When a Custom Picture Frame Is Better than Store-Bought

Written by Mark Rogers

Going to the nearest big box store or department store when you need a picture frame is the natural inclination of many people. But the selections and styles at these stores are limited and you’re likely to see the same frames in your friends and family’s homes.

Custom picture frames give you the chance to personalize your frame and truly match it to the photo you’re framing and to your home’s unique décor and aesthetic. Here are a few particular instances when a custom picture frame is a better option than a generic store-bought frame.

Unusual Photo Sizes

With the increasing popularity of hobby photography, more and more people want to hang custom art in their home. Whether you’re taking the photos yourself or buying the art from a vendor at your local farmer’s market, these one-of-kind prints bring amazing character to your home.

This rising trend has introduced a tangent trend: photos of unusual sizes. While your typical 4x6 and 8x10 photos are still popular, more and more custom photography is being produced in unusual sizes and dimensions. Smaller photos, large format, panoramic, all these styles are hard to frame if you’re shopping for frames at a department store. However, ordering a custom picture frame means these atypical dimensions aren’t a problem and your choices of frame style and look aren’t limited.

Adding Color

Store-bought frames generally come with a white or cream mat board, if the frame includes a mat board at all (which many store-bought frames don’t). A mat board is the “border” within the frame that gives you framed photos a professional, finished look.

Opting for a custom picture frame means you get to customize every aspect of your frame package – including the mat board that surrounds the photo. Buying a custom mat board lets you add color to your framed photo. You can choose a color that will complement the photo by highlighting accent colors, or get a mat board in a color that makes the framed photo seamlessly fit in with your room’s décor. Custom mat boards range from soft neutrals to bright bolds, giving you plenty of options to experiment with.

With custom frames, you also have the option of layered mat boards – something that’s very hard to find in store board frames. Layered mat boards allow you to add a thin line of additional color to the framed photo. This technique is ideal for calling out accent colors in the photo, particularly when framing wedding photos.

Dramatic Look

When creating a wall display of family photos, framing an important document, or using a framed picture as the focal point of a wall or room, you may want a particular look or a frame that adds a little extra flair to the photo.

Department stores do a good job of carrying popular styles, but you don’t have many options if you’re looking for something a little different. Whether you want a bolder frame, a different finish or something ornate, you’re not likely to find these styles at a store. Custom picture framers carry a much wider selection of frame styles to help you achieve the look you’re envisioning.

By ordering a custom frame you can also control the size of the mat board. This gives you the option of framing your photo in a frame that’s much larger than the print itself, relying on a wide mat board or an offset mat opening to add style and drama to your cherished photo.


If you’re framing a one-of-a-kind piece of art or precious family photos, you want to make sure those memories last for a long time. Cheaper framing materials can introduce acid into the frame was the paper and other wood-based materials being to leach naturally occurring acid over time. This can cause yellowing and other discoloration in your photo. Another harmful element to photos and art is direct UV rays, which will cause pictures of fade over time.

Custom framing gives you the option of protecting your photos with archival-quality framing materials, such as acid-free mat boards and UV-filter glazing (picture frame glass).

Custom picture frames are easy and affordable to order online, making this option just as realistic as running to the store. When your custom framed photo is hanging on display exactly the way you pictured it, you’ll be glad you opted for the custom frame.

Last Updated September 28, 2020

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8 thoughts on “When a Custom Picture Frame Is Better than Store-Bought”

  • Dean Phillips
    Dean Phillips June 9, 2021 at 3:18 pm

    My sister who recently had her family picture is looking to get custom picture frames made here in Orlando. She told me last Thursday in the afternoon that she needed my help to look into it and this led me to your incredible article here. I really liked where you explained how custom framing gives you the option of protecting your photos with archival-quality framing materials, such as acid-free mat boards and UV-filter glazing. Anyone interested in purchasing these frames will be glad to have been made aware of this point you made here. Thanks a bunch and I'll be sure to share this with my sister soon! https://artoriginals.com/mirrors-%26-framing

  • Elsa Anderson

    My parent's anniversary is coming up, and we have a beautiful family picture that I would like to frame. I am thinking about a custom frame, so I am glad that I found this article. I like that you say getting a custom frame lets you add color that will compliment the photo and fit in with your room's decor. Also, I like that you say custom framing will help the photos to last longer and protect them from UV rays. This is important to me because I want my parents to have a photo in their home that will last.

  • John Ferrell

    Our family picture is HUGE. I'm not sure if I want it so big because it makes me look bigger! but we had to get a custom frame for our family picture and my wife just loves it. Custom frames definitely add color and help make the picture look even better.

  • Rachel Lannister
    Rachel Lannister February 23, 2017 at 6:59 am

    I just had some family pictures taken and I wanted to find nice frames to put them in. You wrote that you should look for a way to get your hands onto some custom frames, as being able to choose a different color could help you to be able to perfectly compliment the existing decor in your home. I'll have to do this, especially since my home has rather unique colors and designs. Thanks for the blog. http://www.colorestartsupplies.com/picture-framing.html

  • Leviticus

    I remember being to a museum where my favorite piece was a digital design image with elements from space. The frame was unlike I had ever seen- it was dramatic and unique and had a silver color. It really highlighted the image and helped it stand out. I think custom frames are a great option because they help you find the perfect frame to complement your image.

  • Tyler Meredith

    I like what this article mentions about custom frames being good for unusual picture sizes. It makes sense that a custom frame could look much better on an oddly shaped or sized picture than a regular frame with spacers in it. It's something to remember to make sure anything I want to have frame looks good.

  • Mark Rogers

    Hi Mary,

    We changed how the borders are entered. The first entry is for both sides. The 2nd entry changed from "Top" border to "Top / Bottom" border. So if you want all 4 sides to be 4 inches just put 4 in the first two inputs, and leave the 3rd input blank. The 3rd input used to be "Bot" border but now it is just "Bottom Weight". In other words the 3rd input is not the size of the bottom border, it is just how much larger the bottom border should be than the top border. I realize it is a subtle and confusing change but we had to do that since the website is can now calculate borders or frame size.

  • Mary Hyatt

    Since your site upgrade it is now impossible to order Matt's with the same width on all 4 sides. The site insists on making the bottom Matt width larger. Any chance this can be changed? Is there a current workaround I have not been able to figure out? Thanks


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