Framing a large poster: what is the best strategy?
November 22, 2012 7:36 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to frame a large, tall map for my wife's Christmas gift. Normally I just get a RIBBA frame at IKEA, but the print (24" x 42") doesn't fit any of their sizes. I want to matte it at 3" on each side, bringing it to 30" x 48". My goal is to spend ~$100 on the framing, glass and matte boards... is this possible?

- Frame: I am looking at getting a custom frame online (, which ranges from $50 - $90, but I am getting warnings that the frame may break at that size. I don't know if that means it will break in transit or if it will break once I hang it on the wall. The frame is shipped in pieces and I have to assemble. Have any of you bought large frames like this online?

- Glass: I can't get plexiglass shipped at that size (from the online-frames vendor), as it will break in the mail or the shipping is prohibitive. I looked at Home Depot, but it looks like getting a sheet that covers those dims is ~$100, which bummed me out. Should I just skip the glass? Do people do that?

- Matte: I have a cutter and can do that myself

- Random framing style question: I often see frames with extra matting on the top and bottom... is it a strict no-no to have wider matting on the sides?

- Going to a shop: any idea how much that would run, for something this big? I live in NYC so any reputable shop recommendations are welcome.

Please post if you have advice on any of the above and thanks for your time-
posted by cgs to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
We've had good experiences with, but not with anything that big. When I put in your dimensions on their site, it said it was oversize and gave an 800 number to call to discuss your options. Seems worth a call to them for advice. Regular framing stores generally run at least twice their prices.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:53 PM on November 22, 2012

It might be worth it to have a professional do it if you don't want to end up wasting money on something that doesn't look good or doesn't work. Unless it means a lot to you to do it yourself, you will save a lot of time just paying to have it done.
posted by emjaybee at 8:03 PM on November 22, 2012

- Going to a shop: any idea how much that would run, for something this big? I live in NYC so any reputable shop recommendations are welcome.

Framing is ridiculously expensive, but I've found Michaels does a good job for less than most framing places and they often have 50% off coupons. Apparently there's one on the Upper West Side.

However, I will tell you that I had a print framed there several years ago, the finished size is 32" x 42" and it was at least $200, at half price. I'd gotten a quote from an independent framer and it was going to be over $400.
posted by looli at 8:08 PM on November 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Hi, I'm a custom framer at a chain frame store. I have also framed at Michaels in the past. We frequently handle large sizes like this. I'm in California though, and cannot suggest a shop in NYC.

The good news is that we are still taking orders for Christmas delivery-- you have a week or so left before many shops will start charging you a rush fee. Your project is also totally possible. It's within the limit of our oversize materials (40 by 60 is the biggest we can go without having to do some complicated hacks.) I priced something out the other day around that size and the least we could get it down to was $250. Note that we only offer acid-free materials and UV-screening plexi and glass. We do a great job-- your local professional will likely also do a fine job. Framers know that you will only come back if it looks amazing, but they do charge more than one might expect. The chain stores are probably running Black Friday sales.

Frames: The bad news is that you will have a hard time finding something for less than $100. It sounds like you have a lead on a frame, but yes-- you do need to worry about the size and weight of the frame supporting itself at that size. The smallest I would go is a solid wood frame about 2 inches wide, provided that you use plexi rather than glass, and even then it's questionably secure. Metal frames are somewhat stronger-- probably won't crack at the corner-- but tend to flex and bend out of shape. In a wood frame, you can sort of reinforce the corners with screw-in L brackets that you can get at the hardware store. You can also use a backing of masonite cut to the size of the frame and nailed on (not to fit in the frame, but to fit flush against the back of the moulding.) It will reinforce the frame by keeping it rigid.

If you feel comfortable with woodworking, you can get moulding from your local Home Depot mitered to the size you want, then you can join it and finish that how you'd like. Look for decorative chair or crown moulding-- it's almost the same thing as a frame moulding.

Don't buy anything made of LDF. It will crack and break at the size. It also ages poorly.

Glass:Check around at plastic and glass shops. Someone may have a better price. $100 or so is a pretty good price on plexi; my other suggestion as a temporary measure is to find a thinner (45 mil? ask for samples) plastic. I don't recommend it in the long term, but it keep dust off the print and mat and will make a good presentation until you can get around to putting on real plexi. Plastic prices have been going up lately because oil prices have been going up, unfortunately. Make sure that your plexi cutter knows you need EXACTLY the size you ask for. 1/8" difference in either side is the maximum variation I would accept. 3/16" is possible if your frame rabbet (the part that holds the glass in) if relatively wide. It is difficult to deal with both the large size of the piece and loose plexi so try to avoid the looseness.

