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Matting and framing is relatively simple, and doing it yourself costs less and is more rewarding than using a framing service. In this course, photographer and professional framer Konrad Eek describes the tools, techniques, and creative decisions involved in matting, framing, and hanging photographs.
The course begins with an overview of framing concepts, terms, and tools and then shows how to choose and work with the various components of a framed print: matboard, frame, glazing, wire hangers, and more. The course also examines the issues and creative options behind hanging an exhibit, whether in a gallery or in a home.
Konrad Eek: I'm here with my good friend and colleague Ben Long, and we're here to discuss the aesthetics of framing photographic prints. Ben, do you want to tell me a little bit about these prints? Ben Long: Well, I have got two prints that I brought with me from the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute. These are student works done by high school students that we were working with this summer. I worked these prints up as part of my Inkjet Printing course, so we got a black and white and a color--these as I said are both inkjet prints on pretty inexpensive mat paper.
What's nice about the black and white that we were able generate because of the printer we were using we have got a good truly neutral black and white, we have got a nice color image. Both are--because of the nature of the inks used in that printer extremely archival--these prints are rated at 200 years easily on this particular paper. So, I want to talk about some ideas about framing them. Konrad: Okay, one of the things you mentioned that the prints are archival. That really helps me with the first decision that I think you want to make when you're dealing with framing a print, which is what quality of matboard do you want to use.
I would never take an archival print and put it say in a decorative matboard that's not acid-free. So we are really kind of not really limiting our choices because there's huge color choices available in the higher-quality matboards. Let's start with the black and white to simplify it. What were you going to say, Ben? Ben: One question, as far as your mat choice there you're talking about in an attempt to preserve the maximum archive ability, if I was willing to maybe risk 75 years, I could go with a different matboard if I couldn't find one that I liked light in the acid-free.
Konrad: Probably not, one of the things about the decorative boards is they tend to do their destructive work rather quickly, and you will see a discoloration. I typically only use decorative boards for posters, printed material because they'll tend to discolor within 5 to 10 years. Ben: Oh, wow. Konrad: So it's something that would affect the decision within your lifetime, one would hope. Ben: Right, yeah. Konrad: To simplify things, let's start with just the black and white image. It's rarer that I will introduce color into the manning and or framing for a black and white image.
I think that when you have got this neutrality to introduce color becomes a really distracting thing. What do you think about that? Ben: I think you're right. Yeah, it would over-upstage or overpower the actual print. Konrad: And a starting place, too, I always kind of look, there is a variation in the tonality of many of the papers you can work with. And so I typically start from my white hue. I will look for white that really is a close match to the white of the paper. Ben: Will you always mat? Are there times when you think just a frame works? Konrad: My one concern about putting it in just a frame is it usually sets you up where the work is in direct contact with the glass, which is not a good thing, particularly in a part of the country like Oklahoma where we have humidity issues.
The paper will gain and lose moisture and content, you will tend to get modeling where it touches the glass, even with a spacer, unless you use an adhesive mounting of some sort--which I don't care for. I think they are destructive mounting practices. You can run into a flex problems, warping problems. They don't lay flat. The nice thing about an over mat is it applies uniform pressure around the work to help keep it flat. Ben: Okay. Konrad: So typically, I'd start off with a white. This is a fairly close match. Oftentimes, for drama I will add a second mat, in this case with black and white.
What I like to do a lot is do a black and white mat that overlap. Typically, you leave about a quarter of an inch of the undermat exposed. And then you--I oftentimes will leave little bit of the white of the paper exposed as well. What do you think of that as a combination? Ben: Honestly, I am not crazy about it, I think it's too much having both colors of mattes in there. It looks too busy. I don't know, it's upstaging the pictures somehow. Konrad: Do you just think maybe it's the weight of black line? Ben: It is off, I think.
Konrad: Another option we have is what's called a Black Core Board, where you can have the same white surface, but the core of the board--if you look at the backside--the backside of the board is black, and then you have a white decorative paper on the front. And you can see it gives that same black line effect with a much finer line. And one of the reasons I like that black line if we are going to show the white, and you have a white matboard that's not the absolute perfect match, it gives you just the slightest bit of separation. Ben: I like that. Konrad: You like that? Ben: Yeah. Konrad: Okay. Ben: I do have one question.
