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Mistakes artists make that cost their buyers at the framing table.

Working in a gallery, we see all kinds of common things that artists do that cost their customers big time at the framing table. Everything from signature placement, to canvas size, to paper and materials used can all add up to hundreds of dollars and even the longevity of the artwork.


Fortunately, we have solutions and most can be easily avoided. We're here to help you and your customers to a long and happy road down the cost-effective framing lane. Read on to learn how you can avoid some of the common mistakes artists make that cost their buyers at the framing table.

Artist creating artwork

1. Canvas and Paper Sizes

We see this every day. A customer comes in with an artwork they bought from their favorite local artist and now wants to have it framed. We pull out the measuring tape to find an obscure number -- or worse -- it's classified as an oversized piece by a measly 1/2 inch. What happens next is usually one of three things:

• The thrifty customer winds up stuffing your art into the closest ready-made size.


• The quality-first customer spends a few hundred - or even a couple thousand more -- to frame the artwork correctly.


• The average customer keeps the piece unframed, leaving it susceptible to deterioration or damage.


By being mindful of sizing, you can save your customer hundreds to thousands on framing at the framing table. For larger pieces, anything over 32x40, even by a 1/4 inch, can cost significantly more. The next oversized pricing tier is 40x60, and up from there. For smaller works, standard frame sizes to remember are typically:

5x7 - 8x10 - 11x14 - 16x20 - 18x24 - 20x24 - 24x30 - 24x36 & 32x40.

These are especially important numbers if your artwork requires glass, because even a fraction more will cause the need for the next size up. Anything over 40x60 should use a light weight glazing, like plexiglass or acrylic, and surprise, surprise -- are more expensive than glass options.


Now we're not saying to avoid custom sizing, because who doesn't love a great custom sized artwork, after all? What we are saying is that if you aren't intentionally picking a specific size paper or canvas, it might benefit your future customers to be mindful of that extra 1/2" here or there that might classify the piece in a higher size bracket. 

Paper collaging

2. Acid-Free Materials

Next on our list is one of the biggest contributors of damaged art -- which is the use of non-acid-free paper, tapes, cardboards, wood, mat board and hardware. A good example of this is when you find an old photograph or artwork with yellowing and/or discolored seepage. This is called acid-burn, and is caused by the improper use of materials.

Standard paper made from wood pulp is usually acidic, and becomes increasingly so the older it gets. Household and construction materials are not generally recommended for framing, matting or adhering artwork. This includes things like cardboard, treated or unsealed wood, most tapes and glues.

A good way to prevent the future damage and ensure the longevity of your artwork is to only use acid-free materials.

Similarly, improperly prepped or unprimed surfaces can also create problems down the road for artwork. Since many surfaces, such as wood, expand and contract with fluctuating temperatures and humidity levels in the air, over time paint can slowly chip off without the proper surface to stick to and after a few years, all of those carefully thought out brush strokes could wind up on the floor.

artist signature

3. Signature Placement

If I had one bit of advice for artists just starting out selling their work, it would be to place their signature at least a half inch above the paper or canvas edge. And for larger pieces, this increases. Other generally bad places for a signature is directly on the mat board, frame, or side of the canvas. And here's why:


When you place your signature at the very bottom, very top or side edge, it makes it especially difficult to frame. And in many cases, we find the signature ends up getting partially or completely covered when the customer decides to have it framed and/or matted.


Though there are framing methods that can be used such as floater frames and even floating paper artwork behind glass, the options are often more limited and sometimes not available if they decide to tackle framing themselves.


Another common mistake we see is the artist's signature directly on the matting or side of the canvas. This prevents the ability to re-mat or frame the piece properly. Many times a customer will come into the gallery to change out an outdated mat board. Sometimes this is due to water or element damage, a room color remodel or in other cases the artwork is passed on to someone else who has different taste.


For all the reasons signatures are lost, you can help keep credit for your artwork by placing your signature in an appropriate place.

installing glass

4. UV Protective Measures

Ask any framer and you'll get plenty of stories about faded artwork from ultraviolet rays, commonly referred to as UV rays. Arguably, fading is one of the biggest value killers responsible for damage to treasured paintings. What's more, is this can happen so slowly over time that it might not even be noticed until it's too late. UV rays come from more than just a window, as even indirect lighting and light from a lamp can cause damage over time.


By creating a barrier between your art and the elements like glass, acrylic or UV glazing, you can help block harmful UV rays and preserve the artwork's color, vibrancy, and overall quality. The importance of protection in preserving artwork cannot be overstated. UV damage cannot be reversed.

art hanging wire

5. Proper Hanging Wires

Finally, we come to the last one on our list of no-nos, which is using improper hanging hardware. Usually the last thing an artist does. Ironically, and unfortunately, this is also one of the more common reasons an art piece ends up damaged.


Telephone cords, charging cables, twisted electrical tape -- you name it, we've discovered it on the back of an artwork. And usually by the time it makes it to us, it's too late. Luckily, most local hardware stores carry hanging kits for a variety of art weight and sizes. And here's a few tips to follow to help along the way:


Protruding eye hooks will scratch your customers walls. It's always a good idea to use flat hardware when possible.


The rule of thumb is to measure the length of the artwork, and install the hardware 1/3 of the way from the top. This helps keep the artwork from leaning forward on the wall.


Hanging wire that's too loose will cause unnecessary pull and strain and even cause the art to hang on an angle. Alternatively, wire that's installed too tightly can make it difficult to hang and easily knocked off the wall.




For more artist tips and advice on preservation and conservation framing, stop in to the gallery and talk to us! We're here to help.


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Monday: By appointment

Tuesday-Friday: 10am - 6pm

Saturday: 10am - 4pm

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