Design advice needed! Odd picture size inside a standard picture frame.
April 18, 2014 12:58 PM   Subscribe

20 3/4" (w) x 28" (h) poster, can't afford to custom frame it. Which is better: 1) a standard 22x28 frame, with a little extra space (or matting) along the width of the poster; 2) a 24x30 frame with 1 1/2" mat on either side and 1" of mat at top and bottom each?

Both seem to be kind of unbalanced in the way they appear. (I would, by the way, get any necessary matting done custom; it's just for the frame I have to go with mass-produced).

I'm looking at a simple, black, wood frame. So far I've identified the Blick Essentials frame in 24x30 or the Nielsen Tribeca frame in 22x28. Cost is the same. Matting will be about $20 more.

I'm just not sure what would look best more most balanced! Is there a third alternative?
posted by ArgyleGargoyle to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Look for one where the excess space is at the top and bottom vs the sides, and then put all the extra space at the bottom...this is SOP for framing as a mat that is equal on all sides makes the art seem to 'sink' from gravity. Extra space on the bottom looks more like equal space all around. (Think: Polaroids)
posted by sexyrobot at 1:16 PM on April 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Are you set on wooden frames?

Your alternative is to go with metal frame kit pieces. They're also avaliable at Michaels type stores. You'll buy the edges: a 21" set and a 28" set. Also grab a piece of foamcore at michaels, and a new blade for your xacto. Then go to the hardware store, and have them cut a 21x28 piece of thin plexi for you.

You stack and screw it all together. That extra quarter inch of wiggle room in your width won't matter, as there is a slight overlay. This also means any ragged edges in your foamcore or plexi are covered.

This is how I do my posters, and I have a nice little local hardware store that does the plexi for me. Costs about $5. Yes, you have the poster in direct contact with the plexi, which isn't best archival practice, but it's poster. I put original artwork behind mats.
posted by fontophilic at 1:18 PM on April 18, 2014

You can also cut your own mat. It's a bunch of math, but it can be done pretty well if you're patient. Here's a video on how to do it.
posted by xingcat at 1:35 PM on April 18, 2014

Best answer: I've bought metal frame kits, plus the plexi and mat, cut to size and ready to assemble. I got mine at American Frame, but I'm sure there are other places too. Much cheaper than full custom framing service, and simple to put together (just a few screws).
posted by Joh at 2:50 PM on April 18, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. Question for Joh/fontophilic: so I'm looking at the American Frame website, and you put in the size you want, decide on additions, and they cut the frame and ship to you fully assembled? It doesn't look like there are any "kits," unless they are in fact DIY kits. And wow, these are expensive (well, with extras included). Is this what you're talking about?
posted by ArgyleGargoyle at 3:34 PM on April 18, 2014

Can you trim it? An even 20 by 28 can sometimes be found. No matting required.

I am a framer and I tell people to go with, essentially, option B. Mat strips on the sides look stupid and tend to slip around in the frame over time. Give your art either a skinny mat all the way around, even if it's uneven, or better, float it to a matboard (don't cut the mat or overlap the edges, just put the art on top of the mat, with or without a riser under it.)

Is there a reason you can't go to 24x36 for a more even mat border?
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:56 PM on April 18, 2014

Additionally, a very traditional way to mat things with an uneven border is to weight all the extra space at the bottom. In a 24 x 30 this would translate to 1 3/4" at top and sides, and 2 1/4" at the bottom. People sometimes ask for similar dimensions in custom pieces because it's such a widespread practice. Literally anything that looks like you did it on purpose rather than made it fit-- that's the guiding principle here.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:01 PM on April 18, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you blnkfrnk! I hesitate to trim because it's a vintage poster, and I'm framing it as proper artwork; thankfully, the cost of a frame cut to size at AmericanFrame is as about as much as I would pay for one that size off the shelf elsewhere.

