Framing Original Art


When framing art you can bring it to a framing shop or art store and have someone do a custom framing job for you or you can choose to go the Do-It-Yourself route (which is MUCH cheaper).

Regardless of the route you choose, please remember to use acid-free/archival materials and UV-protected glass to provide the maximum protection for your art.


This is not a cheap solution (it can sometimes cost more than the art you are having framed), but it typically ends up looking really nice.  Make sure you specify that you want them to use acid-free/archival materials and UV-protected glass, this may be a bit more expensive but is worth it.  Most framing shops run sales and have coupons.  Unless you have an extremely urgent need to get something framed, it is best to wait until you have a coupon or there is a sale.  Custom framing often costs in excess of $100-$200 so saving 20-50% is usually a significant amount of money.

Make sure your framing shop is insured in case something should happen to your art while they have it in their possession (damaged/lost/stolen).  Take a digital photo of the art for your records before you hand it over to the shop.  


Above is a sample of a double-page spread I had custom framed at Michael's (pardon the lens flare on the image).

Also be prepared for the fact that it may be several weeks between when you drop off your art to be framed and when it will be ready for you to pick up.


When you frame art yourself the first thing to decide is whether you want to use a matte or not.   We'll provide some guidance for either decision.


Historically, I have been able to pick up 11x17 frames at Michael's on sale for ~$17 each, so I had most of my art in "off the shelf" frames.  

I don't have any of the art in direct sunlight so was not originally worried about UV glass (but have since replaced the off the shelf glass with UV glass), and I was also originally unaware of the apparent dangers of having art come in direct contact with the glass (so we need to deal with this also). You can use acid free mattes to hold the art away from the glass, but with this option you need to:

  • Get a larger frame to allow for the size of the matte, this will take up more wall space, which I consider at a premium. 
  • You generally need to get custom cut mattes since I've never seen an off-the shelf one with an 11x17 opening, these can be pricey and adds to the overall expense. 

The option I use for holding the art away from the glass is framing spacers.  I didn't want mattes because I like the art to be right to the edges of the frame & take up less space. I can get more pieces up on the wall that way. Spacers are what professional framers use to create an air gap, so this is the option I went with.  I had 3 things I needed to do with my "off the shelf" frames:

  1. Replace the regular glass with UV protected glass 
  2. Get framing spacers 
  3. Get acid-free paper to place between the art & the frame backing 

I went on a quest to get this done, and here is what I learned: Michael's was not able to help me with buying individual framing supplies to do the work myself, they suggested I check out Aaron Brothers. I went to Aaron Brothers and talked to the Manager on duty there who was very knowledgeable about custom framing. She told me she could sell me UV protected glass, cut to 11x17 for $5 each. I wanted to try it out before I got it for everything, so I bought 6 pieces. It took them 15 minutes to cut the glass, I brought it home and slid it into my existing frames and it's great.  I wanted to get framing spacers to hold the art away from the glass & they told me that they'd need to charge me ~$10 per frame, but that I could buy the stuff in bulk on-line cheaper.

I found this site:

I bought 200' of this stuff. That allowed me to add spacers to all my art frames (it takes 4'8" for an 11x17 frame, 4'2" for an 11x14, and 3'3" for an 8.5x11). This set me back $99 with shipping, so the spacers cost me 50 cents per foot.

Finally, back to Michael's (during one of their 20% off your entire purchase coupon sales).  I bought buy big sheets of acid free art paper that I cut to size and now acts as a buffer between the back of the art & the frame backing.

Note that I initially made the hole to big. No problem! I corrected my mistake and now it's ready to be cut.

The cutter itself is guided by a straight edge and uses a razor to cut the matte. It's advised you make your cuts on a surface that you don't mind cutting into, i.e. not grandma's dining room table. Lay down some old scrap mattes or some other disposable material under your work. Like this:

Total cost:
$17 Original frame (bought off the rack @ 50% off)
$5 UV glass
$2.50 framing spacer
$0.50 acid free paper
$25 per frame vs. $150 and up for a custom framing job (and that is after using a coupon for 50% off regular pricing)

       So it is possible to do it yourself, get just as much protection for your art, and save money. 


