Framed and Finished: 3 Easy Ways to Frame Your Art | Sarah Rafferty | Skillshare

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Framed and Finished: 3 Easy Ways to Frame Your Art

teacher avatar Sarah Rafferty, Artist and Nature Lover

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Project Description


    • 3.

      Materials and Supplies


    • 4.

      Standard Frame Sizes


    • 5.

      The Frame


    • 6.

      The Mat


    • 7.

      Putting it All Together


    • 8.



    • 9.



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About This Class

Framing artwork can be so overwhelming. In this series (more classes to come!) on framing 2-D art, we start with the very basics on why you need a mat and a frame in the first place and how they make your artwork look best without spending a ton of money. I go over United States standard frame and mat sizes and provide a guide for standards outside of the US in the resources tab. I will help you up-level a store-bought frame with 3 ways to best use the mat inside so you can inexpensively make your art stand out. This is a great class for the novice artist or framer who has little to no experience with framing a 2-D piece of art. It is also great for artists that wish to make a bigger impact by selling their work pre-framed.

In this class you will learn:

  • the reasons why you mat and frame artwork
  • choosing a mat and frame to best highlight the work inside
  • how to easily place your artwork behind the mat
  • a trick when the mat is too small for your art
  • how to know what to ask for when you get a specialty mat cut
  • how to put it all together to make a big impact without spending much money

Materials you'll need:

  • Store-bought frame with mat inside - see below for my favorite places to get one
  • Piece of 2-D art
  • Windex or glass cleaner
  • Paper towels
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Xacto knife
  • Linen hanging tape (or tape)
  • Scissors 
  • Picture wire + hangers (optional)
  • Brown paper (optional)

My favorite places in the states to buy a store bought frame:

Check out my previous classes:

Intro to Cyanotypes: Creating Beautiful Botanical Prints with Ease

Inspiration Boards: Finding Inspiration in the Natural World

Filmed at the studio of Tina Crespo by Mesa Media, edited by me.

Meet Your Teacher

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Sarah Rafferty

Artist and Nature Lover

Top Teacher

Hi, I'm Sarah!

I am an artist, a nature lover, lifelong maker, and the owner of Atwater Designs, a cyanotype design studio that creates original cyanotypes, fine art prints and paper goods, as well as textiles and wallpaper. After teaching for 16 years in the traditional classroom I decided to take AD full-time, sharing the beauty of this process with the world. I love working with my students whether online or in-person and I am passionate about sharing what I know with you!

My exploration of nature is an ever-evolving attempt to dissect what is happening with the changing of the seasons and how they can relate to communication - basically I am obsessed with being outside! I call the Brandywine Valley in southeastern PA my home with my husband, dog and cat. 

... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi everybody, I'm Sarah and I am a fine artist working primarily in alternative process photography, especially the cyanotype. If you're not familiar with me, this is my third Skillshare class. My first one was all about how to create botanical cyanotype. Here's an example. With my cyanotypes, I created a design studio called Atwater Designs, where I take original work and turn it into art reproductions, fabric, textiles, wallpaper, and lots more. I studied photography and taught photography for over 15 years, and I'm so delighted to be running out water designs full-time now. I've had the great privilege of being featured on the cover of a magazine and my art has been in numerous publications. I'm so happy to be here with you today. We're going to be talking about framing. If I get asked one question more than anything else, it's about framing artwork. We have all of this artwork. If you're an artist or just an art enthusiast, likely you have a piece or many that are just waiting to be framed. But there's so many decisions to be made. What frame to have? What size? What's a mat? How do I put it all together? And how do I make it look good in my environment? And how do I do that without spending a ton of money? In this class, we're going to go over all of those things. How to buy buy store-bought frame, how to make sure that the mat is what you need in order to highlight the work inside of it, and then how to put it all together so that you can leave with a beautiful piece of framed work ready for your wall. 2. Project Description: In this lesson, we're going to go over the project description. In this class, we are working with framing one piece of work. Your project is to take one piece of two-dimensional art that you have, either you've made or you've bought, or you've been gifted from a friend, and find a mat and a frame that it works beautifully in. Framing can be so overwhelming because there are so many decisions to be made. For your final project, you're going to have one final piece of work framed and ready to hang on your wall. We're going to go over selecting a piece of artwork to frame. We're going to go over how to choose that frame in a store. We're working with a store bought frame, and then why you need a mat inside of that frame to best highlight the work, and then put it all together so that you have a finished piece of art framed and ready to hang on your wall. Don't forget that when you are finished, I want to see what you've created. Make sure you take a picture of your work, framed and totally completed and share it in the project gallery. Some things that you want to make sure you have to be prepared are your frame, your artwork, and a surface that you can work on. If your house is anything like mine, finding a surface is the most challenging part. You might just clear part of your floor and work on the floor. That's totally fine. But if you do have a kitchen table or a kitchen counter that you can work on, that will be the best way to prepare yourself to follow along step-by-step. In the next lesson, I'm going to go over all the materials and supplies that you'll need and how to access the resources because I've put together a great guide for you so that you don't have to take too many notes while you do this. See you in the next lesson. 3. Materials and Supplies: In this lesson, we're going to go over all the materials and supplies that you'll need in order to successfully frame one piece of two-dimensional artwork. To get started with your materials you're going to first need a piece of two-dimensional art. Two-dimensional art is something flat, or a work on paper, as opposed to a sculpture or a more intensely three-dimensional piece. This class we're just dealing with two-dimensional art, but stay tuned for future classes where we get into more complicated works. My two-dimensional art is one of my own pieces. Then in addition to that, you're going to need a store-bought frame that's a standard size with a standard size mat inside. We're going to go over what standard means, and what a mat is, and the purpose that they serve in the next lessons. In addition to your two-dimensional work and your frame, you're also going to need a pair of scissors, a razor blade can come in handy, an exacto knife or utility knife, a pencil, you also need some linen tape or some adhesive tape. Linen tape I prefer it because it is archival, meaning that it won't deteriorate over time. You can use scotch tape if you need to. A ruler, picture wire, paper towels. You definitely want to use paper towels here, you don't want tissues because paper towels have less rag fiber in them and so it won't shed those fibers like a tissue on the glass when you clean it. Then glass cleaner, I prefer Windex, you can get No Name brand, but I definitely would prefer you use glass cleaner and not just an all-purpose cleaner. All of these materials are linked below this video if you click on the About section. You can also access the resource guide that has the full list of materials and supplies needed in the Project and Resources tab. Now that we've gone over all of that let's get started on framing your piece of work. 4. Standard Frame Sizes: In this lesson, I'm going to share with you a little bit of the back history of framing and why we even do it. Then we're going to get into standard size frames and standard size mats. Why do we frame work? Framing has a long history of being an important way that we have a window into the artwork. There are stories of cave drawings that are framed out in small rectangles, long ago as a way to focus on one particular drawing. Then, framing became just as important in so many of the Renaissance paintings that we see as the artwork itself. Framing simultaneously provides a window into the artwork that we can really get absorbed in while also giving it a context on the wall that it's hung on or the room that it's in. Your framing choice can be really important, but it also can be really overwhelming. There's so many decisions in this process. We're going to boil it down, in this class, to just store bought frames, for now, There's a mountain of information around framing, but let's just start simple. First thing that is important to know is that frames and mats come in standard sizes. You've probably seen, in stores, that there's typically frames that are about the same size across most stores. There's the five by seven frame, there's the eight by 10 frame, there's the 11 by 14 frame and then if you want to get big 16 by 20 and even larger. Those tend to be the most standard sizes. Sometimes, in stores, there's a non-standard size frame that can get in there and maybe confuse you a little bit. But we're just going to work with those standard five by seven, eight by 10, and 11 by 14 today. In this case, this frame is an eight by 10, and then the mat within the frame is a standard size, one or maybe two lower. The mat inside of this frame is five by seven. This gives a standard and recognizable difference between the frame and the work so that it provides a window into that artwork. It gives some margin. That margin is critical to seeing and highlighting the artwork that's within the frame. Sometimes you can get away with not having a mat. But typically, the mat serves as a way to transition from the environment outside to the environment of inside the frame. I like to think of this much like reading a book. If you read a book and the words went all the way to the edge, it would be so difficult to absorb what was happening in that book. Your eyes would get tired, they would have nowhere to rest, you wouldn't really know which line you are on. But when you get to the end of a line in a book, and you have white space, your eye easily transitions to the next line. That same thing is happening within a frame and the mat that you choose. If you're outside of the United States and use the metric system, I've created a conversion guide that's available in the Resource Tab that I showed you earlier. Now that we've gone over standard size frames and why we choose to frame work, in the next lesson, we're going to go over choosing your frame. 