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Framing 101
 


What makes FASTFRAME of Chicago different?

Custom Frames We would like to show you what framing craftsmanship and originality can bring to your artwork. We are dedicated to providing the best service and craftsmanship you can find.

We specialize in Preservation Plus™ framing, the process and materials used to encase your artwork in a protected environment, as well as 3-D shadowbox framing, helping to turn your memento’s into works of art to display with pride.

We carry a huge selection of moldings and unique framing materials. All framing projects are done right on the premises and our work is guaranteed, so you'll get just the look you want -- when you want it and never a rush charge!


Can you help me design my piece?

You're not alone when you arrive at FASTFRAME. You will find knowledgable design personnel on staff at all times, waiting to work with you.

Our trained design staff has a great deal of experience helping customers just like you every day. With over 15,000 frame styles, hundreds of mat colors and a dozen types of glazing, they will expertly help you sift through the infinite number of combinations to make your artwork look its best.

Working on a budget? No problem. Our designers can show you alternatives and advise you on how you might best leverage your dollars. With our computerized pricing system it is easy to try different frames, different mats and different glazings until you find the combination that satisfies your senses and meets your budget.


What can I frame?

Custom Framing
You Name It ... We Frame It!
  • Oil / canvases
  • Pastels
  • Limited Editions Prints
  • Documents
  • Tapestry
  • Certificates
  • Newspaper Articles


  • Mirrors
  • Maps
  • Trade Show Displays
  • Needlework
  • Puzzles
  • Leaded Glass
  • Money


  • 3D Objects of All Kinds
    • Musical Instruments
    • Sports Jerseys
    • Artifacts
    • Childhood Memorabilia
    • Wedding Momentos
    • Prizes / Awards / Ribbons
    • Company Products



What is conservation framing?

Conservation framing (also known as preservation framing) is the professional application of knowledge, materials and techniques to the framing of valuable artwork such that the artwork is not permanently altered in any way. In short, it is doing everything possible to ensure that a piece of artwork removed from the frame at a later date will not show any evidence of having been framed, thus preserving its long-term value.

However, complete conservation treatment of a particular piece of art is not always appropriate, desired or affordable. Therefore, there are always degrees of appropriate conservation to be applied in any situation. For example, a wrinkled and torn old poster, primarily of sentimental value, might best be drymounted for its best appearance, but acid free mats and U.V. protective glazing applied to reduce the liklihood of continued deterioration. The designer will advise you of the options and possible consequences, but the degree of conservation is always your choice.

A CPF (Certified Picture Framer) is a framer who has studied conservation framing, passed a lengthy examination and has been certified by the Professional Picture Framing Association as a professional. There are relatively few CPF's in the entire country, and many FASTFRAME stores have one on staff.


What is mounting?

There are many methods by which your artwork may be held in place within the frame. In general, there are two categories of mounting:
  1. Permanent mounting
  2. Conservation mounting
There are advantages and disadvantages to each method, and specific circumstances under which certain methods are recommended.

Permanent Mounting is just that -- the irreversible mounting of your artwork onto another material. Permanent mounting is usually done to improve the appearance of your artwork by permanently holding it flat and in position regardless of heat, humidity or physical mistreatment. While the appearance of your artwork may be improved, permanent mounting is not recommended in cases where the value (or potential value) of the artwork may be jeopardized by permanent alteration.

Conservation Mounting encompasses a body of techniques employed to hold your artwork in place without subjecting it to irreversible mounting processes. The objective of conservation mounting is to make it possible to remove your artwork from the frame at a later date without evidence of it having been framed.


What is drymounting?

Drymounting is a process which flattens and permanently mounts artwork to the backing board. The 'dry' part of the term means that no risky wet adhesives are used in the mounting process. Instead, a sheet of dry adhesive material is placed between the artwork and the backing board. Then both are placed into a large vacuum press which flattens the artwork as it heats the adhesive to cause a permanent bond to the backing board. Our heat/vacuum drymount presses can mount artwork as large as 40" x 60".

