How to Frame Photographs

The art of framing a photograph is a skill that can be learned or taught to you by a professional picture framer.

One of the custom framers who is also a tutor is David Schummy from Brisbane, Australia. David has a basic picture framing class available on DVD at

Brisbane Picture Framer David Schummy with matted wedding photoWhen photographs are framed they usually have a colored border around them called matting, mat or matte borders.

These borders serve two primary purposes.

Firstly, they are used to enhance the colours and contrast of the photo being framed.

Secondly, they provide a gap between the photograph and the glazing material. If the photo touches the glazing then it can stick over time causing irreversible damage.

Wikipedia has further information on mat types here.

The basic cutting technique for cutting a mat to fit a photograph is shown in the video below.

Custom framers use matting to set the pictures back from the glass.

The best quality mat boards and mounts are either 100% cotton rag boards or made of alpha-cellulose material. These types of boards are acid-free and are buffered with calcium carbonate to maintain a pH neutral state or a slightly alkaline pH. Acidity in common paper products gradually causes their degradation. The purpose of the matting is to provide an air gap preventing the glass from coming into contact with the photo and the acid-free backing is put behind the image to protect it from behind.

The images are usually backed with a layer of mat board or mounting board to isolate the image within the frame.

The images are held in place by different methods but the most common method is to hinge the picture using either hinging tapes or Japanese paper hinges.

While most mats are generally rectangular in shape and have a rectangular opening the possibilities for cutting various shapes is endless.

Mat boards are usually made of paper-based material or purified cotton fibers.

They can be decorated with ink and paint or have fabrics and other materials applied to the surface to create a unique finish. Fabric covered mats are often used as backing boards for objects such as medals, jerseys, flags or cloth patches that can be pinned or sewn onto them.

A common form of decoration on plain ivory or white mats is the washline or sometimes know as the French line or French panel.

A washline is drawn on the mat with ink or paint and is often color matched to the artwork it surrounds. It is used as additional decoration to help draw the eye in towards the center of the display and can be done using drawing pencils, inks or paint.  The French panel usually has a thicker border formed by adhering marbled paper or other decorative material ranging from gilded sections to designs in ink or paint. Typically a painted French panel or French Wash is done in diluted watercolour that has been matched to the image being framed.

Although washlines are not used extensively on modern photographs they can add a touch of nostalgia to restored images and even create tension a guide the viewer in modern architectural images.

Some of these techniques are exploited by Brisbane picture framing company, Fix-a-Frame.

If you need help with designing something special for your artwork or photograph and you can visit them then you will be rewarded with a traditional and modern framing service at it’s finest.