If you want to learn how to frame your own pictures, read on…
As a photographer, I am sure you’re like me and have way too many of your pics saved on your hard drive, when you should have them printed and framed! Whether you hang them on your own wall, or give them away as gifts, framing your photo’s is a great way to really show off your work!
I decided to give picture framing a go and found it to be quite simple. I am pretty handy when it comes to things like this and if you’re the handy type then you should find this fairly simple to do! If you have trouble hanging a picture then framing one is going to be way out of your depth, and you would be best to keep sending your framing jobs to the pro’s… there are stacks of online businesses that do this now and they’re very competitive! However, if you’re like me, then you will want to work out how it is done so you can create your own frames, and with things like a router, you can even make your own moulding.
In this ‘heads up’ I will cover the basics, the tools you need, a brief run down of the steps you will take and any tricks I have learnt to making the job easier.
The tools you will need to purchase will depend on how much of the work you want to do yourself. You can easily set yourself up with everything you need to produce quality frames for under $1000.
(click on any of the pics in the tutorial for a full size image)
1. Mat Cutter
The mat is the cardboard frame within your frame, and a good mat cutter will allow you to cut mats for fairly large prints. I own the Frameco MatMaster 1060B. I find this to be adequate for most of my frames.
If you prefer not to cut your own mats, you can find somewhere to do it for you for a small fee. I have used Sydney Art and Framing in Silverwater, (Sydney Australia) to cut some of my mats if they have been something more difficult or too large for my mat cutter. They have a $65k machine that does a great job, if you go there, ask for Tony, he is really helpful. I also buy all my mats, mouldings and glass from him.
2. Mitre Saw
For home framing a professional guillotine would not be viable due to the price tag! So the solution is a Mitre Saw, and you will need a precision saw with a fine blade to get accurate cuts. I use the Nobex mitre saw and find that it does a good job, I just have to take my time and be patient and I am getting professional quality mitre cuts.
My tip here is to get a stain marker pen (I use Copic markers) to colour the cut edges so when you join your mitres the pale part of the cut timber doesn’t stand out.
3. V Nailer & Clamps
Once you have cut your moulding you will need to join it! For this you will need a good clamp and V Nailer. I am using the Logan F300-1 studio joiner and getting good consistent joins.
I bought 3 more of the Logan clamps so I can join an entire frame in one go, and leave the clamps on until my PVA glue has set.
4. Tab Gun
A tab gun will allow you to fasten your backing board into your frame. I am using the Logan T220 tab gun and it works well.
5. Glass Cutter
If you’re planning on cutting your own glass you will need a glass cutter. I get mine cut for me as I don’t want to have to muck around trying to cut glass, it is fairly cheap, I find I get a piece of glass for a 20″ x 30″ print cut for about $20.
Now you know what tools you need, I will run you through a step by step process of making your frame.
1. Measure your Print.
Measure your print from edge to edge to the nearest mm. My tip, make sure you use the same tape measure from this point on, if you swap from one tape to another you may find they differ by a mm or two! Once you have measured your print, subtract a minimum of 5mm off each measurement as you want your mat to overlap the edges of your print. For example, if your print is 400mm wide by 250mm high, then subtract 5mm, so you end up with 395mm wide and 245mm high. (this will make more sense as you read on)
2. Decide on your Mat design
When it comes to Mat design there is a stack of options (colours, types of mat, width or border, number of mat layers etc.) Typically I find myself using a 75mm border around my prints, and If I use a double or triple mat, I will make the second and third mat show by 5mm and that makes up part of the overall 75mm. Because I want my mat to overlap the edges of my prints I am going to make the inside ‘hole’ in my mat 5mm to 10mm smaller than my print. To work out the overall size of your mat,add the adjusted print size (remember we subtracted 5mm) and then add the width of your mat border x 2. For example, you decide you want a 75mm mat border around your print, and your print is 395mm wide, add 75mm x 2 = 150mm to your print width of 395mm and you end up with 545mm. This is the width of your print and mat together (the finished width) and do the same for the height, 75mm x 2 + 245mm = 395mm will be the finished height. The finished width and height are also the measurements you will use for your mounting board, and your glass (sometimes a good idea to make the glass 2mm less than the finished width so it fits in your frame without forcing it.)
3. Work out your frame size
Now you have worked out your finished width and height, you can work out your frame size. The inside edge of the moulding is called a rebate, and this is where your glass, mat, print and mounting board will sit once completed. To get an accurate measurement, I take the width of the rear of the moulding (the side with the rebate), you will find this will be less than the overall width due to the rebate. Lets say the width from the rebate to the outer edge of the frame is 25mm, I double this and add it to the finished width and the finished height. So using my example above, 545mm (the finished width) + 50mm = 595mm, this is the length of my moulding for the top and bottom of my frame, and then I would take 395mm (the finished height) + 50mm = 445mm, this is the length of the two sides of my frame. To clarify what ‘length’ is in this case, it is the absolute longest part of the moulding. Remember you are cutting mitres at 45 degree angles, so one side of the moulding will be longer.