Drymounting serves two purposes:
  1. One is to flatten the artwork. Paper artwork can easily become wrinkled from handling. Drymounting will remove virtually all wrinkling from damaged artwork. Even sharp crinkles which have broken the fibers of the paper artwork will be flattened out (although you may still see a line where the fibers were permanently damaged.)
  2. Second is to keep the artwork flattened, regardless of the environment. Unmounted artwork will expand and contract over time, depending on heat and humidity. These expansions and contractions can translate into undesirable undulations and bowing of the artwork within the frame. A drymounted piece of artwork will remain flat, regardless of changes in the surrounding environment.

What shouldn't be drymounted?

You should not drymount any artwork which would be reduced in value by being permanently attached to the backing board. This would include original artwork, limited editions and any collectable piece. In the minds of collectors, mounted artwork is not as valuable as the same artwork in its original form.

You should not drymount art which will melt at 190 degrees. This would include wax-based artwork, fax paper and some of today's color copies. In these cases, a careful wet mounting process should be employed in a cold press.


What is wetmounting?

Wetmounting is different from drymounting only by the type of adhesive used to attach the artwork to its backing board. A spray glue or paste is applied between the artwork and the backing rather than using a sheet of dry adhesive. The wetmounted piece is usually processed throught the same vacuum press as if it were being drymounted, except without heat being applied.

The disadvantages of wetmounting is that:
  1. Moisture is being introduced directly onto the artwork.
  2. The artwork is usually in more handling jeapordy during the mounting process than if it were being drymounted. However, some types of artwork cannot withstand the heat of the drymount process and can only be wetmounted if permanent, full-surface adhesion is desired. Our skilled craftsmen regularly do wetmounting as well as drymounting, and you will be advised as to which technique is most appropriate for your artwork.

Do you build my frames, or must I do it?

Our professional craftsman do all of your frame construction right in the store's framing room. We work closely with you during the design phase to create a clear specification of your project. Then, usually within the next day or so, you return to pick up your framed work of art.

While we normally do the entire framing project, we can also do only as much as you want us to do. If you only need a piece of glass or a mat cut, we can accommodate that as well. We will do as much or as little as you would like us to do -- and you don't lift a tool.


What is a standard sized frame?

Common, mass-produced picture frames come in a limited number of pre-built sizes -- usually 4"x6", 5"x7", 8"x10", 11"x14" and 16"x20". Anything larger, smaller or between these sizes is usually found only by exception in the pre-made market.

At FASTFRAME, we custom build your picture frame by hand to exactly the size that is most appropriate to your particular artwork -- down to the 16th of an inch. In most cases, your artwork should determine the size of the frame, rather than the other way around as is the case with pre-built frames.


Do I need a frame?

A frame serves three purposes:
  1. To provide a solid, protective environment in which your artwork will remain safe from physical damage.
  2. To provide a dependable, non-destructive means of displaying your artwork.
  3. To provide aesthetic enhancement to the artwork.
We've all used the thumbtack and Scotch tape techniques at some time in our past. However, if the piece is important to you, you should consider having it professionally framed. Framing a piece of artwork which is valuable to you, either monetarily or sentimentally, will make it look better and last longer.


Should I get a wood, metal or plastic frame?

Sometimes it just comes down to which particular frame you think looks best on your artwork, regardless of what it is made. However, there are some basic differences between frame material:
  • Wood Moulding Today, wood is still the preferred choice for frame material. It has the widest selection of styles and colors, and often costs no more than metal. Conservationally, wood is superior because it offers a smooth surface back on which to attach the frame's dust cover which protects the artwork from dust and insects. (Incidentally, manufacturers of wood frames today harvest and replenish their resources with strict regard to the environment.)
  • Metal Moulding Metal frames are a modern, durable alternative to wood frames. No longer limited to chrome, today's metals come in a wide variety of styles and colors. They will withstand a lot of abuse, and should definitely be considered in frame-unfriendly environments. Conservationally, metals are not as desirable as woods because an effective dust cover is not applicable to the back of the frame.
  • Plastic Moulding Plastic frames are quite often the least expensive of frames. They are usually composed of a hollow plastic shell, filled with an inexpensive filler, like pressed paper or foam. This filler material makes these frames structurally weak, limiting them in size and to holding inferior glazing materials like 1/16" styrene. Because of the lack of structural integrity of today's plastic frames, FASTFRAME does not carry this type of moulding. We suggest using a low-cost sectional metal frame as a structurally superior alternative to plastic.


