Why is framing a picture so expensive? (2022)

The journey through adulthood is paved with expensive inconveniences one must perform to be considered a functional, responsible grown-up. These inconveniences include scheduling your own dentist appointments, dropping off your dry cleaning, and the less imperative (but just as annoying) obligation to frame all your art. There is something about displaying home decor with a wooden-and-glass box (as opposed to using thumbtacks or sticky putty) that makes it seem more legitimate and, therefore, more “adult.”

Historically, a frame has been an architectural feature, meant to preserve a work and integrate it into a room. During the 14th and 15th centuries in Europe, frames were mainly commissioned by churches or wealthy families. It wasn’t until the invention of the camera and photography in the 19th century when the demand for frames by the middle-class proliferated, as the nonwealthy now had something to frame. Fast forward to today: Framing is now a service that communicates, “I have my shit together,” and this is partly because it is a notoriously expensive service.

For those who aren’t art aficionados, the price of framing seems inexplicable. Why does an 8 x 10 frame at Target cost $13, but a custom 8 x 10 frame costs upwards of $90? The ascendance of online framing companies like Framebridge, Art.com, and Simply Framed, which offer fixed-priced framing make the already opaque process even more baffling. How can these companies offer the same price for a variety of different-sized pieces, but your local framer can’t?

However, the perception that custom framing is too pricey is also a symptom of a different reality: Millennial consumers — long past their poster-hanging days — have less money than previous generations. Young adults are decorating homes and apartments with more budget-friendly art. And while the price of prints may have dropped, the price of frames has not, leaving shoppers to wonder if they should invest in a frame that’s triple the cost of what it’s preserving.

To demystify the process of framing, I spoke with custom framers — both big box chains and mom-and-pop shops — and found that the seemingly astronomical prices have a bit to do with the price of labor and expertise a local framer can offer, but more than anything, it has to do with options.

Higher pricing is the consequence of frame stores keeping options on hand

According to a 2018 IBISWorld report, there are 9,000 local frame shops in the United States, and if you’ve ever been to one, you know it to be a pretty intimidating experience. You go in knowing you only need one black frame, but are then bombarded with a host of options: There’s matting (a piece of paper or cardboard that goes inside the frame and mounts the print or photo), molding (decorative embellishments on the outside of the frame), glass (referred to as glazing, which can be made of glass or acrylic, and, depending on what you choose, can offer UV protection), and the frames themselves.

According to Mark Klostermeyer, a member of the Professional Picture Frames Association, it’s the sheer amount of mattings, moldings, glazings, and frames a shop provides that drives up prices. The fewer options a business offers, the more able they are to order in bulk, therefore cutting down costs.

Klostermeyer has owned Design Frames, a local custom frame shop in Falls Church, Virginia, for 50 years. “I’m a second generation framer,” he tells me. Klostermeyer offers 2,000 different frames at his shop, along with hundreds of mats and specialty fabric matting options. He also gets custom moldings from eight different vendors.

(Video) Why Is Custom Framing So Expensive? | Garth Custom Frame Shop

Why is framing a picture so expensive? (1) Maskot/Getty Images

For a 9 x 12 piece with 2-inch matting, Klostermeyer says Design Frames would charge somewhere in the $150 range, depending on the frame. He says his materials may vary from Framebridge in that he would suggest an anti-acid and anti-lignin matboard, and give glazing options that they don’t offer (which is quite possible as Framebridge only offers one type of glazing).

Wendee Mai of 567 Framing in Brooklyn says her shop offers between 1,600 and 1,800 frames, hundreds of mats, and she uses molding from four or five different vendors. The shop also offers different kinds of glazing, both glass and acrylic, and the cost of those depends on how much UV protection a customer wants. “When customers come with a standard size artwork, like a 16 x 20 or 24 x 30, we still charge custom framing price,” she says. “We do not sell ready-made frames.”

Mai explains that even if a customer has a standard-sized print, 567 Framing has to special order the wood, which can cost as little as $8 per foot, or upwards of $80 per foot. This is where big box chains like Michael’s have been able to cut costs: They offer fewer, more standardized options.

Michael’s is the biggest framing retailer in the US and offers 450 frame options, 400 mats, and four glazings, both acrylic and glass through in-house framers Aaron Brothers. Although this is less than many local framers, it is still a vast, expensive-to-maintain selection, which is perhaps why they are losing out to online framing services like Art.com, Simply Framed, and Framebridge. Last year, they closed 94 Aaron Brothers standalone stores.

At Framebridge, a service that lets you mail in pieces to be framed for a fixed price, customers can choose from fewer than 60 frames and 20 different mat colors. Once you choose a color, one of their in-house framers will choose the hue that looks best with your piece. (“We have 12 shades of white,” Framebridge CEO Susan Tynan says.) They also only offer one type of glass, and that’s acrylic glazing. “We didn’t want customers to have to understand the ins and outs of acrylic and glass options,” Tynan says.

At Framebridge, all fixed pricing includes matting and shipping. If your piece is “extra small” (up to 5 x 7), it will cost $65 to frame. A small piece (up to 9 x 12) costs $85 and a medium piece (up to 18 x 20) costs $99.