5. The Frame: In this lesson, we're going to talk about the frame choice. Frames can be a little bit tricky because, where do you start? I like to think about the frame as really accenting the work that you are choosing to frame. What material are you going to choose that's going to work to complement the image or picture, or painting or piece of 2D art that you have chosen. I'm going to use one of my cyanotypes for this. One of the things I think about when I'm framing my cyanotypes is how it compliments the blue and white. There's so much contrast. Even though it's bright blue, it's a generally neutral palette. I always like to frame my work in more simple, subdued frames like white, light wood, maybe gold, not so much in black, or something that's extremely contrasting because doesn't feel like it goes with the work. It doesn't feel like it complements the work. I picked up this frame at Target. It's simple. It's wooden. It's not the best frame, but it's relatively inexpensive with the look that I want to achieve. That feels like the most important piece to me in terms of this class. We're not trying to break the bank with this class. Other places that you can find frames would be craft stores like AC Moore or Michaels. You could also order online. I know you can get some from Amazon, but also art supply stores like Dick Blick or Jerry's Artarama. Those also sell a ton of frames that are pretty good and come in lots of different colors and sizes, so you have a lot to choose from without being too overwhelmed. You might ask, why do I want to buy a frame straight from one of these stores? What about going to a professional framer? Well, professional framers are expensive. We want to do this as inexpensively as possible. The most bang for our buck. Stay tuned for future classes where I go a bit more in-depth on framing at home versus professional framers. In this class, however, we're really just dealing with buying a pre-made frame and working within that confine to make sure that you get the most bang for your buck. 6. The Mat: In this lesson, we're going to talk about the mat. Mat can be really tricky because how do you know if you've got the right mat size? You've picked out your frame, but maybe the mat inside isn't quite the right size for your artwork but you love the frame and they don't have another option. Or maybe you just didn't measure correctly and it's a little bit too big or a little bit too small of a window mat in there. What's up with this beveled edge anyway, is it upside down or right side up? We're going to walk through all of those things in this lesson. Typically when choosing a frame as a store board option, it comes with a mat inside. You don't have a ton of choice. They're usually white and that white frame is usually beveled. This is what we call a window mat. It provides a window that we can see into the artwork. The bevel helps to guide our eye inward. The frame and then the mat and then the beveled edge all help us to see what's going on within that window. If you find the perfect frame, but the mat isn't quite the right size, don't worry. Those are some of the things that I'm going to go over in the next lesson when we talk about putting it altogether. Sometimes you might get a frame and the mat you thought was the right size, but then your work actually just takes up most of this and you think, can I just throw that away? I would say, unless it's very specific that the mat serves the purpose of that margin for the eye to enter into the work. Don't throw it away. I would say return the frame and get a new one that has a better margin. One of the most common things that I see is people who buy a frame that's just simply too small for the artwork that they want to frame and so then they stuff their artwork into a frame with no margin. What we talked about before, how the mat provides a margin, the frame provides a margin. All of that provides a way for our eye to enter into the work and then exit the work back into the world. Now that we have talked about mats, why we have them, the purpose that they serve, we talked about frames. We're going to put it altogether in the next lesson. 7. Putting it All Together: In this lesson, we're going to put all the things we just learned together. We're going to combine the artwork with the mat, with the frame. First things first, let's take everything apart. The back-end comes off, the mat board comes out and the glass is the first thing that we're going to work on. I prefer to put this over the frame and then I'm going to clean the glass. We're going to take Windex, just a little spray along with a paper towel. Remember using a paper towel is better than a tissue. It will leave less residue on the glass. Now, once you clean one side, I like to use the paper towel to hold it, turn it over so that I don't get fingerprints all over it. A little bit more glass cleaner. Be aware that you don't spray it too hard so you get your whole surface all Windexy. Then I like to go down so that if there are any little fibers from the paper towel, it's at the bottom. Then I take my paper towel and I just put that to the side. Then I like to give my frame a little wipe down just to make sure that it's clean. Then I put that to the side as well. Now, the fun part is the mat. Here we have our mat. Make sure that you don't have anything on there. If you have any marks, you know, you can do a little eraser, make sure there's no dust. Then the bevel is right here. That bevel is going to be slanting in towards the artwork. Sometimes it's hard to tell, is this the front or the back? The bevel goes in towards the artwork. We're going to flip it over, make sure that it's clean, and then flip it back and bring in your artwork. Here we have our piece of art. This is one of my [inaudible] types and as you can see, it has a little bit of this brushstroke around the edge. I want to see those brushstrokes. This is a five by seven sheet of paper, and this is a five by seven opening. Let's see how they fit together. They look pretty good. But if you want to see more of