Six Ways to Lower Picture-Framing Costs

1.    Don’t purchase from a retail store
2.    High volume purchases 
3.    Shop local
4.    Sacrifice service
5.    Buy raw material
6.    Sacrifice quality

1)    Don’t purchase from a retail store – skip the middle man when you can and either buy from a manufacturer, or from a distributor/wholesaler. Custom frame shops mostly buy from picture frame distributors, meaning higher prices because they have high overhead. Frame Destination is basically a wholesaler because we purchase directly from the manufacturer.  Keep in mind, however, that even if you buy from the manufacturer or distributor, you don’t always get better pricing. For example, you can buy framing supplies from Lineco and crystal clear art bags from Clearbags direct, but if you only buy in small quantities you may end up paying retail prices. If you purchase in small volumes you will may get better pricing from us or a company like ours. Look for frame distributors in your area and try to setup an account with them. Different companies have different requirements. For example, Larson Juhl requires their framing customers to have a retail store front. We have no requirements.

2)    High volume purchases - purchasing in volume is a great way to save money and it also helps you save on order processing overhead and shipping costs. For example, FedEx charges Frame Destination a few dollars for every box we ship, even if they are part of the same order, but they only charge us a few cents for an extra pound.

3)    Shop local - or at least try to shop within your part of the country. For example, if you live in California and want to purchase  clearbags, you might be able to pay less for shipping buying direct from Clearbags’ warehouse in California rather than buying from Frame Destination in Texas.  However, if you are getting a frame order from us and add some clearbags to it,  then your shipping cost may be only a $1 – 2 dollars more. Also, you have to consider size . Frame materials are large and the shipping companies (FedEx and UPS) charge based on whichever is higher, actual weight of the shipment, or dimensional weight. Dimensional weight is a formula that converts volume of the box into pounds. This means it will cost more to ship an empty 3 cubic ft. box than it will to ship a couple of bricks in a small box. Some places may offer lower shipping cost than us, however, if the corners of the mats are always damaged you may not be saving money in the long run.

4)    Sacrifice service - one of the reasons (most) custom frame shops are more expensive is because they offer great service. . The best ones will have certified picture framers on staff who understand how to identify artwork and safely frame it so it will last for generations, and how to frame it so that it will be aesthetically pleasing to both the artwork and the decor it will complement. They take the time to walk you through various options. They also do all the final assembly including getting rid of that last piece of dust before sealing up the frame package. . To a lesser degree, distributors and wholesalers will offer different levels of service. For example, our company will notify you if part of your order is out of stock. Other companies may just ship the order incomplete, so you don't find out about the stock issue until you get the order. Different companies have different error rates, quality rates, accuracy rates, order fulfillment rates and packaging quality. Offering better customer service, quicker order turn around, less back-orders, and less shipping damage means higher quality employees (not min wage), more expensive equipment, more expensive supplies, and higher inventory costs.

5)    Buy raw material - you can  save money by purchasing raw material, such as full sheets of mat board, and then cutting them yourself. However, this requires equipment and time. If you want to save more time you have to buy more expensive equipment. You can cut mat board more efficiently and with better quality on $1200 mat cutter than a $250 one. The same is true even for the computerized mat cutters. Frame Destination has been upgrading our computerized mat cutters to help increase our quality and efficiency. Be careful when doing it yourself because time is money. Do you get a better return on your time for taking and marketing pictures, or for cutting mats? Let’s say that you are buying 16x20 Bainbridge Alphamats matboard with a window of 11x14 from my company at qty 25. Your cost is $4.70 each. If you buy an entire box of uncut mat board from us then your cost per 16x20 if you cut them yourself will be $2.31, for savings of $2.39. If it takes you an hour to cut 4 then you are saving $9.56/hr. If your time is worth more than $9.56/hr then you are losing money by cutting your own mats. Me personally, even though I own a picture frame company...I have never hand cut a mat and never will...I would rather be out taking pictures.

6)    Sacrifice Quality - For example, one of the mat boards we sell is Bainbridge Alpharag. It is the best and has the most archival features built in. If you do not care about the Artcare technology in that mat board you can buy Crescent Museum Rag, which does not contain Artcare protection, but has all of the other features. However, in the case of the 8-ply, the Crescent mat board is not quite as thick and sturdy as the Bainbridge so you also sacrifice a little depth. If you are not concerned about Museum quality archival mat board but still want to carry rag mat board, you can get the regular Crescent rag board. You can continue to sacrifice features, quality and density all the way down to the lowest end paper mat board.

About the author


Mark Rogers is an amateur photographer and the founder of Frame Destination, Inc. In 2004 Mark realized the framing industry was not keeping up with the evolution of photography via new digital technology and started Frame Destination in his garage. Now his company has thousands of do-it-yourself framing customers across the US that it helps with its 11,000 square feet production facility in Dallas, TX.

3 thoughts on “Six Ways to Lower Picture-Framing Costs”

  • Tim Chisholm

    Tip number 1 above is especially relevant to my business. We have a full service framing facility, but no retail location. So while we save huge on overhead for our shop space, Larson Juhl specifically treats us like we're radioactive. This makes alternative sources (ie, friendly local retail frame shops) vital, in cases where we have to match a previous job done with Larson Juhl mouldings.

  • Richard White

    I agree whole heartily with these 6 money saving tips. I had a frame shop in Richardson, Texas for eleven years. One thing that is hard on a service framing business is the loss leader ads that "Chain Stores" throw out. The sales price cost the end user something. If not money then it probably cost you in care, service, or quality.

    I am glad to learn about Frame Destination. My 7th tip would be: Be loyal to your supplier. The whole world is built on relationships. A company like Frame Destination will reward a customer in many ways because of loyalty.

    I look forward to checking them out.

  • mangastream

    This is cool article


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