Wood may have reigned as the chosen picture frame for thousands of years, but the modern picture framing customer has a much larger selection from which to choose. Most often, however, customers narrow it down to just two: wood or the more modern metal.
While the decision eventually comes down to personal preference—not just availability or convention—there are a few other considerations when choosing between a wood and metal picture frame for any artwork.
Check out the artwork.
The earliest picture frames were made from wood and remained the favorite frame material for years; classic and traditional pieces, such as still life paintings, portraits and landscapes, often look more “at home” within a wooden picture frame. The intricate details and play of light and dark (chiaroscuro, for the art buffs) in many of these paintings are complemented by the warmth and elegant detail—sometimes ornate—of traditional wooden frames. This warmth can also carry over to more contemporary, colorful works that blur the lines between traditional and modern.
Modern works, such as abstract paintings, minimalistic work and photography, most commonly black and white photography, are suited to the simplicity of metal frames. With their no-fuss look, metal picture frames support less intricately detailed works of art rather than compete with them.
Check out the room.
A framed piece of artwork will have a home somewhere inside yours—look to that room’s style for guidance. A warmly-toned living room outfitted with an overstuffed sofa and a roaring fireplace is the perfect setting for a wide mahogany picture frame, while modern rooms call for metal frames. Though metal picture frames often feature fewer color options than its wood counterparts—white, black and silver are the most common colors in metal picture frames—their simplicity allow them to complement many styles of décor.
Check your budget.
Because wood frames are composed of a pricier material and must be hand-glued and nailed together, they are slightly more expensive than the typically aluminum metal frames. The more ornate the wood frame gets, the more expensive it is.
If you plan on purchasing a complete frame kit, including mat board, mount board and glazing, at museum conservation-level quality, it may be beneficial to first look at your budget. Those who wish to frame multiple photographs or prints—to create a gallery wall, for example—may find it easier on their budget to purchase metal frames or mix and match the materials.
Check out the damage potential.
While wood frames are sturdy, they are sometimes susceptible to damage. Wood frames may also be heavier, which can make it easier to drop, and subsequently dent or ding, them. Customers who plan to move their frames, have children with curious hands, or house pets that love to knock things over may find it easier on their wallets to choose metal frames, at least for the time being. Metal frames can be repaired or have sides replaced, while wood frames wear their scratches and dents with pride.
All of these “rules” can go out the window depending on what you like. A traditional oil painting can be framed in a sleek silver metal frame, no matter what the customs dictate. It’s simply up to you to decide what you like best in a picture frame.