Picture Framing: An Introduction

A while ago, I happened across Nubby Twiglet’s blog post on a framing adventure that turned deadly…well…to her pocketbook mainly. Anyway, she was able to leave the store with a better price on her framed artwork than the custom order she had made, but still, it got me to start thinking about my time as a custom framer.  How many times have I helped a customer totally clueless on the framing process; how many times have I convinced a customer that their print was something that could only be custom framed; how many times have I been told that framing is too complicated that the customer only wants professionals to do their work.

Well, nothing against the professionals, they are my compadres, but picture framing is not that complicated of a science, in fact it’s just repetition with measuring and numbers. IN fact, the most important thing you need to know about framing is how to do basic math!!   I decided that since I am no longer a custom framer, I should share some tips and tricks with the world regarding framing and how you can frame yourself, it just takes practice and patience.  I’m starting a series of projects that can show the regular Joe how to frame without the scary numbers.  IN FACT, I’ll post my math so that everyone can follow along.

Everyone, meet…The Frame!

I’m going to start this blog post off with an introduction with a regular frame.  I purchased this frame from Hobby Lobby in their 66% Clearance Custom Frame section of the spring sales area.  If you get to Hobby Lobby on time, you can find some really good deals with clearance custom frames, this little guy was about $10.  The following will be a basic introduction to a frame to better familiarise yourself with the different terminology used when we start some framing projects later in the course.  Also, if you go off to Hobby Lobby to buy this specific frame, sorry, this frame has been discontinued for several years.

Front and Back

Now, when I start describing how to put a frame together, I will be referring to different sides of the frame, those sides will refer to which end of the frame you are looking at, so I’ll start with the easiest to remember: FRONT and BACK.

The FRONT side of the frame is usually the side with the frame design or panelling on it.  It is the side that you will see when it is hanging on the wall and for most of the framing process, you will NEVER see this side. In the example above, the FRONT is the shiny black veneer.  The side you will see during the framing process is the BACK side of the frame, this is either the plain side or, in this example, the unfinished side of the frame.  Most of the time, you can tell whether or not a frame is custom-made is by looking at the back to see if it is unfinished.  An unfinished back is a good indicator that the frame is custom made.  Also (we’ll get to this later) when you measure out your new frame, and it comes back with 1/2″ and 3/8″ lengths and widths, that is another indicator that the frame is custom.  Also, what you can see from the back side of the frame is the small 1/4″ lip that will prevent your artwork from falling out the front of the frame.  I will explain the purpose of the lip in more detail later in this post.

Portrait and Landscape

Portrait and Landscape are two terms that seem to bring up a lot of questions when talking about a framing.  I used to have customers stare at me stupid when I asked if their artwork is either Portrait or Landscape.  In actuality, these are two terms that not only refer to painting styles, but also to frame orientation.  PORTRAIT refers to the position where the two longest sides of the frame are vertically parallel (see picture); the frame looks as if it is standing up.  You will see this orientation in lots of Portrait photography (Senior Photos, Family Photos, etc.).  LANDSCAPE refers to the position where the two longest sides are horizontally parallel (see picture); the frame looks as if it is lying down.  This will be used in large family portraits where the extended family is lined up together in one long line. It is important to know which way your frame is oriented, since this will make your hanging process much easier, and in more advanced framing, will help you attach and orient different items to the mat board.

Height and Width

Now that we have established the orientation for Portrait and Landscape, I need to make sure that everyone knows that width and height are different for portrait and landscape and while it may seem difficult now, it will get easier later when you start to cut your own mats. Now for a Portrait frame (marked P) the HEIGHT is the long part of the frame, while the WIDTH of the frame is the shortest part of the frame (see Picture).  Now for a Landscape frame (marked L) the HEIGHT is the shortest part of the frame, while the WIDTH is the longest part of the frame.

The Sides

Now most of the information to follow will only be important when it comes to applying the hangers and such.  So, just use it as reference for when I discuss anything about the TOP, BOTTOM and SIDES.  Remember, the top is always at the top of the frame that will be facing the ceiling, the bottom will be facing the floor, and the sides will be facing the walls.

