Picture Framing Can Be Pricey – Here’s Why It’s a Good Investment


There’s nothing like bringing home a newly framed painting or photo. Something about the intricate moulding and crystal clear glass transforms the art into something magical. Once it’s hung on the wall, artwork quickly becomes a talking point in our homes, a centerpiece of the wall, so to speak. Artwork and professionally framed photos or heirlooms make our homes look wealthy and substantive. Whether you live in 200 square feet of space or 20,000, a blank wall can make you feel isolated. But a wall filled with vibrant art sets the tone for how your guests—and you—will feel in the space.

So why are we sometimes hesitant to step through a framer’s door? It’s very unexpected to pick out combinations that look great on a picture and then hear your framer quote a price that causes you to think you mortgaged the house! To be honest, custom framing is not an inexpensive endeavor. While you can frame something very nicely for an economical price (under $100), it’s not uncommon to find yourself paying more for the framing than the artwork itself. Crazy, right? Not really.

Framing is a separate endeavor from the item you’re framing. The costs depend on three things: materials, labor and size. A project would cost well into the hundreds if the frame you choose is highly intricate, includes a double mat, conservation glass, and measures 40 inches by 37 inches. Even a 6 x 6 canvas in a gallery frame could cost over $100. The price would be the same whether we were framing a Picasso or a blank sheet of craft paper. The monetary value of what’s inside the frame doesn’t change the cost of the materials, the labor or the size of the item.

Let’s take a look at five reasons why custom framing is important and worth the investment.

Added Value

Framed artwork is an asset. When you frame a picture, you’re adding value to that piece. Let’s say you are remodeling your bathroom. Spending $1,000 is not just money going to your new garden tub, it’s money that adds to the overall value of your house. So a $400 painting will easily be worth $800 next year with a full conservation frame job. When you pick up your item from the framer’s, it will always be worth more than the day you brought it in. You are investing in your artwork and your home when you have something custom framed, making it worth the initial sticker shock. Framed artwork is furniture in your house, and just like an antique table or cabinet, it appreciates in value with each day. Framing a painting gives you something of value to leave your kids, or hopefully sell later for a higher price.

Protecting the Artwork

Framing acts first and foremost as protection to the artwork. While framing is a large part of the presentation, without it, your item would be susceptible to multiple kinds of damage. When you have something that is culturally significant or valuable, it’s imperative that you frame the item as soon as possible to ensure it’s protected. Having a painting or autographed item behind glass and inside of a frame will save you money and heartache down the road. An unframed treasure could become stained, ripped, torn, cracked, or suffer water damage. Framing allows us to handle our favorite items without transferring oils from our hands to the surface. This is why custom framing isn’t “cheap”—when you frame something you are protecting it for a lifetime. But let’s be clear: framing won’t protect your piece from tornadoes, hurricanes or floods, although it does provide an opportunity for your item to withstand some disasters.

Time and Effort

Sometimes framing can be quite a mystery. It looks simple from the outside looking in: take a picture, cut a simple rectangular mat, pop it into a frame with glass, and wahla! You’re all done. However, custom framing is far from simple, even for the most experienced framer. From the time a framing project begins there is a lot of time and effort taken to measure, cut and/or join the frame, and mount the artwork. Mounting can range from hinging paper to a board to building a foundation for a larger item like a baseball bat. Many times, a framer will use various methods to determine how to frame a piece based on its fragility, weight, dimension, composition, or the like. That involves creativity and skill, since there’s no standard way to frame everything that comes through the doors. When you pay for a framing project you pay for materials (frame, mat, boards, glass, hardware and other add-ons) plus labor (the time and effort of the framer to care for your piece). All of these things are specialized: mouldings are typically hand-made internationally; boards, glass and hardware are manufactured specifically for framing purposes; and the skill of putting it all together professionally and at a high quality. It’s similar to having a service done at an auto shop: you pay for specialized parts and the specialized labor to do the work. Nothing about custom framing is a dime a dozen, so it’s worth every penny.

Custom Value

Custom framing is a specialized service for one key reason—it’s custom. That means you have the ability to choose everything from your mat and frame to the hinging, boards and glass used in the project. As with all things, custom work will cost you a nice penny at times, but it’s unique because it gives you exactly what you’re looking for. We pay for a lot of custom services: a tailor to alter our suit, a custom designed house, or a custom paint job on our collector’s car. Framing is really the same thing: the entire look and feel is custom to your design, your taste and your functionality—no one else may have that exact combination anywhere. It’s one of a kind, made especially for you, which is more personal than a frame you’d find in a home decor store.

Local Shops Are More Cost Effective

Although custom framing is an investment, you can almost always find a better deal at a local frame shop versus a large chain store. Larger stores often mark up prices higher than the market average and then advertise sales and clearances to make the prices closer to the industry standard. In reality, this isn’t saving you money at all. If you take your picture to a local shop, you’ll find more personalized service and often more competitive prices. Local stores may also be more willing to offer you a deal, since they have the flexibility to grant a discount—something a big box store employee can’t do. So don’t be afraid to ask questions, negotiate, and shop local when it comes to framing!

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