this, or if the artist's signature was in this corner and it's cutting it off, you might not want it to be cut off that way. I'm going to show you two little tricks you can do. The first one is attaching it behind the bevel. To attach it behind the bevel, I'm going to cut a strip, that's a little less long, a little shorter than this sheet of paper. It has a sticky adhesive on the back. I'm going to peel that off and put it sticky side up. Then I'm going to put my piece of art on top of it so that the sticky side is up. Do you guys see that? Then instead of doing this weird, like, I don't know where it fits, you can actually just place the mat exactly where you want it to be because you're just looking at it. I feel like sometimes people do this backwards, like this, and then they don't know how it looks in the front. We're going to solve that problem by laying it down here with the sticky side up. Then I'm going to position my mat so that I get the most brushstrokes and without one of the sides falling out. When you have it positioned correctly, push where that tape is really well. Make sure you have clean hands so you don't smudge dirt on your nice clean mat. Then pick up with your two hands and turn it over. When you want to make sure that that mat is really secure, there you have it. That is this five by seven artwork in a five by seven window mat that fits into our eight by 10 frame with clean glass. I'm going to assemble this all together so that you can see what it looks like. Again with a little trick. Clean a little bit with the paper towel, put it in, and before you put the backing on, turn it over to see if there's any dust particles or little specks of dirt that got in there because there's nothing worse than closing it up and then being like, oh no, there's a hair in there. This looks pretty good. We can close it up by pulling those tabs, making sure that the piece that you hang on the nail in the wall is at the top. Then that's it. There's our final piece of work. I'm going to show you another way to do this same thing if your piece just doesn't quite fit into this mat. Now I'm going to show you how to do the same thing, but with the picture on the top of the mat as just a quick tip and trick that I have found to be really helpful when my piece of work doesn't quite fit the mat. I'm going to unassemble. You can clean your glass again, but I'm not going to do that this time. I'm just going to push it on top and put it to the side. I'm going to take my piece of work gingerly off of this mat and then take that tape off to show you, if you really want to see more of this brushstroke or if your piece of work is just a little bit bigger than what you want, or maybe there's some cool edge on your paper, like a deckled edge that you really want to see. You can avoid spending any additional money or time by simply putting your piece of work on top of the mat. This would be called mounting instead of matting because you're actually mounting this piece of paper or your artwork on top of mat board. Another way to do this would be if you have mat board lying around, you can just cut a piece of mat board that's eight by 10 or the size of your frame, and then put it in the middle. Both get you the same exact result, which is the piece on top of the board as opposed to underneath of it. In order to do this, obviously, I can't tape right here because then you're going to see the tape. There's two ways you can do this. You can take your linen tape again and put that under the mat instead. It's a little sticky. Then put your work where you want it, centering it, making sure. Then press down. This is kind like the reverse of what we did before. Make sure that it's nice and secure. Boom, it's more mounted now instead of matted. Then you can assemble. Again, you've got your glass and then your work. The backing. Close it up, again making sure that the nail piece that you can hang it from, the hanger, is on the top. There you have it. This is a great thing to do when you have a deckled edge, which is a piece that is like this, where you have a piece of paper that has a great edge that you don't want to get rid of. Sometimes a mat can cut that off and it really loses some of the integrity of your piece. In this case, the brushstrokes are something that I just really wanted to highlight. Maybe I don't want to put that behind the mat. If your mat just isn't quite right, it's not the right size or maybe you're like, oh, that color mat doesn't look right, but I love the frame that I chose, you have a third option aside from, when placing it behind the window mat or putting it on top, is going to a professional or just the framing section of a craft store and asking them to cut you a specialty mat for your store-bought frame. That can solve a lot of the problems that happen when you're like this is great, but my mat just doesn't quite fit. If your piece of work, in this case, if my five-by-seven opening is just too big for my piece of work, I can ask them to cut me something that is more of a specialty size that fits my work exactly the way I want it to. In that case, you're going to need your frame and your mat. You would take it to the framer or the frame section of a craft store and simply ask for what you're desiring. Now we've put it all together. We've got our frame, the glass, the mat, and the piece of work behind it. I think it looks pretty good. One last question that I receive with some frequency is about that brown paper that we sometimes see on the back of a frame. Do we need to finish this frame with that brown paper? In this case, it's not necessary because this is a store-bought frame. It has this backing that makes it secure. Then the hanger is on that piece. You can make it look a little bit more professional by applying this brown paper on the back of it and then using picture wire to hang your piece. It's not totally necessary. But the reason that they do this in a professional framer is that the backing is more raw underneath that paper. It's usually put together with tax and foam core. It's just a nice way to finish the frame. Here you have it. Here's our piece, all framed up. Ready to go. 8. Conclusion: Here's my finished project, I can't wait to see your finished project. Make sure to post a picture of your framed piece in the project gallery. If you are curious about making cyanotype, check out my first class on Skillshare, and my second on Finding Inspiration in the Natural World. Give me a follow on Skillshare so you can be notified about the next classes I release. Also check out my profile, there you can find links to my Instagram, my website, and sign up for my newsletter so that we can stay in touch. See you next time. 9. Bloopers: This is dream team. Below this video. I'm just going to say below this video. In below. Are you guys ready to get started with how, like formula, I think a robot. You think you could do this more? Like who knows, who knows? Shit. You'll get that little [inaudible] Thank God for. It can help me and sometimes get a sentence out. Oh my God, it's like you can't get like the word semantic, the brain and it's just so funny.