How to Frame Diplomas

Written by Mark Rogers

After years of hard work and perhaps a few tears, you’ve finally received that simple piece of paper that makes it all worthwhile: your diploma. Instead of keeping it tucked away in a drawer, though, put it on display the right way with a high quality college diploma frame.

Ready Your Diploma for the Frame

Most diplomas are delivered flat, but it is possible that your diploma will be mailed rolled up — or the postal office may inadvertently bend it. Older diplomas in storage may have lived for years in a tube, making it almost impossible for them to lie flat. While a diploma may flatten over time in a picture frame, it is far easier to frame a diploma if it is not constantly curling up at the edges.

To flatten a diploma, place it face-down on a clean, hard surface such as a table or a piece of acrylic, and place a leather print weight on each corner; you can use blotting paper in between to further protect the document. Leave the diploma undisturbed for at least a day, after which it should no longer curl. If it still curls at the edges, leave it under the weights longer, or place a heavier object on top of it. For wrinkled or creased paper-based diplomas, you can (carefully) use a little bit of heat with a standard clothes iron. Sandwich the diploma between two sheets of blotting paper and iron it on low to remove the creases.

Note that while you can use heat on regular wood pulp-based paper diplomas, you should never use heat to flatten a parchment diploma. Parchment is a traditional material made from sheepskin or other animal hide on which older diplomas are printed, and it can be irreparably damaged by heat. For traditional parchment diplomas, it is best to bring it to a professional conservator to ensure you do not damage the diploma.

Those who have dug their diplomas out of storage and noticed a buildup of dust and fingerprints should clean the document before placing it in a frame — otherwise, you run the risk of further damage. Use a special document cleaner and cleaning pads on paper-based diplomas, which absorb grime without damaging the paper. Traditional parchment diplomas should be cleaned by a professional.

Finding the Right Diploma Frame

An off-the-shelf picture frame at a department store may fit a diploma, but the materials contained within — the mount board and mat board — are often not archival. Because diplomas are one of a kind, it’s preferable to choose frames that use materials that will not damage the diploma in the long run.

Framer’s Tip: Before framing your diploma, make a high-resolution digital copy — while it’s not common to send your diploma to job prospects, it will be more difficult to do so once the frame is assembled.

Diplomas generally come in similar sizes, though they may be oriented differently: portrait, where the height is greater than the width, or landscape, in which the width is greater than the height. Ready-made picture frames are the quickest way to frame a diploma as they include all the necessities and are available in the most common sizes, but you are restricted in terms of mat board and frame style — generally white mat board and a black metal frame. To truly highlight your diploma, there are a few ways to customize your frame beyond choosing a wood frame.

  • Choose a colored mat board.

Some ready-made picture frames do not come with mat board; others include only a white archival mat board. While this provides a clean, professional look, you can also match the mat board to your school’s colors to personalize it just a bit more. Some archival mat board, such as the Bainbridge 4-ply Alphamat, is available in dozens of colors, including blue, green and red.

  • Make it a double mat.

Most schools have more than one color — if you want to highlight both of them, design a custom mat board with a double mat in the frame. This allows you to use more color in an understated yet eye-catching way, which can be especially useful if your diploma contains little to no color.

  • Add a little something extra.

If your school’s colors are not available in a suitable archival mat board, there is still an opportunity to bring a pop of color to the frame. Lay a ribbon in your school’s colors diagonally across a corner of the diploma to give a subtle nod to your school. Alternatively, if you’ve kept your graduation tassel, you can include this within the framing package as well, but note that it may require a little extra space within the frame.

Though you can order a duplicate from your high school or university, a copy of your diploma will never be the original — so it’s important to frame it with care and make sure you’re proud to have it on display for years to come.

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