You can get window glass that size, possibly cheaper-- but it will be significantly heavier, impacting the safety of the frame, and less safe (I would never want a sheet of glass hanging above me in an earthquake.)

I personally think it usually looks cheesy, but if it's not a valuable print, you can spray mount it to foamcore then paint clear acrylic gel medium over the top, using lots of short brushstrokes. it dries clear and sort of looks like a fake oil painting. I doubt this is right for a map.

Framing design: I don't think it looks terrible to have an uneven border on a frame. If the sides are significantly (two-thirds to a half) smaller than the top and bottom, I think it does look weird, but it can work, especially if the art has a very linear or vertical orientation/style. An inch difference at the size will not make a huge impact on the general appearance, though some people are bothered by it. Some people, on the other hand, actually ask for skewed mat borders. I've had several people ask for mats shaped like the white part of a Polaroid; sometimes with Asian paintings you see a very skinny side mat and thick top and bottom mats to echo the "scroll" shape. It's up to you-- I don't think it looks terrible if it's not disproportionate. Try drawing it out and see what you think-- the deal with custom framing is that you get what you want.

Good luck! Sounds like a heckuva project!
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:28 PM on November 22, 2012 [7 favorites]

Trying to think outside the box here. How about a posterhanger? You can get one for your size for under $25. I've purchased these and really like them, they are sleek and minimal.

You could also get it mounted without glass. I don't know what it's called but it's mounted on foam core and then there's a reveal and then a wood frame. You see it with oil and acrylic paintings.

You could also look at Plywerk but I think you're running out of time. Sign up for their list and you should get a 20% off. The trick is you have to send them the piece - if it's special, I'd be nervous.
posted by amanda at 8:50 PM on November 22, 2012

I've had many great experiences with Frame Destination. And their prices are NUTS. I was able to find full custom frames kits in both wood and metal for that size for $140-190, which is probably the best price you'll find, even for doing it yourself. And if you're concerned with shipping times, you can just call them up. They are very friendly and helpful. I've had them frame big and small items, and the quality is fantastic.

(I would not frame it wider on the sides, btw.)
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:39 PM on November 22, 2012

I have purchased cut glass from a framing store without the frame before. It was smaller, 4x6, but very cheap. Just a few bucks. Phone around, if they cut their own glass they'll be able to help you out.
posted by Dynex at 6:14 AM on November 23, 2012

As an ex-framer, I can suggest a couple of strategies.

First of all, is there a reason you want to matte it? Will it make it better, or should you go with the original dimensions? If it's a poster, I see very little need, unless the matting brings it out to a more standard dimension, and this saves you money in the long run.

You probably want it dry mounted, unless you are worried about ruining some intrinsic value of the print. This basically permanently adheres the art to a board, usually foam core, in this day and age.

Are you talking metal or wood frames? Metal frames can be bought in precut pairs for a reasonable amount of money at a place like Michael's or online (but you'll have to pay shipping, then).

Glass should be bought from a hardware store, or omitted.

Hope that helps.
posted by jpburns at 7:19 AM on November 23, 2012

Response by poster: jpburns- glass, not plexi? and if glass, what kind do I ask for at the hardware store?
posted by cgs at 8:19 AM on November 23, 2012

Just plain glass. However, like I said, you don't need to use glass, especially on a large picture. I formed some Russian propaganda posters, and just dry mounted them, and put them in metal frames.
posted by jpburns at 7:55 PM on November 23, 2012

Going to a shop: any idea how much that would run, for something this big? I live in NYC so any reputable shop recommendations are welcome.

One Stop Framing Shop is an excellent middle range framing shop, a step-up from Michael's and AC Moore with very reasonable prices. I have had a few things framed there and have been happy with the prices and results.

(I heard about it from lia - thanks, almost four years later!)
posted by mlis at 8:30 PM on November 23, 2012

Costco does framing that's incredibly affordable. I got a full front page of a newspaper done with about 2 inches of matting around for less than $100. Not a huge selection of frames, but if you're not too picky the finished product looks as good as anything else I've gotten done professionally.
posted by fso at 5:47 AM on November 25, 2012

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