Framing: Choosing, Fixing & Shipping

With Dave and Jim Fidler, owners, Classic Gallery Frames and OPA President Neil Patterson OPAM


Dave and Jim FidlerThere are a number of different types of frames.  The Hudson River School has an ornamental and gilded appearance.  The Whistler style has fewer lines.  Both of these styles are price prohibitive.  Currently many people use the Plein Air style which has closed corners, is simple and reasonable.  They are Asian or Canadian made.


Selecting frames differs in various regions of the country.  A recent trend has been to the dark frames.  Frequently a painting with red will work with a gold frame.

Don’t overwhelm the art with the frame.  This can happen by color using a black frame with a soft image or a heavily ornamented frame with a busy painting. A smaller painting calls for a less ornate frame while a large painting can use a more ornate frame.  The frame and painting need to work together. Try to pull one or more subtle colors in the painting into the frame.

Linen liners, sometimes with a gold fillet, give visual relief.  In California, people found that the liners got dirty from the smog.  Liners are generally more contemporary.  There seems to be regional preferences for liners.  Sometimes a fillet is used instead of linen.  This adds another design element and adds to the appearance of the art.

A shadow box (floater frame) can be used to display an object.  These floater frames are shipped with fasteners.  If planning on using a floater frame, the artist should paint the edge of the painting and be sure the canvas staples are on the back, not on the edge.

The current trend is for gold frames.  The galleries love them and they go well on the walls and pick up warm tones.  However, the Expresso (dark) frames are also very popular.  Many galleries like to mix gold and dark frames on the wall.

A ¼” edge is lost on the painting when framed.

Sometimes frames are made by stacking moldings, combining two different types.

An illustration was shown placing a painting in three different frames: wide liner, gold plein air, dark, and floater.

Closed corners are more professional in appearance than joined corners.  However, they generally come in standard sizes.  The joined corners are more flexible in that they can be made to custom sizes.


FramesSpots on liners may be removed using white bread, rolled up or a sketching eraser.

Sometimes a closed corner opens.  To repair this, the artist can use cans of black and gold and Elmer’s filler.  Fill the crack with filler and sand down.  On the whole frame spray with black (matte) paint.  Then lightly spray gold paint over the frame.  An option would be to just spray the black and gold paint on all four corners.

An alternative method to repair a damaged frame would be to use modeling paste, texture with a brush or sponge and spray with acrylic enamel paint.  The preferred paint would be matte black.

If the artist can get the gallery to buy the frames, they will be more careful.


Place poly stretch wrap around the painting.  Then add the cardboard corners and apply stretch wrap again.  The artist can also use a plastic bag and then add the corners.  The stretch wrap can usually be purchased at a stationery store.    It should be three or five inches wide.

Another method would be to use foam core with rubber bands.  A carpet underlay may be used rather than bubble wrap.

Once the painting is wrapped, place it in a box.  It is best not to ship on a Friday to avoid the painting sitting over the weekend.

Be Sociable, Share!

Upcoming OPA Events

OPA 2018 National Exhibition OPA 2018 National Exhibition
Oil Painters of America’s Twenty-seventh Annual National Exhibition will be held at the Steamboat Art Museum (SAM), Steamboat Springs, Colorado, from June 1 through September 3, 2018. Learn More!
OPA 2016 Summer Online Showcase OPA 2017 Fall Online Showcase
The Fall 2017 Online Showcase is from October 1 - December 15, 2017 and will be open to Associate and Signature members. Learn More!
  • Diane Overmyer

    Thank you! Great tips. I have begun using a company that makes custom moldings out of their factory in Elkhart, Indiana which is in the same county that I live it. My favorite profile is a solid quarter sawn oak that is very simple with a raised outer bead and a thin over-lay of gold on the inside curve. My clients love these frames and I love the fact that even the materials come from North America, plus the factory does not charge me anything extra for odd sizes. They also give me a great discount for quanity orders of 20 or more.

    The mission style of the profile I use which is 3 1/2″ wide, adds a lot to my plein air paintings without detracting from them. My question is, does anyone else use natural wood and warmer stain tones. I can get these frames in walnut, a warm reddish tone and black. I have used all of the colors but prefer the warm reddish toned one the most for my summer paintings due to all of the greens in my plein air work. I do use the black quite a bit, but only if it compliments the colors of my work. I have used varisous other plein air framing companies, but hate to pay the high shipping prices, plus I have found that the gold leaf frames a pretty delicate.

    • marie

      Can you share the name of the company. Love to buy made in America


  • Terry Stanley

    re shipping a painting: We have occasion to unpack and repack about 80 paintings every other month so I am intimately familiar with this subject. Some general guidelines that might be helpful:

    We have paintings come in that have plastic taped onto the painting surface and/or frame surface, in cheap plastic frames; with sawtooth hangars and frames that are gouged, chipped and separating at the miters. Sometimes they are “wrapped” in just two pieces of cardboard, are shoved into a boxful of packing peanuts (the bane of any gallery manager’s existence) or have bubble wrap taped around them with at least a hundred yards of tape – just try unwrapping that!

    Invest in a sturdy, weight-rated box that allows at least two inches of padding along every surface (top/bottom/sides/front/back). This is minimum if there is an insurance claim. Although painting-specific shipping boxes like U-line’s or Airfloat are expensive, they can be reused many times and have the best chance of protecting your work or, failing that, have the best chance of beating an “insufficient packaging” rejection on an insurance claim. These containers also come with an option of a hard plastic inner lining on the front and back surfaces which protect from punctures. If you don’t have the money to invest in an artwork shipping box, we have seen some home-made shippers built from from 2″ pink building insulation foam board (I’m sure there are instructions online somewhere).

    It does not matter how many “This End Up” or “Do Not Crush” signs you put on your box, they are not going to be handled that way. They will be stacked on top of each other, shoved into cargo trucks haphazardly and generally abused. If you don’t protect the artwork with sufficient barriers and padding, there will be damage. The first time I saw paintings being unloaded from a national carrier’s truck at our loading dock, I almost had a stroke. I have since discovered it is the norm rather than the exception that artwork is treated in the same manner as a case of paper towels.

    Insuring your work in transit is an “iffy” proposition as well. We have discovered that what a local shipping store clerk tells you may differ greatly from what you will be told by the shipping company headquarters. In general, the maximum a shipping company will pay for damaged artwork is $500. You can pay for more insurance than that, but once a claim is made, they will pay only the $500 and refund the “excess” charged you by the store. Market value has little or nothing to do with what is paid: payment is generally based on the value of the materials used to make the product.

    I’m sure there are exceptions to these shippers and circumstances, but in my view, it is better to invest than to claim.