How to frame a print for your first ever sale

How to frame a print for your first ever sale

8th April 2019 0 By Biggsy
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Last Updated on 24th July 2020

You’ve had some people compliment you on one of your pictures so you decide to have a go at selling a framed photo. There’s surely a right way of doing things so just Google “How to frame a print” and you’re well on your way?

If only it was that simple! The one thing I discovered very quickly was that there’s many ways to skin a cat! For every blog suggesting I do things one way, another blog suggested I do it the other. So having decided to sell a lavender photograph from my first ever photo exhibition I had lots of questions to answer!

Some artwork terminology

If you buy a typical High Street “off the shelf” frame you’re likely to have all of the parts below except for the ‘Mount Board’ and ‘Dust Cover’.

NB. In the UK we tend to call the ‘Mat Board’ the ‘mount’.

Parts and terminology of a picture frame
Parts and terminology of a picture frame. Source: Bay Frames

How to frame a print? 11 initial questions

These are all the questions I asked myself being a “newbie” beginner. You may be asking the same ones? Here’s my attempt to answer them as succinctly as possible. Note! I am not a professional framer and I wasn’t intending to scale and sell thousands of them. This is just what I collated after MUCH Googling!:

What size should I print my photo?

Whatever size you like. A nice start might be a standard A4 size as it will not feel too big for your first attempt. Also A4 is relatively easy to buy an “off the shelf” sized frame, whether that be with or without a mount.

Should I mount it, frame it or simply sell it in a plastic sleeve?

There are no wrong answers. However I wanted to sit my A4 photo in a white mount so I went for that option. This then required an A3 sized frame. Plastic sleeves backed with cardboard work well in artwork browsers.

Should I add a mount board behind my print?

Having a mount board behind your print adds some thickness to your artwork. It also means the back of the photo will not be touching the brown backing board which could eventually damage the print

Should I make sure everything is archival and acid-free?

Probably yes for longevity, plus it feels the “right thing to do”. Yopu can use acid-free hanging tape to attach both my print to the mount and also to add the mount to the acid-free mount board.

Should I sign, name and “limited edition” my work?

Adding all three adds a certain personal touch and can increase interest in your art via a scarcity factor. Some artists always do this as they’re proud of their work. Others feel sheepish if they’re not yet a big name. It’s your art so you portray it as you like, whether that be with a title, edition number and your name, or a combination of all three. The edition number generally goes on the left (1/25), the title in the middle and your name/signature on the right.

Some photographers think editioning can be a bit odd, especially if you only ever sell three of a ‘1 of 50’ edition with the other 47 never actually existing.

How many should I have in my “limited edition”?

1/100 may seem too many. 1/5 could feel too few. A nice compromise might be 1/25 or 1/50. If you start the numbering at 11 it looks like you’ve already sold some. You can then always create numbers 1 to 10 if you ever sell the other 40, and possibly for slightly more money?

Should I write on the mount, on the photo, on the white border below the photo or on the back of the photo?

Now this lead to LOTS of Googling and MANY polarised views! Some people like to sign on the actual print in black pen; others in metallic silver or gold. Some leave a white border around the whole photo and then sign in the slightly larger white space below the photo (making sure they use the correct sized optional mount so as not to cover up any wording of course). Others print their image with just a white space below the photo for signing. Others dislike this as it gives a 3-sided closed look to the image.

Some artists/photographers just write on the back of the print so that the signature, photo name and any limited edition number go with the artwork. Some sign the front AND the back. Arghhh! I decided to sign the back of the photo in black pen and the mount with a pencil. Then even if they bin the mount my details are still available on the back of the photo. Read this good article about where/how to sign.

Which type of pen should I sign with?

The Sakura Pigma Micron .45mm pen is a popular pen in online forums, with the .35mm version also being a good option. These pens are acid-free, don’t fade and won’t damage your artwork. If the paper isn’t shiny you can be more traditional and sign with a sharpish pencil. Pencil also can’t be forged if someone scans your photo.

Should I add extra hanging wire to the back of the frame?

You can add D-rings 1/3 of the way down from the top and then affix some wire to make it look more professional. This is in preference to simply leaving just the single saw-tooth attachment that the frame comes with in the top-centre of the backing board.

Should I use wire or cord to hang my print?

Wire feels more traditional but a local framer suggested white cord as it’s slightly less fiddly, a bit more modern but ultimately what they “liked using”.

Any other finishing touches to the frame?

You can use brown, framers’ masking tape to seal the back of the frame (to keep the dust out) and add little rubber/foam bumpers to the bottom two corners of the frame to prevent dust gathering on the wall behind the frame too.

Any useful YouTube videos?

What I did find was lots of useful YouTube videos which I’ve cut down to the 5 below. These are the ones I now use for reference as a refresher:

1. Adding the photo to the mount

2. Attaching the mat to the [mount board]

3. Sealing the back

4. Adding the D-rings and wire

5. Tying the cord if you use cord

Did anything actually sell?

So after going through the process of selling a framed photo did I have any success? Well, here’s my A4 print of the Hitchin Lavender fields in the front window of the Hitchin tourist information shop …

My A4 framed print for sale at the Hitchin Initiative shop
My A4 framed print for sale at the Hitchin Initiative shop

… and here it is 2 weeks later! Somebody bought it! 🙂

My A4 framed print actually sold!
My A4 framed print actually sold! Unlike Van Gogh’s in his lifetime.

Buy one of them too!

I’m now selling A4 unframed versions of this print in my Biggsytravels Etsy shop if you’d like one 🙂 FACT: Van Gogh never sold a print in his lifetime.

In conclusion – framing prints

Do you feel you’re a bit more informed now on how to frame a print? Are you now tempted to try selling one? The next question is where of course? I started out with coffee shops and the local tourist information shop. It was a lot of fun learning how to frame a print plus the eventual pride of seeing it hanging up on the wall. The bonus was when I actually managed to sell one!

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