4. Cut your frame
Take your time when cutting your frame. You will be cutting mitres and need to make sure you pay attention to each mitre and make sure that you cut them in the correct direction. As I said above I use the Nobex saw and find it very accurate, however, if you’re not confident with this step a lot of framing shops offer a ‘chop’ service, all you need to do is provide your finished width and height and they will ‘chop’ your moulding so all you need to do is assemble it.
5. Join your frame
Now for the fun part, You will start to put your frame together, and your masterpiece will start to appear! I use the Logan F300-1 Studio Joiner. It is a V nailer and makes life real easy, they have a few models but I find this one is best for casual framers. Before I V nail my joints I use a colour marker on the edges to make sure that if there are any imperfections (trust me there will be!) that they wont be seen, so if I am making a black frame, I will take a black marker and colour in the edges so no pale timber will show after joining. I then run a bead of PVA wood glue along the join, and clamp them using the logan clamp that came with the joiner (I ordered 3 extra clamps so I can put a whole frame together and leave all 4 corners clamped whilst the PVA glue dries.) Once clamped I drive in the V nails using the Logan and then put it aside for at least 24 hours to dry.
6. Cut your mounting board
Now that your frame is made, check the measurement so you know you have worked out the correct measurement for your mounting board, glass and mat and you can make any adjustments if you have made a boo boo. The mounting board is commonly a foam core product or may be MDF (I use foam core/coreflute). You will mount your print to this board. Using your finshed width and height cut your board and set it aside.
7. Cut your mat
Depending on whether you have decide to do a single, double or triple mat (or maybe something completely different). Lets keep it simple and start with a single mat. My tip is to make sure you have clean hands, and work on a clean surface, if you mark or scuff the mat it may be ruined so be very careful when handling your mat. Start by cutting out the overall mat using the finished width and height. It should be exactly the same size as your mounting board. Once you have done this you will now use your mat cutter to cut out the ‘window’ you will see your print through.
Typically, this is done with a bevel cutting blade that will come with your mat cutter, you will cut from the rear of your mat, and start by making pencil marking on the back.
You want a 75mm border, so measure in 75mm from the edge of your mat and mark a line with your pencil until you have drawn a rectangle on the back of your mat (or square if you made a square frame).
These lines are your guide for cutting your mat, and you will start and stop in each corner of your drawn rectangle until the piece falls out and ‘presto’ you now will have a frame made from mat that should fit perfectly over your print, and slightly overlap your print to give it a nice finished look.
8. Mount your print
Now that you have your mounting board and your mat cut, place your mat onto your mounting board and line them up. Make a small mark with a pencil in each corner of the hole in your mat, so when you lift the mat you can see where it will sit on your mounting board, otherwise, if you’re worried about getting pencil on your mat just measure 70mm in from each edge of your mounting board in the same way you did with the back of your mat (notice 5mm less, this is to ensure you can see the lines as you mount your print to your mounting board, and they will not ‘bleed’ through your print if it is a light colour.) You can now adhere your print to your mounting board, there are many ways to do this, I use a double sided mounting tape and find this perfect.
There is also a way to mount a print called ‘T Hinges’ so it can be removed later, and some prints have to be mounted this way so they don’t buckle over time. Basically you ‘hang’ the print to the mounting board with four small pieces of tape in two positions accross the top of your print. Once you have mounted your print, You can mount your mat over the top of your print if it is going to be permanent, or, if you have decided to use ‘T’ hinges, mount your mat to your mounting board in a similar way by only attaching it at the top. The way to do this is lay your mounting board with the print facing up, lay your mat face down butted up to the top of your mounting board. Join the two together with tape along the length of the mounting board and mat, then fold the mat over your print so the tape creates a long ‘piano hinge’.
9. Cut your glass
Cut your glass as per the measurements you worked out earlier. I have never done this myself as it is just easier and cheaper to get a glass company or framing shop to do this for me. When ordering your glass just let them know it is for a picture frame. Usually it will be 2mm thick, and you can get a non reflective glass if you are hanging your picture in an area where you think glare may be an issue, just a word of warning on the non-reflective glass, it isn’t 100% opacity, so if it isn’t sitting right on top of your print, it will look slightly ‘foggy’ for want of a better word. So in the cases where you’re planning on using non-reflective glass, stick to a maximum of a single mat.
10. Put it all together
Now you have all the bits you need cut to size, and your print and mat is mounted, it is time to put it all together.
Making sure your hands are clean and you have a clean work space, place your frame face down on a flat work area, place the glass in your frame, then your mat/print/mounting board combo with the print face down (so it is visible through the glass of course!). You will now use your tab gun to drive in tabs around the inside of the back of the frame, use ‘flexi’ tabs if you are planning on opening and closing the rear of the frame (say you want to change the photo every month) otherwise normal tabs will to the job. If it is a permanent frame, I will then use an acid free tape to cover the gaps between the frame and the mounting board.
11. Attach the hardware
You’re just about done. All that is left to do is attach some hanging hardware, I just use picture hanging cord (I think it is a nylon cord?). The cord attaches to a ‘D’ ring that is screwed to the back of the frame. Screw your ‘D’ ring about 1/3rd of the way down your frame, and if you’re really fussy like me, put some felt bump stops on each corner so it doesn’t mark the wall when hanging.
So there you have it… a very rewarding few hours spent building your own frame.