Generally there are two options when considering framing a piece of work, bespoke or ready-made. The main difference between the two is that bespoke picture frames are designed and hand-made specifically to present your work at its best; ready-made frames are mass produced to standard sizes and of poorer quality materials. The decision of one over the other is down to personal preference, the value of your artwork, the required level of protection and design, and the depth of your pocket.

Bespoke Picture Frames
Bespoke picture framing is a hand-crafted process, therefore labour intensive. The complexity of the design, the nature of the item, hand finishing and availability of materials means that frames can take time to make.
Every aspect of a bespoke project is customised according to the needs of the artwork and your aspirations. Decisions begin with design elements, this is the fun part having the most impact on how the work will look when finished. Other less exciting but just as important decisions include techniques, quality of supporting materials, glazing and display hardware.

Board products are available in qualities from standard to pH neutral, providing various degrees of protection. Mountboard is available in dozens of colours, textures, sizes and thicknesses, offering limitless design possibilities. A bespoke project isn’t bound by limitations. Proportion and balance is an important part of the design to ensure that your work isn’t “squeezed” into its frame. A number of mounts may be used to spectacular effect, accommodated in a deep rebate moulding adding another dimension to the project. Developments in glazing offer an array of options, providing unprecedented clarity, anti-reflection and UV protection. All influence the “look” of the final product.

Banksy's Kissing Coppers an example of valuable art to be bespoke framed

Banksy’s “Kissing Coppers” a valuable piece of art which definitely needs the care and attention of a bespoke presentation and frame. My client wanted to view both sides of the work and have nothing attached to it, this piece  couldn’t be secured with the usual hinging technique used for quality work.

Kissing Coppers glazed back which cannot be achieved using ready-made frames

The reverse view, glazed front and back.  A Ready-made frame couldn’t possibly accommodate this feature or adequately protect the work.

Ready-made Picture Frames
Readily available these frames are cheaper for a number of reasons. In the main cheaper materials and production methods are used. Production runs can be long resulting in lost precision and poor quality control. In a factory packaging and handling can be compromised resulting in damaged and inferior products. Service and design is lost and no technical advice is available to you, basically “what you see is what you get”. The success of the finished job is reliant on your ability and willingness to put the work together. This provides the artwork no protection. Manufacturers benefit from economies of scale limiting production to the fastest selling standard sizes, and reducing moulding, mount and glazing options. This is fine but if your artwork is non-standard and doesn’t fit the frame, the mount supplied is unlikely to enhance or protect your work.

If you find the perfect ready-made for your picture check that the hanging hardware is fitted securely and is strong enough to take the weight of your finished piece. Check the fixings holding the whole thing together; these can be inadequate and even missing. If the hanging hardware is secured to the backing board rather than the frame, your precious artwork could end up on the floor and not on the picture hook.

Bespoke or Ready-made?
You’ll be pleased to know there is a market for both. Much depends on the qualities of the piece to be framed, its economic and sentimental value. You would be wise to consult a reputable picture framer for three dimensional, non-standard, valuable, original, irreplaceable work. Ready-made frames are a great instant fix for standard sized, replaceable work like posters and mass produced prints that are susceptible to shifts in fashion. Encourage the kids by displaying their work in a ready-made frame. Swap it over and display their next great achievement. What is valuable? In most cases monetary value is obvious, but there will be occasions when only you can determine what is precious to you.

young girl drawing a picture at a table

Ready-made frames are great for displaying the kid’s little master pieces and easily replaceable images.