How to Measure

Measuring a frame can be fairly intimidating, especially when you don’t know what to look for when measuring.  Now if you’re purchasing a clearance frame, some Hobby Lobbies tend to have the sizes written (in inches) on the frame itself, BUT if you’re unlucky enough to encounter a frame that has no posted sizes, these tips will help you determine what size the frame is.  Now, most custom frames are not even numbers, you will encounter numbers such as 20 3/8″ or 15 1/4″.  Be prepared for these crazy numbers, the frame I’ve been using is measured 10 5/8″ by 13 3/8″.

Now, when you measure a frame, there are several things you need to know: You can only measure the frame from the back (see diagram); You can only measure the frame from the outside lip (enlarge diagram in black), not the inside lip (enlarge diagram in white); The lip is about a 1/4″ in length and it is used to hold in your frame’s insides, this prevents your glass from falling out of the front.


For a better look, click the picture to enlarge it.  DEPTH is basically how deep the frame will go back from the lip to the very back of the frame.  In the example, the frame is 5/8″ deep.  Now DEPTH is important depending on what you want to frame.  If you want to frame a 3-D object (like a Jersey, a hat, insects, a bronze bootie, a taxidermy bird, etc.) you will need a larger depth than what I have shown here.  I have a Cottonwood Borer inside a 3″ frame that I top matted and shadow-boxed in to fit is giant horns.  Lost ya? It’ll make sense later, I’ll be posting other options on what you can do with a framing later on.

That’s it for now people, the next post will be a small interactive lesson introduction to framing.  Also, you’ll get a great jewelry holder out of it as well.

A Perfect Storm

About four weeks ago, at the boyfriend’s place, I received a call from my mother who told me that she and my sister found a kitten in our garage.  My mother was concerned because the kitten was just bones, and looked as if she had been neglected and starved for weeks.  I hurried home to see this emaciated kitten and I swear, when I first saw this poor thing she looked almost like a kitty skeleton with fur who was moving!  My sister and I ended up buying kitten Step 2 formula, and kitten food, and started feeding her about every hour a 1/4 cup of formula and kitten food mixed together.  When we took her to the vet the next day, she weighed less than 3 pounds at three months of age, and was dehydrated and malnourished (she needed some teeth removed), so we decided to foster her until she was plump and well-adjusted enough to be given a good home (at this time she fluffed up at any loud noise that came from anywhere, our dogs, cat, and even us if we startled her awake).  After a while, my sister decided that she wanted to keep the kitten and here we are with a beautiful new kitty.

My sister’s fiancé then wanted to name the cat and gave her the name of Storm, in honor of the day we found her, but like always, my sister and I wanted a cuter name for the kitten, and thus named her:

Stormy Weather!

As of now, she’s at a healthy weight, she’s very active and playful, and she’s inquisitive and very cuddly.  She even poses for photographs.

Copyright 2011 The Oracle of Dreams

The image was taken in our front foyer; her copper eyes were the highlight of the image. 

My Process:

    1. I used a Photoshop Action from night-fate stock on DeviantArt (she no longer has the action set up on her site-set 22 to be exact) to create a pastel like image but kept the integrity of Stormy’s eyes.
    2. I then created a fake bokkeh element with the Gaussian blur filter and layer masks.  I deleted the background of the image using the mask so I could blur the background fully. 
    3. Selecting the brush tool and opening the Brush Preset Options, I selected Scattering, set the spacing to about 250-300% set to both axes, Count set on a low number, and Count Jitter to about 10%.  All this was set to Pen Pressure. Set color dynamics to Foreground/Background Jitter to 30% at Fade, everything else is all at 0%.  And create a new layer set to soft light and the brush opacity to 25%. I then painted the round brush into the mirror to finish off the bokkeh effect. (Note: The colors I picked are in step 5!)
    4. After staring at the image a while, I concluded that the image would look better as a lomograpy-styled photograph.  So I made an oval of black around the edges of the image and Gaussian blurred the oval set layer style to Overlay for the light leaks. (I’m going to ask for a Holga for Christmas just for this sole purpose!)
    5. I ended up using a gradient tool (G) as a color filter with colors picked from PuglyPixel (Pink – EF7D8D and Taupe – E3D2C0) with pink as the foreground color and taupe as the background color.
    6. Using the gradient tool (G) placed it at a diagonal holding the shift button down and set the layer at opacity 65% at Soft Light to give the colors more saturation.
    7. I then masked the top color layer, and with a 50% Opacity Soft Round brush, I took out some of the color off the eyes of the kitten.


The Oracle of Dreams