What is a mat?

A mat is the thick paper-like material you often see surrounding the artwork, filling in the space between the artwork and the frame. There are several reasons mats are used in framing.
  • The original and fundamental purpose of a mat is to keep the glass from touching the artwork. If the glass is in contact with the image, there is a risk of mold and/or adhesion between the two substances where they touch. The mat is normally positioned on top of the artwork, and the glass (glazing) is positioned on top of the mat. The thickness of the mat then determines just how far away from the artwork the glass is held, leaving a protective air space between the two.
  • A more recent development is the use of colored matting material. Mat colors can now be chosen to enhance the image or highlight aspects within the image. Today, matting as a design element has overshadowed the original purpose of protecting the artwork.
  • Matting can also be used to make a piece of artwork fit into a pre-made frame which is too large. A mat is cut with outside measurements to match the frame size and inside measurements to match the image size, thus filling in the empty space between the artwork and the perimeter of the pre-made frame.


Why use mats?

The decision to use matting is, for the most part, a personal, aesthetic choice. Following are some considerations when deciding whether or not to use matting on any particular piece of artwork.
  • If you do not want to risk damage to your artwork caused by mold and/or adhesion between the artwork and glass, then matting is the best way to hold the glass off of the artwork. (Note that a material called 'frame-space' can be hidden under the lip of the frame to serve the same purpose if mats are not employed.)
  • The coloration of mats can be used to enhance an image, enliven the artwork, focus the viewer's eye, or make a statement of importance or elegance.
  • Use the texture of fabric, suede, leather and foil to enhance the image.
  • Cut multiple openings from a single mat to display several images within one frame.
  • Mats can form an area around the image upon which decoration can be added, like decorative grooves, hand-carved images, signatures, drawings, plaques, etc.
  • You may want to use mats to make your finished frame bigger so that it will cover a larger wall area than the framed image would by itself. While mat width is typically 2" to 3", any width is possible.


What are basic mat dimensions?

There are two basic approaches to mat widths. One is to make the mat an equal width all the way around the picture - for example, 3" of matting material on the top, bottom and sides of the image. The second approach (referred to as 'weighting the bottom') makes the bottom of the mat wider below the image -- for example, 3" of matting material on the top and sides, but 5" at the bottom of the image. The 'weighted bottom' approach to matting is a historic technique. There are two stories about how it came about.
  • The first one is that in the Victorian era, pictures used to be hung very high up on the tall walls of that time. Because the viewing angle from the floor was so acute, it caused a visual foreshortening of the bottom of the mat. Therefore, to make the matting appear more equal all the way around, designers cut the mats to be larger at the bottom.
  • The second rationale is that psychologically, human beings are more comfortable around stable items -- a stable item being heavier, wider, thicker at the bottom, such that the viewer does not perceive it to be unstable, or likely to tip over.

Who knows? What matters now is that both techniques are acceptable, and the preference is yours. The equal all-the-way-around technique is the more common and modern of the techniques. However, if you are framing a very old photo, something like a Michelangelo print, or if you just want to create an 'artsy' feeling, you might consider weighting the bottom of your matting.


How many mats should I use?

The use of two mats is most common -- a wide outer mat, plus a narrow amount of inner mat exposed from under the outer mat. The color of the outer mat is often selected to expand the feeling of the image being framed. The color of the inner mat is often chosen to accent the focal point of the image.

Sometimes no mat at all is most appropriate. Sometimes six mats might be most appropriate. Whatever is most effective for any particular image is the determining factor. Keep in mind that the effect of matting should always be to enhance the artwork, and not overwhelm it.


