Really, is custom framing that expensive?
July 19, 2008 8:27 PM   Subscribe

I went to Michael's arts and craft store to get an 18" x 24" picture custom framed, and they quoted me at $400. For those of you who have delved into the world of custom framing, does that sound right? Further description inside..

The frame I chose was extremely unadorned and thin, not at all fancy, and the employee assured me that it was one of the cheapest frames they carried. I also wanted a mat, but again, nothing fancy--just plain white with no fancy bevels or colors.

I mean, I know that framing takes a skilled hand, and I expected it to be expensive, but I was thinking more like $75-$100 for the simple options I chose.

Anyway, does $400 sound right for this sort of job?

(Also, I know they publish a 50% off coupon every other week, and I know that I can buy a frame and some pre-cut matboard or even uncut mat board and frame it myself... I have it covered, so I don't need advice about my other options. I am just really curious if this store was about to rip me off because I am something of a consumer watchdog).
posted by waywardgirl to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
yeah, every quote i've gotten for things in the past (there is, thankfully, a discount shop in my town) has always been ridiculous and a complete racket.
posted by violetk at 8:32 PM on July 19, 2008

Sounds super high. I had something 26" x 32" custom framed about a year ago at one of the best frame shops in New York, and it was around $125.00 or so. Shop around! I'm sure you can get a great job done somewhere for the budget you had in mind.
posted by extrabox at 8:33 PM on July 19, 2008

That's kind of ricockulous for a store like that. One option you might try is to get those premeasured metal/wood frames that they sell in pairs and then find the glass and mats separately. I also like to get frames at Goodwill/St. Vinnie's; that's very helpful for finding cheap glass if the frames aren't exactly what I want. Art supply stores can cut the glass and mats for you; I think the last time I looked for glass for a larger poster, they quoted me something like 25 bucks.
posted by Madamina at 8:34 PM on July 19, 2008

I can only speak from personal experience, but I've framed prints that are bigger for a lot less than $400 (maybe $150 for something that was twice the size of your picture). This was in Manhattan too, so $400 sounds particularly high.
posted by eisenkr at 8:36 PM on July 19, 2008

This question can only really be answered by people who have gotten quotes on a cheap-ass 18"x24" framing job at their local Michael's. Since that seems to be the only part you are asking about: whether in this particular case, they ripped you off more than their normal rip-off, so you can complain to the BBB if they did.
posted by smackfu at 8:37 PM on July 19, 2008

it's a bit high but custom framing is expensive. I had 2 pieces (27" x 34") framed at a Michaels and it wasn't cheap but they did a very nice job. I know that prices at a "fancy" framing shop can easily be double what you were quoted, from a friend who owns a fancy framing shop.
posted by supermedusa at 8:42 PM on July 19, 2008

This thread might be relevant.
posted by kimdog at 8:42 PM on July 19, 2008

Here on Key West, way away from the mainland, custom framing with high-end detail for the project you described would run $100 tops.

When it comes to framing, it is best to develop a relationship with a custom framer in your area (or nearby), then go to an "art" supplies store.

As a life-long and career artist, I have learned it is best to source materials rather than go to a run-of-the-mill art supplies store: They are generally 100%-400% more expensive than a non-art store charges for the exact same item.

There are exceptions to the rule, but they are not chain retail exceptions.

Find a good framer, one whose taste and prices matches your own ideal, and stick with them.
posted by humannaire at 8:46 PM on July 19, 2008

The mounting portion of custom framing at Michael's is totally for shit. I know from experience. If you get a similar quote somewhere else and still want to get your piece framed, go with the other place. Because they'll probably at least do it properly for the ridiculous amount. I got two pieces framed there. One of them was set crooked, so I cut the backing off to see if I could correct it. Fortunately I could, because the map was set with transparent tape. As in, it was Scotch-taped to the mounting as the only means of adhering it. So Michael's is a bigger rip-off than just about anyone who quotes you a similar price.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:55 PM on July 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I just go to IKEA and find whatever metric frame with matting is close enough to my target size, then crop things to fit. Usually only runs $20-40 for a modern clean designed frame (but almost always oddbal metric sizes, unfortunately).
posted by mathowie at 9:10 PM on July 19, 2008

I have gotten a lot of things framed at Michael's because I live near one. I frankly think their framing business is a scam, because they always give 50% off their "everyday price," a practice that I am pretty sure runs afoul of my state's consumer protection law. (In my state, it is unlawful to pretend that you are running a sale when, in fact, every customer gets the same deal.)

Based on my experience, $400 is very high for the size of the item you are getting framed. We just picked something up from Michael's that was significantly bigger than that, and was double-matted and framed, with glass, and was around $200.

With regard to how Michael's compares with other frame shops:

My wife and I got quotes from a very reputable local framer (one my family has used for twenty years and does excellent work) and from Michael's. She was not satisfied with the frame selection at the independent framer, which is why we went to Michael's. The Michael's "50% off price (i.e., their everyday price) was about the same as the independent framer, and Michael's had a better selection of frames.
posted by jayder at 9:18 PM on July 19, 2008

Custom framing can indeed be ridiculously expensive, so that does not sound unusual. That's how they can afford the 50% off coupons.

I know you have it covered, but just for future searches: you can save a lot by buying standard sized pre-made frames, and having a mat opening cut to fit the print if it's a non-standard size. Also, a locally-owned shop might give better prices.

posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:30 PM on July 19, 2008

I have to admit that I'm a bit surprised at how expensive that is. Last christmas I got two photos of comparable size framed---basic frames, glass front, with the total coming to around $150. One of them was a non-standard size too. They even cropped the photo as per my specifications.