This paper is artificially brightened, so it is not going to be this white for very long. It will yellow a little bit. Do I need to try and predict that or think about my mat color choice in that? Konrad: I think with this little of the White you are seeing and also with the separation of the black, I think if it does shift a little bit, I don't think it's going to be a major issue. This white is also slightly darker than the white of the paper. So I think you're going to be all right there. Ben: Okay. Konrad: Do you know, is the white related to exposure to sunlight, the white loss? Ben: Yes.
Konrad: Another way to prevent that if you wanted to hold onto the true white of the paper if you use one of the UV shielding glazing options. There is glazing, both acrylic and glass, that can shield up to 97% of the UV, which would greatly slow down that process there. So moving on. We have made a decision we are going to go with the white board with a black core. And then once again, I tend to stay with fairly neutral typically black or dark gray frames brought a few choices here.
We can look at this as a repetition of line. Oftentimes I look to visual clues within the work when I'm suggesting a molding. Here I really see the linearity of the harp string as bring a strong element. This kind of comes to mind there. This has a little bit of that reference just on the inside of the frame there. This is a little bit more rustic, but once again, I grabbed it just because of the linearity, and I noticed this little line of grain along the back of the harp, I thought they might play off each other. Ben: Okay.
Konrad: And then the last choice is just this very simple black molding of it. On a piece of this scale, I think a molding this small is all right. Ben: Yeah, I think, although I really like your idea with the repetition. I like both of those frames. It is a small print even with the mat. I am wondering if this is a way to go? Konrad: Okay, and I think you know this is where I often when I am doing an intake in my frame shop with an individual, I will try to provide them with choices, but essentially my goal is to help the client find their way to the best decision. So in this case, we are going to go with Ben and go with the thinner black molding, probably expose I think only about 2 inches of the mat.
I think any more mat than that it would start to overpower the work with the black core. Ben: Is there ever a time on a print of this size that you would go with more mat? Is that just about size or is it about the content of the image? Konrad: It's about size, it's about content, sometimes it's about where it's going to hang. If you get into more complicated textual information in the board, I know I have done a few pieces where the board itself has been a part of relating the environment. So we haven't really discussed where this would end up hanging because that's not a part of this particular aesthetic, but that's often good information to take into consideration.
Ben: Okay. Konrad: And scale, you can take very small works--I have seen some very successful 4x4-inch prints that are done in 4- to 6-inch mattes with very ornate frames. First, you are captivated by the frame, but then you go, well, wow, what's in that little square that is so deserving of all this. And it really cons the viewer into looking at that lousy little 4-inch print. Ben: So the busy frame is an eye-grabbing thing. It's not necessarily a bad thing. Konrad: Nothing, you go back a lot of the fancy ornate framing just came out of a renaissance when these patrons would buy these expensive paintings, and they would be hanging on the walls in their homes, so they didn't feel like they were getting enough attention.
So I might add these gaudy-gaudy frames and then they go, hey, look at the art I bought. Ben: Right, right. Konrad: Let's go on and look at the color piece. What are your first thoughts when you see this? Ben: It's very blue, we get a lot of blue. Konrad: Yes it is blue. I think one of the things I see in this is there's a lot of graphic strength right here where you have the sunlight reflecting off the water, this action in the clouds where it really seems to be the only area in the image where you have any color other than blue introduced.
But the one thing I thought in a thing as a framer approaching this, I think this rock is extremely important in balancing out what's going on up here. And so I started looking at the rock and thinking, what can we do in the matting and framing process to really start to emphasize that rock and deemphasized the 90% of this frame that's blue? Ben: Okay. Konrad: And knowing it was shot out at Quartz Mountain, red Oklahoma granite is the rock of choice out there.
So I picked this particular mat that really kind of reflects the color of that granite when it's wet. And what do you see happening as soon as I put that in? Ben: Suddenly I notice all the red in here a lot more. Konrad: Yeah, if you take it out, you don't see it so much. As you put it in, all of a sudden those colors start to pop. The other thing I have selected is a black core mat. We are playing some games here with the way the human eye functions, and this is something Ben's helped me learn in understanding the way we perceive dynamic range. By eliminating the white, we overall reduce the contrast of what we see in the image, and what happens then, Ben? Ben: Well, without all that white skewing our eye in one direction, we read the shadows more.