What is artwork glazing?

The general term for the clear coating, which protects the artwork while allowing you see it, is glazing. There are many forms of glazing, including glass, acrylic, lamination and styrene. And there are many forms within each of these glazing categories, such as clear, non-glare, reduced reflection and U.V. protective. There is no single glazing material that is perfect for all framing conditions. And there are advantages and disadvantages to using each.
  • Regular clear glass is the most common type of glazing. It is durable and more scratch-resistant than non-glass forms of glazing material. Common disadvantages are that most forms are brittle and breakable, and weigh more than acrylic glazing alternatives. Glass inherently provides a low level of U.V. filtering (less than 50%.)
  • In locations where reflections from strong lighting might be a problem, non-glare glass may improve your ability to view the framed artwork. Its ability to diffuse light also has the affect of making the image less distinct. Sometimes 'blurring' this is desirable and sometimes not.
  • Non-glare glass costs more than clear glass and affords the same low-level U.V. protection as regular glass (less than 50%.) At FASTFRAME we carry a high grade non-glare glass which is more expensively etched on just one side. Elsewhere, cheaper grades of non-glare glass are used which are etched on both sides in an acid bath, resulting in increased distortion of your artwork.
  • Reduced reflection glass is a special, high-tech type of non-glare glass. It serves the same purpose as regular non-glare glass, but without the same diffusion of the image. Reduced reflection glass is almost invisible. People often feel compelled to reach out and touch the glazing to make sure it's there. This is the second most expensive glass on the market, is breakable, requires more care to clean, and affords the same low level U.V. protection as regular glass. This is one of the Cadillacs of glass, and costs proportionately so.
  • Ultraviolet protection is an attribute added to glazing. U.V. protection is available in most forms of clear and non-glare glass or acrylic. Also known as conservation glazing, it is a special coating which filters out more than 97% of the harmful ultra-violet radiation. Conservation glass will significantly reduce the fading damage your artwork experiences as a consequence of being exposed to virtually any source of light. Cost is slightly more than the form of glazing to which the attribute is applied.
  • Museum glass is the ultimate protection you can give your artwork. There are several forms of museum glass. Some forms of this glass are made from a clearer type of glass which does not have the slight greenish tint of normal glass. Some forms are constructed like automobile windshield glass with a layer of acrylic sandwiched in the middle to control breakage. And all forms include U.V. protection. This is the most expensive of the glass types, and cannot be outdone for protecting your most valuable artwork.
  • Acrylic Glazing is second most common type of glazing (to glass), and is often referred to as Plexiglass (which is actually only one brand of acrylic.) It is available in several forms. The major advantages of acrylic are that it weighs significantly less than glass, it resists breaking, and inherently has a higher level of U.V. protection than regular glass (more than 60% filtering.) The only negative is that it is more susceptible to scratching. The acrylic used by FASTFRAME is a picture framing grade. This acrylic is different from the thinner styrene plastics you may have seen on bargain framing and, due to its substantially higher quality, actually costs more than regular glass. Acrylic glazing is available in Clear and Non-glare forms, and with or without an additional level of U.V. protection.
  • FASTFRAME does not stock the glazing material called styrene plastic. It is typically thinner than quality framing-grade acrylic, it is soft and susceptible to scratches, it warps and bows easily, and it yellows over time. It's only redeeming value is that it is cheap -- but you'll have to buy it from a less quality conscious organization.
  • Lamination is a light-duty glazing which protects the surface of artwork from dirt and liquids, but not necessarily from physical penetration. Lamination is a thin film of plastic material which is applied to the surface of a previously mounted piece of flat art. A heat/vacuum drymount press is used to fuse the plastic film permanently to the surface of the artwork. The cost of lamination is similar to that of other glazings. It's major advantages are that it is lightweight, it does not require a frame to hold it onto the artwork, and it is penetrable (by push-pins, for instance.) The lamination material we use at FASTFRAME is inherently U.V. protective, and can be fused to form either a gloss or matte finish.