So yes, that seems very high.
posted by vernondalhart at 10:15 PM on July 19, 2008

I should perhaps add that it was next-day service too.
posted by vernondalhart at 10:15 PM on July 19, 2008

I'll second optovox's Aaron Brothers suggestion. I have used their ready-made frames to frame almost all of my photos. Just get them to cut you a proper mat.
posted by Joh at 10:28 PM on July 19, 2008

Micheal's is ridiculous, just go somewhere else. As a broke artist, I have always found the best way to get things framed for cheap was to just buy an appropriately sized standard size frame (18x24 is pretty standard) pre-built from somewhere. Since you don't need anything fancy this should be well under $100. Then just buy two pieces of quality, archival matte board and take it somewhere with your artwork and have them cut a window matte. They should be able to do this while you wait, at the art store I used to frequent it was like $5 to have a window cut. Insert matted artwork into frame and viola, you just saved yourself several hundred bucks.
posted by bradbane at 11:22 PM on July 19, 2008

To answer optovox, when I had Michael's frame some posters for me (with their 50% off coupon, or more), their first quote did indeed include UV-shielded glass and "archival quality" mats. It's part of the up-sell. The price dropped significantly when we went with normal glass.
posted by muddgirl at 12:29 AM on July 20, 2008

Ask them to break down the pricing for you so you can see exactly what is bringing up the cost so much. Chances are it's something like museum-quality glass, which is usually overkill.
posted by mkultra at 8:20 AM on July 20, 2008

Yeah, they're ripping you off. I just got two prints framed, and it was much, much less. Estimates vary wildly, so it pays to shop around.

For example, the first place I went to was Pearl Paints, a popular local chain. The two prints I was getting framed were large - one was 28x40, the other was 36x40. They wanted roughly $600! Mind you, this was for the simplest, most basic frame. On top of that, they said that it wouldn't be ready for 6-8 weeks!

So I went to this independent frame shop on Bleeker St, and the price was $300 (in cash) and they had it ready in 2 days. Same frames and everything. In fact, I think the larger one used plexiglass, which is normally a bit more expensive.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:13 AM on July 20, 2008

I had two things framed at Michael's recently ... one 18x24ish and one 16x30ish, both double-matted. We paid about $350 for both ($175ish each).

The fellow who helped us was pretty nice and worked with us to bring the price down, I think he first quoted us $300 or so for *one* ... I only went there because they ran the 50% off coupon, then after we were all rung up, he handed the coupon back to me and told me to keep it -- everyone was getting 50% off that week with or without coupon.

We were really happy with the job they did - one print had been rolled for a long time and probably had stuff sitting on the rolls, so it had wrinkles. When they mounted it they smoothed all that out.
posted by FortyT-wo at 9:37 AM on July 20, 2008

Michael's is overpriced - and it's also predicated on the idea that it's convenient to go to a national chain. I had a $500 quote from them for framing two prints with very plain, uninteresting thin black frames. I went to a local guy instead and told him to "go wild" (with a $250 budget) and he custom framed the prints using wide, beautiful recycled oak for the wood - and came in under budget.

Check out local framers - both for the savings and for the satisfaction of supporting local business!
posted by media_itoku at 12:20 PM on July 20, 2008

That sounds high cause I was quoted the same price for a pretty nice wood 36x48 frame which is huge compared to yours. This was at Aaron Brothers..
posted by 0217174 at 1:32 PM on July 20, 2008

Why is it so expensive to frame a print?

Also, just at random, Target has some great collections of ten frames of various (mostly smaller) sizes for 20 bucks.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:49 PM on July 20, 2008

As long as the question is simply: "Is this too much to pay for a bog-standard frame up?" I would have to say that it is, unless you live in some place where everything is outrageously priced because you rely on the mail-boat to bring tea & biscuits every fortnight.

We regularly frame my wife's work ourselves, and so, as others have said upthread, that can be done for a fraction of the price. The hardest part to do on one's own is precisely cutting beveled windows in the mat, but hiring that out is fairly reasonable.

But you already know doing it yourself is cheaper. I only included that piece because we know quite well how little framing can be had for and so I think we have a good grip on what is reasonable. We just had two nonstandard size pieces--but as large or larger than yours--framed at a custom frame house. Because we know the framer, we know his cost. If we double that figure, we still framed two prints, with precision-cut archival mats and backs, linen tape, and plexiglas (real glass would cost just a little more, but these were traveling to a show and glass that large has a terrible tendency to shatter or crack) for around $350. So, yeah, $400 for one 18 x 24 is too high.

One thing I don't get is that the folks at Michaels almost surely are hourly employees. The custom frame shop folks are all basically on commission--the more they get you to spend, the more they make, and are usually willing to make a deal. So how is Michael's twice the price of the small independent shop? Because they can?
posted by beelzbubba at 10:02 PM on July 20, 2008

I just had 3 odd size large prints custom frame at Michaels (24" x 24"; 10"x20", 22" x 27"). I chose nice frames, and double matting. For all three, the cost was $675 (much cheaper than the $1100-$1400 quotes I was getting elsewhere. (I live in Nova Scotia, Canada)

I am VERY VERY happy with their work. The pictures look beautiful

posted by spoomy at 5:23 PM on June 6, 2009

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