Professional Framing Techniques

By Armand Cabrera

Framing is almost as important as the painting itself. While people can disagree on the color or style of frame there are some basic approaches to framing that makes your work look more professional.

These are the steps I take when framing an oil or acrylic painting

Here is how my frame looks just out of the box.

When I remove it from the plastic the first thing I do is put my name on it. This prevents galleries and venues from swapping my nice metal leaf or in some cases gold leaf frame with finished corners for some cheap chopped frame from Graphic Dimensions or Michaels. I also put the title on the back of the painting and a sticker with contact info. This allows collectors to find me since most galleries nowadays don’t give out collector info to the artists.

Next I put rubber bumpers or felt bumpers on all the corners so the frame doesn’t leave marks on the wall. If I have a case where I am framing stretched canvas I put them on the corners of the stretched canvas if it makes contact with the wall instead of the frame when it hangs.

Never nail your paintings into your frames if someone wants to swap the frame down the line you have to use something that doesn’t hurt the wood. I use offset clips or S clips to do the job. This way I can swap my paintings in and out of the frame with just a screwdriver.
I keep a number of sizes for the different sizes of my paintings. Because this image is on linen panel the clip is facing down into the frame.
If it was stretched linen I would flip the clip over so it stood out away from the frame to hold the canvas.

Once I screw in the clips I place the wire holders and attach those to the frame low enough that the wire will form a triangle shape when hanging but not stick out above the frame.

Next I get my picture hanging wire and attach one side to the wire holder. I do this by looping the wire thought the holders ring twice and then twist it back along the wire.

This insures it won’t unravel and bonk someone on the head while my painting is hanging above them on the couch.

 I then measure where I want the wire to end at its apex. I do this so when it hangs it doesn’t stick out above the frame. I cut the other side of the wire and fasten it in the same way.

I’m done and the picture is ready to hang on the wall. Only 24 more to go for the show this week at Narmada.

If you have any questions about anything I talked about here leave me a comment.

Studio Tips part 5 Framing

Studio Tips part 5 Framing

This is the last post on studio setups for a while. I may revisit it again later if I think of something more to say or my setups change drastically.

Framing will always be an artist’s largest expense. Because of that I recommend a couple of things to help alleviate the financial pain. If you are represented by galleries make sure you have a stipulation in your contract about framing. Use consignment sheets when you work with a gallery or retail space and make sure you not only note the paintings you consign but also the frames.

Galleries can be very sloppy with taking care of frames so you have to hold them to a higher standard. If a gallery damages a frame then they must replace or repair it don’t let them get away with dumping it back in your lap to worry about. Once you consign a piece of art, the gallery is responsible for it and the frame you put on it, until it is sold or returned.  

I buy my frames and supplies in bulk to cut down on cost and shipping. For my frames I use lots of different sources depending on type and quality of frame needed. All my supplies come from United Manufacturers; I find them inexpensive and reliable.  When I enter shows I use  Airfloat reusable containers to  ship my paintings.

I know how many paintings I sell a year and I make sure to have enough frames just to get me through each year so that at the end when I do my taxes I do not have to carry over a frame surplus. To buy in bulk it is important to get a resale license to not have to pay sales tax on the items purchased.

I have a separate area in my studio for framing; in it I have utility shelves to store packing material and the frames themselves. The cats think I built it for them to play on and I’m not telling them anything to the contrary. I also keep stretcher bars for making canvases.

For panels I use Sourcetek panels; to see how to make panels you can read about it here.  I have a cabinet for the hardware. To see how I frame a painting you can read this here. I have a cabinet organized for framing hardware and shipping supplies, a workbench and desk.

By keeping things organized and ordering in bulk I maximize my time for painting. More painting time allows me to expand my markets and explore motifs outside my comfort zone and that flexibility creates greater opportunities for my work.

Anatomy of a painting part 2- Varnishing

By Armand Cabrera

The last piece of painting anatomy is varnishing your painting if it is painted in oils. No painting step creates more uncertainty and problems for oil painters then varnishing.  A varnish layer was added to paintings for protection from chemical reactions from air and sunlight  and also dust and soot from household smoke from candles, oil and gas lamps, wood and coal burning stoves and fireplaces. Another benefit to varnishing a painting was the varnish evened the painting out visually. Oil paintings have different pigments drying to different finishes of glossiness. Some were very flat and some shiny. Applying a varnish unified the painting surface and gave the colors a fresh wet look.

When varnishing, a thin uniform coat of varnish is preferable to a heavy coat. A heavy coat is actually less durable and more susceptible to decay and problems. The best application is spraying on varnish while the painting is laying flat and then once the varnish has set turning the painting towards a wall face down to prevent dust and other objects reaching the surface.

There are a number of picture varnishes on the market, but basically they break down into two camps matte and glossy varnish. The three most accepted materials for varnishes are Damar, Mastic and Acrylic; two of them, Damar and mastic are made from trees the third is an acrylic solution, methacrylate, a polymer that has been used by museum conservators since the 1930’s as a final varnish.  Damar and its acrylic substitute have the best properties for picture varnish. Varnishes have other compounds added to them to make them have a matte finish and there is no matte varnish recommended as a final varnish by conservators.

The question of when to varnish is a nightmare for painters. According to the material handbook a painting should be varnished sooner than too late. That is, after the oil in the pigment has dried. When using linseed oil, that is about two months’ time in a normal climate. The reason for this is oil paints begin adverse chemical reactions when exposed to air and sunlight. The sooner you seal them from these the better it is for the painting.  Another train of thought is to varnish as soon as the painting is dry to the touch and let the varnish age with the painting. This works better if you are using an acrylic varnish which will retain a more flexible structure over time.

My best advice is to try some tests and see what kind of results you get. I usually varnish my oil paintings within the first couple of months and I use an acrylic varnish.

How to Tone Frames

Armand Cabrera
I buy metal and gold leaf frames for most of my paintings. I like how the metallic gold finish complements the paintings but sometimes the frames are not the right color or too brassy and bright and detract from the image. When this happens I tone them.
Many times the frames I buy change from order to order even though they are supposed to be the same frame style. Toning your frames helps to keep them the tone you want.
 The best way to start is use some old damaged frames and practice until you get the results you are looking for. There are many ways to do this, this is my process.
I mix up a bunch of varnish cut in half with mineral spirits. I mix in a small amount of the pigment I want. Usually a mixture of raw umber as a base with touches of yellow ochre or viridian added depending on what tone I want the color to be.
I then ponce the mixture into the frame with a big brush so I get a nice pattern to the application and it gets into all the cuts of the carving. I let this set and then wipe the excess of with an old rag t shirt. Once it is fully dry I polish it with renaissance wax.

Here is a frame with half toned and half not toned so you can see the difference it makes