How is the back of the frame sealed?

The sealing of the back of your frame is primarily functional, not decorative. The purpose of sealing the back of the frame is to seal out insects, dust and dirt. All three of these elements love to get inside of a frame without an appropriate backing.

There are four main types of backing applications, the choice being that of the individual framer, unless otherwise specified:
  1. Paper backing: This is an American style of backing. Adhesive is applied around the perimeter of the back of the frame, a brown or black craft paper is applied and then trimmed. In the USA, this is the style which is most common.
  2. Framing tape backing: This is a European style of backing. Brown, black or white framing tape is applied around the perimeter of the back of the frame to seal the gap between the frame and the backing board. This can be more durable than the paper backing technique. In Europe, this is style which is most common.
  3. Oil paintings on canvas: Oils are a special consideration. They are normally paper-backed, but a hole is cut out of the middle of the backing. The paper backing provides physical protection, plus a degree of protection against dust and dirt. The hole in the back is necessary to allow the oil to 'breathe'. An oil never completely dries, and if a hole is not provided through the backing for ventilation, mold may develop on the canvas.
  4. Metal frames: Metal frames are not backed because they are, for all practical purposes, not sealable due to the convoluted channels inherent to metal frames.


What's the difference between printed art forms?

Images can be put onto paper in a number of ways. The techniques are many, and the terminology is confusing. Below you will find a brief description for each of the most common techniques.

REPRODUCTION PRINTS
  • Posters: Four color process lithographic reproduction of a painting usually with type on or around the image.
  • Edition Print: This is the same as a poster without type around it. It is signed and numbered and usually printed on better paper.
  • Limited Edition Lithograph: This is the same as a limited edition print. Virtually all reproductions are printed lithographically.
  • Offset Lithograph: Four color process lithographic reproduction done on an offset press. Same as poster, limited edition print, etc.
  • Chromalith Replica: A continuous tone reproduction with hand drawn touch colors, using both serigraphy and lithography.
  • Giclee': A computer generated continuous tone reproduction printed on an Iris printer, sometimes with hand work by the artist.
  • Imprint: A dot matrix reproduction with hand drawn touch colors, sometimes with hand work by the artist.
  • Collotype: A gelatin based plate producing a continuous tone reproduction.
  • Canvas Transfer: A reproduction that has been adhered to canvas.
  • Repligraph: A photographic fused film technology producing an image on canvas.
  • Litho Serigraph: A mixed media reproduction using four-color process separations as a base with hand drawn silk screen touch colors added.

ORIGINAL PRINTS
  • Etching: The image is cut into a plate by acid and ink is rubbed into the remaining incised area. Wet paper is laid over the inked plate and printed under extreme pressure on an Intaglio press.
  • Engraving: The image is scratched into a plate then inked and printed like an etching.
  • Stone Lithograph: An image is drawn or painted with a greasy substance on a limestone slab. The stone is treated to accept water, then inked with a roller and printed on a lithography press.
  • Original Lithograph: The printing process is the same as a stone lithograph but the image is drawn on an aluminum plate or mylar, which is then transferred to a plate.
  • Original Serigraph: A silk screen printing process using stencils adhered to silk or nylon mesh through which ink is pushed by a squeegee.
  • Collograph: An image is created by building up a relief surface with such materials as mat board, cloth, sand, wood, or putty. The surface is then inked by rubbing ink into the textured surface or rolling ink on with a brayer.
  • Monotype: The image is created by painting on a Plexiglas or metal surface with printer's ink and printing a single copy on an Intaglio press. Ghost images are sometimes printed.
  • Monoprint: Sometimes used interchangeably with monotype, but the monoprint usually has a common image matrix that is inked differently each time.
  • Woodcut: An image is created by carving a negative image into a block of wood. The surface is inked with a brayer and printed on a relief press or an Intaglio press.
  • Linoleum Cut: The same as a woodcut except that the block of wood is replaced by linoleum.
  • Serilith: A mixed media process combining hand-drawn lithography and hand-drawn serigraphy.


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