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How to choose a frame for your oil painting

Picking the right frame for a painting you just bought can be a tricky situation, but by following some simple rules you will be able to clear your ideas up and choose the right frame for your oil painting.

Our first piece of advice is to always put things into perspective: What is the purpose of framing? The answer is simple. Whether it’s an acrylic or an oil painting, the frame´s goal is to make the viewers focus their attention on the painting itself, creating a unified whole that stands by itself and invites to contemplation without distractions.


We can compare a frame with the setting for a diamond, it is the final touch, an element that complements and enhances the painting in the eyes of the beholder. Therefore, framing a picture is almost an art in itself, and a good choice of framework will determine the final appearance of the artwork.

To frame or no frame?

Not all oil paintings need a frame. For example, when we speak about contemporary artworks the framing is completely optional, since the canvas is usually wrapped on a stretcher. With this set up, we obtain smooth sides where we cannot see the staples, as they are usually situated in the back of the stretcher. The sides of the painting can be painted or white. Thus, it can be hung directly without any framing. This no- frame style is called gallery wrap.


If a painting is not gallery wrapped, the stretchers are thinner leaving the staples exposed to view. In this case, we must use a frame. as it is clear that the artist’s intention was that. This is usually the case of panel paintings.


Which frame should we choose?

Once we have decided to frame our oil painting, we have to choose well. In this respect there are different trends, but there are no strict rules you have to follow; the best option in most cases is to let the painting dictate the style of the frame.

For instance, a classic style painting such as this still life artwork that can be found in our online art gallery, will match very well with a traditional wood frame painted in gold or with a  walnut or mahogany tone.


If the painting we need to frame is a more abstract one, it is preferable to choose a smooth frame with few ornaments. For paintings that straddle a middle ground between these two extremes, we could choose frames that blend contemporary elements with a certain classicism.

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Each painting is a different universe, but when we choose the frame with the artwork as  the focus, the piece can be hung anywhere we choose. A contemporary painting in a traditional style room does not need a traditional framework, nor a traditional painting into a modern room needs a modern framework. The most important thing is not to fall into the trap of choosing the frames to match with the frames other paintings that we already have and which are going to be hung next to the new art work. Frequently, the most spectacular compositions mix art pieces together with a variety of art styles and frames.

Another great tip to follow when choosing a frame for our oil paintings is to consider the size of the piece. Typically, larger paintings look best wide frames with large moldings. If you do not have much space, you can use a floating frame, which will give the work a stronger personality without using too much space.

It is also important to choose a frame with a finish that does not compete with the artwork in color or texture. For example, it is not wise to choose a very ornate and intricate motif for a dense and full frame painting full with details.

Anyway, as we said at the beginning of this article, there is no strict rule that can be applied on this subject. The best advice we can give is, once you know these basic guidelines, to experience by yourself.



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