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Photography Question 

Do-It-Yourself Framing?

Is there a more cost-effective way to get my photography framed, like doing it myself? The amount of money that professional framers charge seems to be completely ridiculous. Are their tools/education out there to allow photographers to frame their own work? Thank you for your time!

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1/8/2006 8:04:21 AM

Craig m. Zacarelli
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/3/2005
  Yeah get a pretty good compound miter saw (or you can youe a hand miter box, about 9 bucks from home depot. And youll need a router..better yet, get a small router table from sears.. it'll be worth every cent. Then its just a matter of cutting, routering and putting it together and putting the glass in. The glass can be purchased from home depot also, they will also cut it to size..or any glass shop will cut it too. youll might want to pick up four 90 degree corner clamps,, a worth wile purchase too! if you can do some basic woodworking, you can make a frame, go to somewhere like free plans dot comm for more info.

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1/8/2006 9:40:20 AM

Liza M. Franco
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/26/2004
  Hi Joe,
I had my own picture framing business for 13 years. There are a couple of ways to go.

If you want to get pre-cut frames there is a company called Graphik Dimensions. They will pre-cut metal or wood. Wooden frames have a special cut in the corners that are designed to accept a special peg type piece, that coupled with framing glue holds the frame together. If you choose to do your own framing and desire a mat cutter or any other supplies, United Manufacturing would be the way to go. They have all the machinery needed and any supplies you could possibly need. Mat cutters can run anywhere from $150.00-$2000.00. Don't skimp on glue. For doing matting or papering the back of a frame for a finished look, an ATG gun is an awesome tool. I don't do professional framing any longer, because I needed a change and absolutely love photography and computer manipulation and restoration. However, I held on to every bit of framing equipment for doing my own stuff.
Considering the price of buying glass from a distributor, unless you have one locally, shipping can be outrageous. Craig's suggestion of Home Depot is an excellent one. You might also check at Ace Hardware and Lowe's. When transporting glass, you do not want to lay it flat. It is best left standing between cardboard or wood. If transported flat, it can crack easily from stress.

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1/8/2006 10:30:36 AM

John P. Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/8/2001
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John's Gallery
  You need to buy mat board. 32X40-inch board in a myriad of colors is available at AC Moore and other art supply stores (not Michael's). You'll need a straight edge and a piece of 1.2-inch plywood to support the mat board when you cut it using a box cutter or shop knife. Mat board costs $5.00-12.00 a sheet.
Buy yourself a mat cutter: Alto's - about $90.00 to start (that's what I've had for years) or Logan's - about $120.00 to start. There are other manufacturers.
You don't need to make window mats. You can use spray adhesive for photographs, if you want. About $20 for a large can; I've mounted about 20 8X10 prints and don't notice a significant weight loss in the can yet.
There are lots of "chop shops" on the Internet that'll sell you precut wood and metal frames. Go to Neilson's Web site to find locals suppliers. I use Neilson metal frames preferentially.
Go to your local hardware store for glass and/or plexiglass. I use the latter for really large framing jobs. My little Alto unit successfully let me frame posters to 34X39. For larger framing, plexiglass is safer. You can use glareproof glass; it's a little more expensive.
I can frame a 12X16 for less than $20. My son is a lawyer who had about 15 citations I framed. I also did his law school diploma and his wife's diplomas from undergrad and grad school. Did all for a materials cost under $300.

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1/8/2006 11:28:52 AM

Craig m. Zacarelli
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/3/2005
  Wow... I didn't know there were such easy ways! I just cut and router the wood to make frames... I guess, though, since I have the tools, it's a bit easier to do that, and less expensive. Ya learn something new every day.

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1/8/2006 1:26:39 PM

Joe    Wow, thanks for the wonderful responses everyone!! I never dreamed I'd get that many helpful responses in such a short amount of time. Thanks again!! JRD

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1/8/2006 3:16:02 PM

Robert Ankrum   A couple of additional sources for precut frames (requiring assembly) and mats are: and
Both have a wide variety of framing materials and supplies. Personally, it's worth it to me to pay for pre-cut mats. I know they're going to do a much better job than I am b/c they have all of the latest equipment...and they do it all day, every day.
For glass, I go to my local window glass supplier. They actually give a 10% discount for artists.

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1/10/2006 9:53:17 AM

Shirley D. Cross-Taylor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/7/2001
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Shirley's Gallery
  I do most of my own matting using precut mats. You can order from several wholesale places online. Also, (same as Graphik Dimensions) has all kinds of great frames to suit every taste. Anything greater than 8X10 I have professionally mounted by a local framer who gives me a reasonable price.

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1/10/2006 3:32:33 PM

Nicole Kessel   Hey all, great thread.

