Some artwork, such as art on stretched canvases or cradled wood panels can be hung without framing. Works on on flat panels or canvases or on paper must be framed. While having your art custom framed is generally a beautiful option, it can be quite costly. Framing yourself can save a lot of money and can also make your artwork shine.

For shows, the pieces must also be ready to hang. In some cases smaller pieces will be displayed on easels, so be sure to check with the show prospectus to get specific requirements for that show.

In most cases, framed work that sits behind glass needs to be matted. This not only keeps the work from touching the glass which can deteriorate the artwork, it can also enhance the appearance. If the work is on paper, it must be flat and slightly larger than your mat opening. 

Watercolor paper may need to be flattened. Here’s a video  using an iron by artist Joe Cartwright

First up, measure your artwork. It can help save you a lot of money in the long run if you do this step at the beginning. Creating art to standard sizes means you can purchase ready made frame and mat sets making it much simpler and friendlier to your wallet. For some shows, you may still need to add a wire for hanging. 

Make sure you have a clean work space.  Placing an old sheet down on your workspace can help protect the frame.

First wipe the front of the glass clean.Then flip the frame over and bend the flexible points back so you can remove the backing board and mat.

Set the frame aside and pick up your artwork. Place it face down and attach a strip of acid free hanging tape (you can also use masking tape) along the top of the back of the artwork. Do not press too hard as you only want the tape to stick to the artwork and not the table top.

Flip your piece over and lay the mat board on top. Don’t press down until you find the positioning you want for your art.

Carefully flip the mat over and rub the tape to make sure it is firmly adhered to the mat. You may extra tape if needed to secure the artwork in place

Place the mat board with the attached art in the frame. Before you do this, check and see if the glass on the inside needs another quick clean in case any dust has settled on it. 

Once the art and mat board is in place, put the backing board on and bend the points back down to hold everything in place.

Many artists add a dust guard at this point. It’s a piece of paper adhered to the back of the frame to keep dust from working its way into the frame. It is not a framing requirement, so we’ll cover this on a separate page. 

In some cases, you’ll need to add wire to the back for hanging. Most backing boards have some type of hook which can be sufficient for home display or for shows where art will be displayed on easels. The Spruce has great instructions for adding a wire to the back of artwork here