(Excerpt from ART HARDWARE: The Definitive Guide to Artists’ Materials, by Steven Saitzyk © 1987)
The aesthetics of framing is a subjective area, but the following guidelines will give you something to follow.
1. Look first, then see. To look first at the artwork and at possible selections for framing means to perceive it without preconception and storylines. To see is to grasp relationships and ideas. If you look and then see, you have perceived what is actually there and then related it to your ideas. If you see first and then look, you often perceive only your ideas and frame them, not the picture.
2. Frame to the picture first. Although most people change their decor several times during a lifetime, few reframe a picture to match those changes. If you frame to the picture, you will always have at least one match.
3. Beware of framing that is too interesting or too beautiful. It is very easy to select framing that overwhelms the picture. If you find yourself looking more at the frame than the picture, your selection is out of balance.
4. Remember the original purpose of picture framing, which is to protect the artwork. Avoid creative framing at the expense of common sense. Stay within the rules of good framing.
5. The width of a mat should be clearly larger than the width of the moulding.
6. Double mats and fabric mats, when used conservatively, can create a focal point and a sense of depth. This is particularly true with photographs.
7. If you wish to bring out a particular color, choose a mat of a complementary, color, not the same color.
8. A little more space should be given at the bottom of a mat. Artwork such as prints that are signed at the bottom are not usually given this extra space because of the extra space created by the signature.
9. A mat should be the same or one shade darker in appearance than the brightest part of the artwork. Exceptions to this rule may be made if the mat is made extra large (3′ inches to 6 inches).
10. Artwork that has a rough or deckled edge should be considered for float mounting to show the edge; artwork with a cut edge should considered for over-matting. A proper choice will bring a piece of artwork to life.