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Vintage Posters - Framing








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Framing your posters and photographs

Whether you choose to let a custom framer handle your poster or photograph or decide to do the job yourself, the choices and decisions are myriad – from design considerations to the different types of mat, frames and glass - to the ways you mount the picture in the frame.

Despite the seemingly endless choices, the overall purposes of framing are essentially the same: to enhance the image, focus attention on it, protect it and give it a proper, professional presentation.

Fortunately there are guidelines and tips that can help you through the maze. For example, did you know that choosing a wider than average mat (the border around the framed poster or photo) can not only change the way a person views the poster, it can also invite them to view it in the first place?

Why frame your poster or photograph?

The frame, mount and mat are a picture’s “home,” meaning somewhere that it belongs. There are three reasons why we want our pictures to have a home. Two are practical and one is based on esthetics.

Support - at its simplest, framing acts as a support system for optimum viewing of a picture. It keeps the image flat and permits it to be easily placed upright on a wall or other support at a suitable viewing height.

Protection - quality photographs and posters need to be protected from dirt, grime and other environmental factors such as light, moisture and contact with poor-quality paper products that have high-acid content. No matter how careful you are, every time you handle the printed surface with direct touch, you risk transferring harmful materials. The natural acids in your hands can act to break down the surface of the photograph.

Artistic - the third consideration is the artistic and esthetic value proper framing can add to your poster or photograph. Framing should: firstly, celebrate and enhance your picture, even glorify it; secondly, it should set the boundaries so that the image doesn’t overwhelm its environment, or conversely, so the environment doesn't impose on the picture; and finally, act as a transition between the wall and the image. Framing can also draw the eye to the picture, emphasizing the more subtle elements and colors, and even increasing the apparent size of the image.

Framing terminology

Before exploring your framing options, here are some definitions of the basic components of picture framing:

  • Backing - stiff material, generally pieces of cardboard, placed behind the mounting board to provide additional support.
  • Frame - the structure made from wood, metal or plastic molding that supports and contains all the other framing elements.
  • Glass - the see-through material used to cover and protect the poster or photograph. There are different types of glass used: glare and non-glare, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages. Clear plastic is sometimes used in less-expensive frames.
  • Mat - a flat piece of cardboard or other material placed between the poster or photograph and the frame that forms a sort of frame-within-a-frame and makes a border between the picture and the frame. The mat also separates the picture from direct contact with the glass. The small air space prevents moisture build-up and the development of mold and fungus. More than one mat may be used with a picture. A mat can be plain or decorated, colored or pure white.
  • Molding - any of various long, narrow surfaces that, when accurately cut, are assembled to form the frame. Molding is often ornamental and frequently has a modeled profile. There are five basic molding shapes– flat, angular, curved, multiple-curved and compound (a combination of curves and angles).
  • Mounting Board - the board that holds the picture firmly against the mat. It can be attached to the poster or photograph using a number of methods. Often, the first step in framing is to have the picture mounted to ensure it remains stiff.
  • Dust Seals - paper, usually brown, stretched across the back of the frame to prevent dirt and insects from getting in.
  • Hangers - the hardware (nuts, bolts, screws and wires) used in attaching the frame to the wall.

What are my framing options?

You can frame your picture yourself using a ready-made frame of appropriate size. You can make a frame yourself or have someone custom frame your picture for you.

Custom framing

The more expensive approach to framing is to take your poster or photograph to a professional framer, usually located in a retail outlet, often as an adjunct to an art gallery. Some home businesses and hobbyists also specialize in framing. Despite the cost, the professional framer option has some distinct advantages:

  • Experience - the professional framer has probably framed thousands of photographs and knows exactly what mistakes to avoid.
  • Knowledge - many custom framers have taken courses and have an intimate knowledge of the principles of color, shape, proportion and design that can be helpful to you in determining how best to frame your picture for esthetic impact.
  • Craftsmanship - professional framers have specialty tools and techniques that, combined with their knowledge and experience, ensure a superior result.
  • Selection - the professional framer generally has access to materials that the general public may not easily find or may not be aware of.
  • Conservation framing - an area of framing that is growing in popularity is conservation framing, using acid-free materials and special assembly techniques that help preserve your posters and photos for a long time.

As with all businesses, the pricing, quality and style of framing vary from framer to framer.

DIY Framing

Framing your own picture can save you anywhere between 10 to 30 percent, depending on how far you decide to solo it in the framing process.

DIY framing stores, usually found in large urban centers, provide the do-it-yourself framer with a large selection of materials to work with. The best of these establishments provides design expertise and can even help with cutting the glass and moldings. Some frame-it-yourself shops provide advice and all the cut materials, then send you home to assemble the final product.

Ready-made frames are also available from a variety of stores. They are generally simple frames in popular colors, textures and sizes. Many ready-made frames come complete with backing materials and glass. At it simplest, all you do is remove the backing, clean the glass, insert the poster and replace the backing. Your local department store, all-purpose drug store or even a dollar store, may be the least-expensive source for a frame and mat to simply house your poster.

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