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Why choose a neutral mat, instead of one that brings out a certain color in the image?

Today, we will look at the framing of this beautiful butterfly restrike, which is a new print made from an old lithographic stone, metal engraving plate, woodcut, or the like. 

In this article, you will be able to understand, visually, how different mat choices affect where your focus goes when viewing the framed image.
Butterfly restrike

Choosing a mat based on one of the colors in the art seems like a logical choice, but it really makes a statement in only that color.  The mat becomes more noticeable than the art.  It would seem like this purple mat would bring your eye toward the purple wings of the top butterfly, but in reality, you first notice the light background of the print because of the contrast. 

A choice similar to this is the most common reason we re-mat for clients who have changed their decor from what they had when they originally framed the art.  Alternatively, the owner of such a piece often simply gets tired of looking at the mat color, and would rather have the art be the focal point.
(Image of purple mat)
Butterfly restrike with purple mat.

A softer colored mat works better, but is not the optimal choice.  Your eye is still drawn to the mat, and to the background.  The image itself becomes secondary. The finished framing in this case also makes a big GREEN statement, which might conflict with other furnishings in the room.  The best framing design is one that will work anywhere the art works.

(Image of green mat)
Butterfly restrike with green mat.

Often seen is the use of a colored accent mat.  This example is slightly better because most of the mat is neutral. Unfortunately, the colored accent mat is seen before the image yet again because it creates a distracting colored box around the image.

(Image of purple accent mat)
Butterfly restrike with purple accent mat.

As you can see, the neutral mat is the best choice because it compliments the colors in the art without drawing the eye either to itself, or to one specific element in the image.  The colors in the art become the most prominent part of the design, therefore the art is what stands out.  Not the mat and not the frame.  For this reason neutral mats are the best choice in every instance.

(Image of butterfly with neutral mats)
Butterfly restrike with proper netural mats.

(This article was originally published February 23, 2016)


Design Corner deals with elements of frame design that make it go from okay to WOW! 

This month, our topic is

choosing the proper frame width for a painting on canvas.

Finished size: 16 x 20

Paintings on canvas have a large presence, and your frame should have an equally large presence so the frame design achieves balance. Therefore, you should always try to err on the side of the larger frame, when choosing between two.  There are times when we wish a frame was larger for a painting, but we never wish the frame was smaller. 

In this article, we will be using this painting by Suzanne Engel for our example.  Let's get started.

Finished size: 19 x 23
     Our first choice is the small version of a square black frame with a silver accent line.  The frame is dark.  This gives it weight.  Since our painting has such bold colors and lines, it requires something dark for balance.  If you chose a silver, gold, or wood tone, it wouldn't be bold enough.  You don't want that! 

This frame looks nice on the canvas.  It is appropriate, but it could be much better!

Finished size: 21 x 25

     Our better choice is the larger version of the same frame.

As  you can see, the larger version has enough presence to really make the painting look finished.  Since it has a larger black surface, it really brings the highlights in the painting forward.  The whites look whiter, and the yellow looks brighter, because you're mentally comparing the black to the light areas.  In this way a large dark frame can actually seem to brighten up a piece of art.

This frame makes the project go from simply okay to WOW!  


Here it is in one image for comparison.   
Click for a larger view
 This concludes Design Corner.

I hope our little demonstration shed some light on frame design for our readers.  
The Frame Source's skilled designers have many ideas for every framing project.  Come see us soon! 

(This article was originally published September 1, 2015)


(Framed painting of sailboat) HOW MAT WIDTH IS DETERMINED

The "rule of thumb" for determining mat width is: the wider the mat the more the picture becomes the focus of attention.


A wide mat provides visual direction for the eye drawing it to the subject being framed. A small mat, by contrast, creates clutter around the image and forces the mind to filter the framing elements out of the view. This makes it much less visually pleasing. The frame design should always compliment the item being framed and not compete with it. A small mat makes the frame design competitive instead of complimentary.


Proper mat width is also determined by the frame. The frame and the mat should be noticeably differing in width. If they are the same or even appear to be the same, it is also much less visually pleasing.


We have many years of study and experience in the elements of design. Our recommendations for your framing choices come not from personal opinion but rather from our knowledge of how to achieve long lasting beauty.

(This article was originally published April 28, 2015)


Do you have art, photographs, or textiles that have been framed for several years?  It's possible that these items are suffering from the effects of air-borne pollutants such as dust or moisture.  Even more significant damage is caused by low quality framing materials and techniques commonly in use by framers in the past, and by some still, today.

The backing paper on frames is there not only to make the back look finished, but also to provide a good perimeter seal.  It should be without any holes.  The reason for this is to keep out dust and insects.  Bugs think frames are a cozy place to live, so the paper on the back being intact is an important part of preservation framing.

Of course, our design specialists can inspect your framed pieces for damage and facilitate restoration by local professionals, if needed.

(This article was originally published April 28, 2015)


(Photo of custom framed military shadowbox)Are there family heirlooms or keepsakes stored in boxes or trunks in your home?  Most storage containers have high acid content, which is extremely destructive to paper and textiles.  The acid in those boxes will make paper and fabric brittle to the point of disintegrating if the item is not treated.  Our restoration professionals can rescue them so they will last from now on.

Your improperly stored keepsakes can be contaminated by such things as cardboard boxes, non-archival photo albums, plastic bags (including dry cleaner bags), insects, UV rays, amateur framing, and moisture.

If it's worth keeping and honoring, it's worth having it restored and framed properly.  We can advise you concerning any needed restoration before your item goes into the frame.  We use time-tested materials and techniques to provide you with museum-quality frame designs. 

Just think if you had a keepsake from your great-grandparents that had been properly framed generations ago, what a treasure it would be!  Now you have a chance to create such treasures for generations going forward! 

(This article was originally published July 22, 2015)

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222 Johnson Ferry Road NE

Sandy Springs, Georgia  30328

Telephone - 404.851.1761


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