A lot of my prints are full frame and I found it difficult to find pre-cut mats in those sizes at a good price. So, I bought a real inexpensive mat cutting kit for around $60 at the 'Hobby Lobby' which has worked great for me so far. The edges arn't always perfect but, I only use it for my own stuff for right now.

I was also buying 32x40 mat boards from the 'Hobby Lobby' for about $5-10 until one of their associates told me that it isn't acid-free which totally suprised me!

So, I'm wondering just how important it is to get an acid free mat board since the part of picture you see doesn't touch the mat directly anyway. Anyone know?

(I scan a lot of garage sales for old frames that I can re-stain or paint, too.)

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1/10/2006 9:13:40 PM

Robert Ankrum   Nicole - You want acid-free mats, foamcore, etc. because when the acid in a non-acid-free product forms a gas (which it inevitably will do as the material ages), it will cause your printed image to degrade. Mind you, it can take many years to have a noticeable it all depends on how long you want to enjoy your framed image. Cheers.

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1/10/2006 10:21:04 PM

Robert Ankrum   Sorry folks, I have to correct my earlier entry. A little additional research reveals that acid-free products last longer and hold their color better (if you're using colored mats, for example).

Didn't mean to mislead anyone. (My only excuse is that my earlier answer is what someone once told me...)

An outstanding resource for "all things archival" is:

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1/10/2006 10:52:42 PM

John P. Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/8/2001
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  The price range I noted earlier reflects acid-free board at the high side. When you make a side by side comparison of NAF vs AF you might be surprised at how much the former appears like colored cardboard.

I purchased the complete corner set for Crescent Board years ago. That way I can judge whether or not to use a colored mat. Notwithstanding that, soemtimes, colors look great, there are a lot of juried competitions out there whose judges will downscore a print that's not matted on black or white mat board.

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1/11/2006 10:42:31 AM

Christopher Budny
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/3/2005
  I went through a big framing phase several years ago, just for various posters, prints, sketches, etc., that I'd collected. Had a little family-run framing shop nearby; they'd cut a glass and mat to my stated size, while I waited (!) and I just bought the "kit" (sectional) frame pieces, to assemble the frame myself (typically, the black metal "gallery" style frame.) I don't recall those frame pieces being terribly expensive... always less expensive than having them do the full job for me. You just buy the 4 individual side pieces needed, in whole-inch increments, to create the frame size desired. I think Michael's Crafts stores carry this product (tho I can no longer get while-u-wait glass and mats!)

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1/11/2006 10:59:56 AM

BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/26/2004
  I,too, was very disturbed by the high price of framing so I decided to do my own. If you are not looking for the world's best frames, Michael's or A.C.Moore have, by far, the best prices. Most times a lot of their frames are on sale(40%-50%) off. Different frames are on sale at different times. Both stores also have coupons in your local papers for the same percentage off any frames that are not on sale. A.C.Moore also takes Michael's coupons.I used the 40% coupon to buy a mat cutter. Try using a small mat cutter (up to 16"x20"mat) and if you need to mat larger photos get a larger cutter which I just did. It's not really difficult to learn to cut mats in small sizes. Then you can move up to the larger ones. Buy some cheap matboard just to practice. Don't worry about the acid-free board until you have some serious framing to do. You can buy mats cut to the outer dimensions of your frame on e-bay and then cut the inner demensions yourself. It's very handy when you want to mat an odd size picture.Learning to cut mats is very rewarding and not that difficult to do. You can then reap the profits for a framed print.

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1/11/2006 2:55:05 PM

Nicole Kessel   You guys all have some great ideas.

Thanks for the information on that, Robert! I had heard not to use anything but acid free but, I did not know why exactly.

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1/11/2006 3:22:02 PM

Joe    Wow guys, this is great stuff, thanks for all of your input!!

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1/12/2006 6:43:44 PM

Joye Ardyn Durham
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/1/2006
  There are a lot of ways of doing your own framing. I have owned my shop for 12 years and do mostly conservation framing and since I am a photographer I do a lot of research on the best way to frame photos. Acid free is definitely the way to go. The way to tell (of course there are exceptions but not many) is that the bevel of an acid-free mat is very white and clean and it will stay that way. Non acid-free mats have a tan tone and will continue to get worse through time. And eventually will turn your photo brown on the edges.
Non AF foam cor backing has a shine to it and feels a bit slick. The AF is more dull and smooth.
Another thing to consider is getting conservation glass which is 97% UV protected from sunlight and florescent lights. This glass saves your colors! You can get that cut from your local framer or the local glass shop may carry it. Just beware some photo shops sell AF pre-cut mats that are NOT AF so check the bevel!

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1/18/2006 4:44:42 AM

Joe    Hi Joyce, thanks for the information! That is definately good to know, because I've always wondered how you keep the brown from setting in. Thanks again!

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1/18/2006 4:50:58 PM

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