We see the color that's in there. It really changes things. Konrad: Yeah, it's really pretty dramatic, and as a framer as I started to understand more than nature of seeing, it really helped to put together packages that work well. So we have got, not only am I going to cover the white completely, but I am going to use the black core mat, so even when we cut a bevel in it, we don't see any white at all, we bring it over the edge of the frame. But along with the fact that I want to darken it overall, I think if we just go with a single mat in this color, it's going too dark, it's going to be all of a sudden I think if you put a frame with this, your eye would tend to be drawn in the intensity of that color.
So I am going to put something else in combination with it. Ben: Okay. Konrad: I think if we go back to a stark white like we used in the previous one, we'll be right back to those dynamic range issues. So I have picked a few choices here to kind of show you. First, another black core, and this I kind of looked at a little tone and texture coming from the water. And thought about just kind of the hue of the stone plus the blue.
I see you a little mixed emotion there. Ben: I like what it's doing to my eyes, it's just not a color I am crazy about. Yep, once again, a different variation, not quite so much texture there. Once again, riffing on the blue of the water, that's a little closer in there. Ben: Yeah. Konrad: But one of the things I felt with both of those blues is perhaps it was just a little bit too much color where the color here was kind of being deemphasized. And so then I found this one which is more about texture. It still has those blues coming in, but it also has a lot of neutral tones.
And if you look at it really closely, there are some really tiny bits of the same brown that happened in the texture. Ben: Yeah, tonally it's also about the same as these bright areas in here. Konrad: Exactly. Ben: I like that one a lot. Konrad: Yeah, so I think this is the combination that really works. We have played off the tonality in the image, we have played games with the viewer's mental function so that they'll see everything more clearly than they normally would. And what remains is just to choose a molding that really works well with it. On a very simple level, this is a quarter sawn oak molding. The quarter sawing they take the slices out like the spokes of a wheel to the center of the tree so you get a very linear appearance for oak.
In my thinking here is the linearity kind of plays off the ripples in the water. The tone of the stain kind of works with the red there, that's one choice for us. Another, if you want to go in a more traditional, this is a cherry stained and weathered what they call a lamb's tongue pattern. It's a little more ornate than you might think up for a photograph, very traditional. This could possibly tie this into--you might think about where eventually we're going to hang if this type of molding we are going to work. Ben: Okay.
Konrad: These last two I thought were interesting, once again I am playing off the striation and the rhythm in the water. This is a dark wood with a blue wash, and to me, this starts to really work better with the elements here. It's a little rustic, but then our scene is a little rustic. And then the last one I came to was this. A richer wood tone, much closer to what we see in the mat here, a slight blue wash on the texture here. Ben: I think I like this one the most. It's definitely done to these two.
The blue feels a little too much blue to me. Actually, it seems to frame it better somehow. Konrad: Yeah, and it's funny I think that's what we are really after, and I have got to agree with you, I think this was my choice. I really like it texturally, but I like how you end up with this repeating series of kind of rust almost rectangles that I think would really hold the work together first completed. Ben: I agree, I like that a lot. Konrad: One of the things we try to do here for you is share a little bit of the aesthetic conversation you might have with your framer.
If you're working with a custom framer, but also I think a dialogue that you can internalize if you're trying to make these decisions on your own. Are you seeing things a little bit different with a framer's eye now? Ben: Absolutely, I had no idea you could so change your perception of the color within the print by blocking out the white or bringing out different colors with matting. Konrad: And I think that plays back to some of your discussion in the print about the proper viewing environment for getting the print right. And what we're doing here is we are taking that viewing environment and skewing it to kind of accentuate what the viewing system is in the way you do the final interpretation of the work.
So my hope is that from this you gain some tools to use as you address the world of framing. And so we have kind of discussed the aesthetics and the options that are available to you. What we are going to do now is start to look at the actual practical methods of cutting mats, cutting the glazing, cutting and assembling the frames, and putting the entire package together to create a matted framed photograph that is ready for hanging.
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