I am often asked, “You mention standard sizes in your painting and framing, but what does that mean exactly?”
For many centuries, artists have been unrestricted to the size of their wood panels, paper or canvases, so their wonderful creations could be all over the place with regard to size. This is fine for creativity, but it gets expensive to frame paintings. The reason is that unusual sizes call for custom frames, thus the expense. Yes, one gets many more options, but if you’re on a budget, you may wish to stick with artwork which conforms to standard sizes.
In my work, I buy boxes of canvases and canvas panels (wood or heavy cardboard covered with canvas), and even use custom wood panels cut to standard sizes. This saves me money by purchasing in quantity which, in turn, I can pass along the savings to my customers. Yes, I still will stretch linen or cotton canvas on stretcher bars if I want a certain size which is not readily available, but that is my choice and is usually for larger paintings.
Since watercolors (and other works on paper) require a mat to separate the painting from the glass, I am cognizant of of the sizes of ready-made mats and frames. For instance, most of the watercolor/pen and ink paintings on my My90Acres Etsy shop are 4 x 5 inches, which I mat to 8 x 10. All the mats are museum-grade rag mats in a soft white color which I purchase in bulk directly from the manufacturer. This allows the buyer to purchase an 8 x 10 frame and have the painting hung in minutes. Many of the larger watercolor paintings on my KitMiracleArt Etsy shop will also fit standard frames with mats (my bigger works don’t come with mats). Where the store-bought mat says that it will fit an 11 x 14 inch painting or photo, the mat opening is usually cut to 10.5 by 13.5 inches but you can measure them in the store.
So where can you buy frames and mats to save money?
There are many wonderful stores online where you can buy frames and mats of standard sizes. Some of my favorites are: PictureFrames.com, Jerry’s Artarama, Dick Blick, and even Amazon. Some websites even allow you to upload a photo to try it out in the frame you are considering. Also, oil paintings are not usually framed under glass.
If you prefer to see the frames in person, there are plenty of stores which can meet your needs. Michaels and Target come to mind. Many of the big box stores have a good selection of ready made frames, with or without mats. I have even been known to buy a frame with a cheap print in it and throw away the print! Hey, whatever works.
One word of caution if you are framing a painting on canvas, is to consider the depth of the frame, i.e., the rabbet. A thicker canvas will require a frame with a thicker depth. You will probably need some special clips to keep the canvas in the frame, but many of these are sold with the frame or can be added for a very small charge.