Wouldn't floating it on top of matboard (although I like the look) be an archival issue for paper right under acrylic or glass?I'm new to this, so please school me!
posted by ArgyleGargoyle at 6:55 PM on April 18, 2014

Best answer: I applaud your decision not to trim the poster. I can't tell you how many pieces I have to work with that were trimmed way back when, and how much cursing and gnashing at teeth at the design counter there is because of it. I would probably use a time machine not to kill Hitler but to grab scissors away from people.

Indeed, yes! Floating is not archival; not only are you using direct adhesive contact on the print, but you're potentially putting it directly under the glazing. You can mitigate this by using a spacer, which is a plastic strip that hides under the lip of the frame, and pushes up the glass. Your local Michaels or frame shop should be able to sell them to you. (Yes, you do need contiguous spacer all the way around.) You can sort of build a spacer out of layered strips of matboard, but it's less stable and kind of a pain to put together.

Incidentally, the industry-standard depth to keep glazing off the art is 2 (four-ply) mats, so you want to go with an 8-ply mat if you choose to overlap the edges with a window mat rather than floating the piece, or a double-layer of 4-ply mat. It's hard to design a double mat that looks good when you have less than 2 inches of mat all the way around, so I usually suggest a single 8-ply, but it's usually more expensive (and harder to cut if you're not acclimated to the extra thickness, if you're cutting your own.)

It's harder to mitigate the float mount adhesive contact; you can use a buffered tape like Filmoplast, but it's still an adhesive. All adhesives have the same problem, too-- they either give up too soon and drop the float (which can bend the corner and wrinkle the piece) or they freaking never give up and you have to design around the now-permanent float when you go to reframe the piece. To avoid this you want about the quarter of an inch of mat overlapping the print so you can hide photo corners (triangles that the corners stick into that then themselves stick to the backing board) or flanges (little snips of paper folded into a cradle for the edges of the art and glued to the backing board.) You can buy pre-fab versions of both, but you can also just fold up your own and either tape over the paper (but not the art within) or use a double-stick tape or glue under the paper (for glue, Yes! paste is pretty good.) Adhesive contact is bad; over the very long term, even Post-It adhesive turns hideous.

Someone already gave you the talk about UV-protective glass, I hope? Memail me if not.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:23 PM on April 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I've previously ordered from American Frame, then yes, the package arrived with unassembled frame. The frame came as 4 lengths (I always ordered simple black metal frames), with corner plates and some screws to put the frame together.
posted by Joh at 5:24 PM on April 20, 2014

What I'm talking about, is avoiding mats all together, and doing a floating/squished mount.

When I do frame kits, I do it piecemeal from a craft store. Michael's has a store-brand metal frame system. (I would believe these are all made in the exact same factory in China.) You get 2 frame edges that are the same length per pack. Since you're making right angles—geometry—etcetera. You buy 2 packs. The packs come with corner braces, spacers, picture wire hooks. You'll also need a smallish screwdriver, some backing material (foam core) some picture wire and wall hook. Assembly is stupid easy.

I don't think you will need custom cut frame edge pieces. The way the metal frame edges work, there is a slight overhang of the frame to the glass/artwork/matt. Since you're only talking about 0.25", I think you'll be fine rounding up to a whole inch measurement.

This costs maybe $20 for the all the frame edge pieces. Michaels always has coupons too. Then plexi costs maybe $5, and most places that sell it will cut it for you. I usually get foam core scraps from work for free, but this is maybe $3-5 more.

This gets you a flush, to the edge, framed poster with no mat in direct contact with the (probably not pH buffered) foam core and plexi. Which again, is not archival but is cheap. I would not do this for something you want to pass on to your kids. But if your options are hung with scotch tape, or a cheap frame...

But, as blnkfrnk has knowledgeably pointed out, there is a right way to do it, which is nearly the opposite of my cheapo way. You should use UV filtering glass, a mat that gets your artwork away from the glass, a sealed back, photo corners, etc. You can do this yourself as well, but it might not save you much more than having a pro do it.
posted by fontophilic at 6:38 AM on April 21, 2014

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