Jack's Guide to Do-It Yourself OA Framing (With Mattes)


Part of the fun of collecting original art is hanging it on a wall so you can show it off and enjoy it. In order to present artwork properly you need to get those gems framed and looking nice! Unfortunately, professional framing is expensive. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to gather the necessary supplies to learn to frame art myself. This simple guide is my experience and method to framing and is not intended to be an expert's take on how to frame at home. 

In order to properly frame original art you will need to frame it in such a way that the image itself does not touch the glass. That's where mattes come in. You can buy frames with mattes at the local hobby store but chances are the pre-made matte will not be the correct size for the comic art you are trying to frame.

Not to worry! With a modest initial investment in a matte cutter and some blank mattes you can learn to cut the mattes you need at home, to the exact size you need, and at a fraction of the cost a professional would charge you.

I have a small art collection so I invested in a relatively inexpensive matte cutter. If you have a large collection or are planning on doing a lot of framing you may want to invest in the more expensive (and better) matte cutter. Cutters range in price from $50 to $500 and up. The one I use was around 80 bucks.

You can do an internet search for places to buy matte cutters and mattes online. I order my mattes from I prefer rag mat or museum rag as these are acid-free and intended for framing high quality prints or original art. Make sure you order "blank" mattes. You don't won't a matte with an inner dimension already cut out (unless you are lucky and it's the exact size you need, of course).

I tend to collect art in the size that professional use for comic book art - 11x17. In my example I will be framing a Thor sketch by Bing Cansino.  Here's what you will need: 


  • A 16x20 frame
  • Blank 16x20 matte
  • Matte cutter
  • A pencil
  • Your art

The first thing we need to do it measure the opening we are going to make in the matte. To do this, measure your art and SUBTRACT at least 1/4" for the dimensions of the opening.  Remember, we want the opening a little smaller than the image itself. Make the opening too big and your art will have a tendency to poke through the matte or show gaps.

The old carpenter's adage "measure twice, cut once" applies here. Of course, you can cut your matte however you like. Maybe you want to cover one edge of your art more than another, totally acceptable. That's the great advantage to cutting mattes yourself, customization.


This is my pencil line for my cutter.  Note that I initially made the hole to big. No problem! I corrected my mistake and now it's ready to be cut.

The cutter itself is guided by a straight edge and uses a razor to cut the matte. It's advised you make your cuts on a surface that you don't mind cutting into, i.e. not grandma's dining room table. 


Lay down some old scrap mattes or some other disposable material under your work like this.  

I like to do my cuts on the floor so I can use my weight to bear down on the cutter so that I get a nice clean line. 


Follow the instructions that come with your particular cutter. In the image above I am about to make a vertical cut. In order to determine the starting point there is a little white line on my cutter that I line up with the horizontal line. Once everything is lined up, plunge the cutter into the matte and push forward (or pull, depending on your cutter) until the indicator line on the cutter lines up with the top horizontal line.  

Then turn and repeat until you cut all four sides. 


At this stage the inner portion of your matte should just pop out. If you're like me you probably will have to coax the corners free with an X-Acto knife or razor blade. Just cut carefully and take your time. Your art will look so much better if the matte isn't all mangled. 


Here's the finished matte along with the remainder insert.  

Tip: Don't be too hasty to throw out that insert. You can use it as a template for another similarly sized project in the future.


Now all that's left to do is pop the matte and your art in the frame and, secure the back, and Viola! The Mighty Thor in all his glory! 

So, that's how I frame stuff.

It's fairly easy and inexpensive and results in a suitable piece of framed art. Yippee!

8/2017 Update: We have lost touch with Jack, the e-mail I had for him no longer works.  Jack, give me a yell if you read this! 


Securing art to mattes

We got an e-mail question on this from Larry about how to secure art to the mattes, since it's something Jack does not mention. I'm going to guess the best thing to use is some kind of archival mounting tape.  I'm 99% sure this is what the professional framers use when I get a piece framed.  It is made to secure the art, but also come off without damaging the art, here is a link I found to a sample of this stuff: