Help understanding how prints are framed.
October 10, 2012 10:39 PM   Subscribe

I want to hang some Edward Hopper art on my walls. It is as simple as buying some prints and framing them?

I'm a salaryman with not a single thing hanging on any of the walls in my home. I've always had an appreciation for Edward Hopper's works and think it would look nice to have a few of his paintings hanging up.

I found some mid size prints of his works on or eBay for relatively cheap, so I'm guessing I need to get them framed. This is where I'm stumped.

Do I take all the freshly arrived, rolled-up prints to a frame shop and have them do the work? This is probably expensive right?

Can I go buy lengths of my desired frame type and then do the angle cuts and staples?

If I buy prints that are all in the same range, can I buy pre-assembled frames? But then what do I do about the blank space around the edges?

Can I frame all of them in the same frame style? Is there even some guideline that the frame should match the art?

I'm automatically assuming that I don't want to buy framed pieces off eBay due to 1) shipping cost and 2) no choice in the frame design.

Basically, for as much as I've actually seen paintings and prints on walls, I've never quite figured out how they get there. I don't mind spending the money if this is a worthwhile venture since I can take them with me if I move, but I don't want to invest a small fortune and I don't want them to look tacky. Part of the goal here is to "close in" the space in my home by having walls with nice stuff on them.
posted by bosco_costanza to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Prints from come in standard sizes. You can find ready-made frames in stores that are the right size. This is far cheaper than custom frames and, depending on quality/where you shop (Target, Michael's) it can be very affordable. FYI the frames usually come with a mat included. Read the package carefully to see if the listed size is for the frame or the opening in the mat.
posted by metahawk at 10:50 PM on October 10, 2012 [4 favorites] wll frame them for you, and I think they do free shipping promos sometimes. They have various framing and matting options. I have no idea about their framing quality or pricing though.
posted by ghharr at 10:51 PM on October 10, 2012

The frame shops I've been to have had an inventory of pre-made frames in various styles and sizes (cheaper) as well as the ability to make custom frames (more expensive). They'll also cut a mat that's the right size for whatever you're framing and the mat can be a color you choose.

Places that sell posters (check near a university) will often have the ability to frame them as well, but places that only do framing are likely to have a wider selection of stuff.

You can assemble a frame yourself, but it's hard to get it to look neat, even if you have a jig and so on. I'd suggest checking out a couple frame and poster stores in your area and asking what they'd charge to frame things of the sizes you want, before you decide whether or not to go that route.
posted by hattifattener at 11:34 PM on October 10, 2012

Framing is one of those things that is pretty specialized. Which is why it's so expensive, even in this day and age of cheap mass-produced consumer items.

That said, how much this will cost depends mostly on the size of the print. Certain sizes are "standard" or popular formats for this sort of thing, and for those sizes it's possible to buy a pre-packaged frame and mat. Check art supply stores for this sort of thing. Common sizes are 28 x 40 (movie poster or "one sheet" size), 24 x 36, 16 x 20, 11 x 14, and then going down to the usual photo sizes you remember from school picture day when you were a kid (8 x 10, 5 x 7, 4 x 6, etc).

So if your print is 24 x 36, you just go to your nearest art supply or craft store, buy a frame where the size of the mat is 24 x 36, pop it in just like any picture frame, and you're good.

However, a lot of the time, the print is a weird size. In these cases, you have a few options.

If you're mega crafty and good with your hands, you can buy raw framing equipment and frame it yourself. This is harder than it would seem, though -- again, keep in mind that framing is a technical skill which is still pretty highly valued. You will also need some specialist tools, and at the end of the day this could still end up being pretty expensive.

If you're a little bit crafty but not crazy technical, you can find the next frame size up (for example say your print is 13 x 16, you'd want a 16 x 20 frame), and then have a mat cut to size. Someone at your local art, craft, or framing store can probably help you with this.

Or, if you're not at all crafty, you can at this point just pay to have the thing framed. It costs a lot, but you save yourself a lot of labor (and don't have to buy a bunch of tools to clutter up your house with) and chances are the pro will do a much better job than you ever could. This is the best option for seriously weird shapes and sizes. You can economize by putting a funny-shaped print into a standard sized frame and just matting the shit out of it, but it's not going to look as good as if you had it custom framed.

Don't worry about fancy frame styles or mat colors, or triple matting, or contrasting mats, or any of that stuff. It's not worth doing for your pieces (which ultimately are very cheap and you might find something you like better someday), and looks too "dentist's waiting room" or "law firm reception area", anyway.

I don't want to be a snob, and I'm super happy that you're finding stuff to put on your wall, but the quality of prints is pretty low compared to, say, the prints that a museum would do of work in their collection. By all means, buy these prints, get 'em framed, put 'em up on your wall and be happy. But you might want to check the online shops of museums with Hopper works in their collections and see if they make any posters you like. (For example, you might want to check out the Whitney Museum online shop)
posted by Sara C. at 4:50 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Chain stores like Michaels often have sales/deals on framing, so watch out for those.
posted by JanetLand at 5:50 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unlike original Hoppers, most prints come in standard sizes. This means you can buy ready made frames off the shelf and just plop your print in for instant gratification. If you want something fancy that you are not afraid to shell out money for then go to a frame store for something custom made.

BTW, consider buying prints-on-demand from the Whitney. They may be more expensive than what you find on Ebay but it helps to support the museum that holds many of Hopper's paintings. They will even sell you framed prints.
posted by JJ86 at 6:29 AM on October 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Simplest to buy them framed, but you can also get inexpensive custom-sized frames. I've been happy with, which I've used dozens of times. With a frame, mat, and glass/plexiglass, you're talking maybe $50 for a simple, medium-sized frame. Prices are generally less than half of what a frame shop would charge. Takes 5-10 minutes to assemble, and the quality should be fine for your needs.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:59 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I bought the Andy Warhol Soup Cans (nine of them) from and they were 8.5 X 11. So I got the frames at Wal Mart for $3 apiece and it looks pretty much like the exhibit at MOMA. I'm very pleased.

I bought a Jasper Johns from and it was so big that getting it framed was nearly $600 at Michaels! So that went back to them, because, no.

At some art stores, they have framing stuff that you can easily customize yourself.

Stick to the standard sizes and then go to a mass market store and buy frames you like.

Getting posters custom framed is an expensive proposition to be sure.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:14 AM on October 11, 2012

I have two Hopper prints that I purchased in 2007. They were not standard size, but I also didn't buy them on (back then they didn't have the two specific prints that I wanted so I had to do a bit of a hunt) so it's possible that you can find standard sized prints there now. I then purchased custom frames from American Frame (they ask for the dimensions of the print and I believe what size matte you'd like & they take it from there) and I assembled them myself. The frames came with instructions and everything necessary to put them together (except tools, of course). It was a while ago, but I don't recall it being difficult and they were not expensive. In the 5 years since, I've moved 3 times and they have held up extremely well and are still gorgeous.
posted by eunoia at 10:48 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that the way that makes the prints "standard sized" is by surrounding the actual art with blank white space and tweaking things around and basically forcing something that was NOT created to be 24 x 36 onto a 24 x 36 sheet of paper. Usually they slap the artist's name and the title of the piece on there to make it seem like there's a rhyme and reason to it, but it tends not to look quite as nice as the prints that come from the museum shops which are in whatever size looks best for the work.

Then again, if you can afford framed print-on-demand per JJ86, that's probably the best of both worlds.
posted by Sara C. at 11:08 AM on October 11, 2012

Custom framing is expensive and if you just want some nice unobtrusive frames you can do this on the cheap by

1) getting a mat cut so that the print + mat fits a standard size frame, and then buying a frame at Target or IKEA or something. You can get a custom mat at places like Michaels, a frame shop, or online. Easiest and cheapest if you just want a plain frame and your print will fit in a standard size frame.

2) there are websites that will package custom-cut mats and frames, plexiglas, and foamcore backing to your measurements, then you assemble it all. Use this if you want a fancier frame or an unusual size.

I've used for both mats only and for kit frames and have been happy, but there are lots of other places on the web.

NB: I actually think that the mat makes the biggest difference--an IKEA frame used with the included mat that gaps and leaves white space around the edges of your print is pretty obviously mass-market. The same frame with a mat that is a good color (for the print and the room), with an opening cut to the right size for the image, looks totally custom and very polished for very little additional money.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 6:43 PM on October 11, 2012

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