquoise. (For a nice roundup of our brand-new metal and wooden frames that pay homage to the latest color trends, check out our blog post on 2020 Color Trends.)

The true color of the mat board or a colorful picture frame can be difficult to see on computer monitors since the displayed colors can vary wildly depending on the type and age of the monitor or its calibration level. When you're attempting to complement colors in a photograph or piece of artwork, it’s important to find the right match. To avoid throwing away money on the wrong color mat board or a frame that doesn’t suit, first order a mat board sample pack or frame moulding samples.

3. Doing it yourself without the proper equipment.

When ordering a full frame package from an online shop, there’s not much assembly needed: adhere the artwork to the mat board if necessary, slide it in the frame, attach the hanging kit and hang your frame. Some customers, however, want to take a more hands-on approach to their frames.

Frame Destination offers uncut and full sheet mat board for those who want to create their own look. At-home framers can use manual mat cutters, rulers and patience to cut their own mat boards. But without the proper cutting tools or experience, you may not get the results you desire. Online custom frame shops such as Frame Destination use computerized cutting machines that precisely and cleanly cut single or multiple mat board windows without wasting any material.

4. Fiddling too much with custom sizes.

Online frame shops can offer the ability to tweak the size of the frame, mat board, mount board and points to create a unique frame package. You can really create something special, quickly and easily, when you use advanced options like blank mats, archival backing or extra glass or acrylic.

However, sometimes the standard sizes will work best—they are standard for a reason! Unless you’re absolutely sure that the sizes you choose are the sizes you want, stick with the standard sizes, or ask the frame shop for advice.

If you’re going with custom sizes and use a mat board, make sure you understand the difference between the artwork size and the mat window. Normally you want the mat window—the opening cut in the mat—to be smaller than the artwork in order to cover the edges and help keep the artwork flat against the backing board.

Frame Destination makes it easy to find the perfect standard frame. Yes, we offer thousands of options, but with a few simple clicks you can narrow your search to the just-right frame.

5. Going rogue (i.e., not asking for advice).

Just because it is an online shop doesn’t mean there is no one to answer your questions. If you’re not sure whether you should choose a metal or wood frame, or you’re struggling to create the perfect double mat, you can contact the online shop to get in touch with real, live framing professionals. In addition to providing information about specific framing components, they can help you find the right look regarding the mat board color or frame style.

Online frame shops are becoming the go-to resource for custom frames. Avoid the most common mistakes when ordering custom picture frames to ensure you receive the right frame the first time.

Last Updated April 15, 2021

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