The main goal of framing is the integrity of composition which is a combination of image and frame. Ideally, the texture of the frame should match the style of the picture and maybe even repeat a feature of the composition, such as brush strokes or distinctive shapes. Simple frames should be used for simple pictures, and vice versa – for example, it would be a disaster to frame a modern abstract in an ornate gilt frame.

The point of framing is to create harmony between the artwork and its frame. A severe, thin, silver picture frame would ruin a delicate watercolour but perfectly suit a stark black-and-white photograph. A gracefully carved frame of light colours is not a good match for a photo but would emphasise the lightness and delicacy of a pastel drawing.


The colour of the frame should complement the image, and be a tone darker or lighter than its main colour. Paintings with cool colours have to be framed in cool-coloured frames and warm colours should likewise be reflected in the frame. The only exceptions to this rule are natural wood and dark bronze, which can fit almost any picture.




The balance between the width of the frame and the size of the picture must always be taken into consideration, so the larger the picture, the wider the frame. A wide frame adds weight and value to a painting and can look like a piece of art in itself. That is why it is impossible to imagine important works in an art museum without massive and solid frames around them.

One more dramatic technique to use is to frame a very small picture in a wide frame so that the total area of the frame is greater than the area of the picture. This looks very impressive and creates an effect of luxury and style.

Wide framing for a small painting

Thin and lightweight frames emphasise the elegance of small and average sized pictures because they help to focus attention on the image by leaving the frame as a kind of shadow. Modern frames are the ideal choice when grouping several images together.

Multiple frames

One of the most interesting and unusual ways to frame a picture is to use composite frames of two or more types. For this technique to be successful it is extremely important for the frames to be of different widths and textures. The inner frame which is located closest to the picture plays the role of a mat, emphasising both the picture and the beauty of the “external” frame at the same time.

Break the rules

These guidelines are basic rules of thumb but remember – trust in your taste and don’t be afraid. Art is about individual choices and unless you are not going to sell a picture, you are the only one who needs to be satisfied with the frame. A picture and frame together form a complete masterpiece for you to enjoy it every day, so if you feel that the rules need to be broken – don’t hesitate. Take your time, experiment, and enjoy the process! Then show your picture for what it is – unique!


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