Steps to Framing an Oil Painting

klimt framed...Framing an oil painting is not cheep, but it’s definitely worth it as sometimes frames are a great compliment to a painting.

But how can you tell a good framer from a mediocre one?
First, if you can get a referral that would be best. If not, and you are walking into a frame shop trying to decide if to invest your precious artwork in the hands of this artesian, observe the neatness of the framed paintings hanging on the walls. Is that something that you would fancy? Does it look like it was well done? Particularly, observe how carefully the matting has been cut. Other things to pay close attention to are the range of matting and framing options available and how long will the framing process take.

Below are the steps involved in choosing a frame for a painting.

  • Step 1: Framing Composition – It is common to have ‘excess’ canvas on the edges that you wish trimmed off or concealed. The framer will then discuss with you where would you like to crop the painting. Once you’ve determined that, the framer will then pencil mark the painting to show the four corners where the frame will go. First, see what your framer suggests as far as composition, a good framer will have a sense for that, then, decide if you like it. If not, say so, remember, it’s your painting and it’s ultimately your decision.
  • Step 2: Matting – A matt is a piece of colored cardboard that is placed around the painting. Note that a painting doesn’t have to have matting; the frame can touch the edge of the painting. But a mount can really ‘finish off’ a painting and brighten the colors in it. A painting can even have more than one matt.The framer should have a range of sample matting corners in an array of colors. Most framers have a display board on which they clip your painting/matting/frame. You should be able to step away from the display board to see what the composition will look like from a distance.
  • Step 3: The Frame – The framer will have a range of sample corners for frames. This will be clipped to your painting along with the matting so you can see what the final composition will be. It can be a bit hard to make out from one corner, what the frame and matting combination will look like. Use your hands to block out most of the painting so you see only the corner with the proposed frame and matt to help you focus.
  • Step 4: Glass – Glass in a frame is essential for pastels, drawings, and watercolors, but not necessary for oil paintings and paintings that are varnished. You should be given the option between reflective and matt glass. Matt glass is less reflective but does absorb some of the color of the painting. Ask the framer to show you some samples so you can see what the differences are.
  • Step 5: Get a Quote – The framer may work out the quote on the spot, or give you a call later. The cost will depend on the size of the painting, the number of mats used, the thickness and ornate level of the frame chosen, and whether or not you choose to place glass against it. I estimate the cost of framing a 20″x24″ oil painting can be over $200 for the framing alone.
  • Step 6: Collect your new Framed Painting – Prior to paying the framer, check your newly framed masterpiece with great detail. Has the matting been cut neatly? Is it placed right where you wanted it? Is the matting flat? Is the frame neatly cut and jointed? If you’re unhappy, get it sorted out before you pay for it. If it’s been framed to your liking (you should be aw-stroke… I usually am…), take the time to compliment the framer for a job well done; everyone loves compliments.

About the Author

Amitai Sasson of is an art world traveler on a mission to seek out the beauty and passion of the art world. As an avid enthusiast of art and oil paintings, he contributes to as Chief editor and writer.