So back to the frames. There are lots of pre-made frames for sale in the framing store. Here in Houston, we have a store called Aaron Brothers Framing. I've found that store has the best selections in the styles I like, but you can apply this method in any store that sells pre-made frames. The general rule of thumb is I try to allow for a 2-3" mat all around the artwork, and I buy a frame in the style I like that fits that criteria. So, for instance, if you have an 8x10" photo you'd like framed, pick out a nice frame sized about 12x14". Now if you're going for a super glam kinda modern look, you can allow for a wider mat. In my living room, I have 8x10" Barbie drawings framed in 16x20" frames with super wide mats.
One note on frame savings: Many stores (including Aaron Brothers and Michael's Crafts) have coupons all time time. So don't forget to google around for a coupon, which are usually found on the store websites, and print it out to bring with you. Most of the time I will save at least 40% off at Aaron Brothers using a coupon. But if I have a big project in mind, I wait and save 50% during their buy one get one for a penny sale, which happens in July and January.
But how to solve the issue of the mats? Art doesn't always come in the standard sizes of the pre-made frames. Plus those pre-made mats are pretty darn expensive too! Which brings me to my next point.
You need to know about Americanframe.com. It's kind of awesome.
There is literally every kind of mat quality and color you can imagine. They sell everything from your standard grade mat board to the best archival quality mats. You can enter in your own sizes, down to 1/16 of an inch, and they will make it for you. You end up with a custom made mat, which is EXACTLY what the frame store is doing for you except for they are charging you an arm and a leg for it. And... AND... it's way cheaper than buying those pre-made mats in the stores. For instance, a pre-made basic white mat for an 8x10" picture will run you about $12 at Aaron Brothers, but to order the same mat online, it will cost you around $6. Now, you can always use a coupon in the store to reduce the price, however, the coupons are usually only good on 1 item only. So if you're buying more than one mat or you need specific cuts, online is definitely the way to go. The only time I would recommend purchasing a mat in a store (with a coupon of course) is if for some reason it is an extremely unique mat that you cannot find online. For example, the extra wide mats for my Barbie prints have a silver lining that shows through around the print. I used 4 separate 40% off coupons in 4 separate trips to the framing store so I could snag those puppies at $12 each instead of $20 each.
If you decide to go the online route, here's a tutorial for how to enter in your sizes.
I recommend drawing out a picture of what you want to accomplish. Like here on a project I'm working on, I have a 24x36" frame with plans to frame a 9x12" picture. You want your mat to overlap 1/8" on all sides, so deduct 1/4" from your picture size. Here, I'm really working with a 8 3/4" x 11 3/4" picture. Make sense?
So now you know how to get the best deals on frames and mats. What to do next? Get your frame home, and open it up very carefully (I'm sure there's a tool for peeling back those metal clasp things on the back of the frames, but I just use an old pair of scissors). Once you get it open and are ready to slide your artwork in, ensure there are no stray fuzzies etc on the glass. You don't want to get your frame put back together only to find a piece of fuzz or a paint chip floating around inside. Then put in your mat in first, followed by your item being framed, then the back of the frame. Push the metal tabs back in all around the back, and attach the hanging hardware onto the back of the frame. Voila! You now have a professional piece of framed art! And you aren't broke!
Happy framing everyone,