Essentially, the fewer options a company offers, the lower they can make their prices. “It’s kind of mass-produced, or a variation of mass-produced, as opposed to one of a kind,” Klostermeyer says. In other words, if a company orders a product in high volume, it is often able to get said product at a discounted rate. Local framers don’t have this option, as all frames are made to order.

Klostermeyer adds that the cost of labor has gone up over the years, which has impacted operating costs at mom-and-pop framing shops, raising frame prices. Klostermeyer pays his framers $25,000 to $30,000 a year, depending on experience.

(Video) Why is Picture Framing so expensive?

Why we don’t care for options

Custom framers, both local and chains, offer a wide variety of materials and in-person expertise which result in one-of-a-kind frames, so why are online framing services able to disrupt the market so significantly? Probably because the generation of consumers buying art right now doesn’t really care whether the frame is one-of-a-kind.

According to a recent study, millennials have lower earnings, fewer assets, and less wealth than baby boomers or Gen Xers had in their 20s and 30s. Millennials are also buying houses later than previous generations. A 2018 survey found that home ownership for millennials ages 25 to 34 is 8 percentage points lower than baby boomers and 8.4 percent lower than Gen Xers at that age. When boomers were 27, they were more likely to be decorating their first home, a place they planned to raise kids and live for the indefinite future, so investing in a quality home decor makes sense. Millennials simply aren’t there yet.

The proliferation of cheap prints may also contribute to the apprehension of buying a pricey frame. Historically, prints have been seen as a lower level of art, as they are reproductions. “They used to call it a gateway drug,” director of Bonhams auction house’s prints and multiples department Deborah Ripley told Bloomberg. “It was where beginners in the art world started collecting, and that would encourage them: They might have been buying works at a lower price point, but they could tell their friends, ‘Yes, I have a work by Warhol.’”

But today, you walk into a young adult’s apartment and all you see are prints, and not Warhol reproductions, but items like a $60 photo of a beach from 20x200, a company which started in 2007 with the motto “Art for Everyone!” And there are tons of companies like this, most of which started in the late aughts and have expansive collections. Pop Chart Lab, a poster company that sells witty, pop culture infographics started in 2010 and grew 50 percent year over year until 2014, according to Fast Company. Society6, which started in 2009, and Minted, which started in 2008, both offer a platform for artists to sell their works, often at a lower price point. All of these options make art more accessible.

(Video) Why is Kodak, Fujifilm and Polaroid So Expensive?! | TOC Xtra Episode 15

Klostermeyer says that he doesn’t think all things need a one-of-a-kind frame, but it’s worth it to go into a frame shop and check. One day a mom came into his shop, he says, with her son’s Jimi Hendrix poster that had been signed by all the band members. It had been under her son’s bed for years, and she wanted to frame it for him as a surprise.

“She said, ‘I don’t want to spend a lot of money on this, give me the cheapest thing’,” Klostermeyer recalls. “I said, ‘No, you don’t want to be the mom that threw away the baseball cards.’”

She took his advice and bought a pricier frame that would preserve the poster for longer, and if she had gone to a big box chain or used an online service, Klostermeyer isn’t sure she would have gotten the same consultation. “That $20 poster you’re buying now, 20 years from now may be worth less than 20 bucks, or it may be worth thousands,” he says.

Perhaps he’s right. But with my $36 Society6 poster of butts, I’ll take my chances.

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(Video) How To Make Cheap Frames Look Expensive


Why is framing a picture so expensive? ›

According to Mark Klostermeyer, a member of the Professional Picture Frames Association, it's the sheer amount of mattings, moldings, glazings, and frames a shop provides that drives up prices.

Why is picture framing important? ›

Framing is essential in photography because it helps you to create the desired response when a viewer looks at the image. It can also help you to convey a specific message through the photo.

Is it cheaper to frame your own pictures? ›

In the grand scheme of things, however, this means savings of between $100 and $200 on a single frame job when you do your own framing versus going to a traditional frame shop.

How much does it cost to make a photo frame? ›

The cost of a picture frame will depend on the size of the frame and the materials' quality. Generally, picture frames will cost between $8 and $200.

Why are large poster frames so expensive? ›

Design (even if it looks simple), craftsmanship, and quality materials (that will last) are all factors that can increase the cost of a frame. The overhead of the frame-shop is another factor, just as it is with any business.

Is picture framing a good business? ›

Picture framing is one of those ideas for a home business that often begins as a part-time endeavor, but picture framing can grow into a full-time, successful business with the right combination of craftsmanship, customer relations, and advertising.

What is framing in a picture? ›

Framing in photography refers to the process of composing a picture. It involves choosing what you'll include in the frame and what you'll leave out. The goal is to create a pleasing composition that directs the viewer's attention to the subject matter.

How can I save money on a picture frame? ›

Six Ways to Lower Picture-Framing Costs
  1. Don't Buy From a Big Box Retail Store. ...
  2. Order Larger Quantities. ...
  3. Bundle Your Frames with Other Supplies. ...
  4. Forgo the Face-to-Face Interaction. ...
  5. Go the DIY Route. ...
  6. Pick the Right Quality for Your Budget.

Can you frame a picture without glass? ›

Fortunately, it's easy to frame art without glass. What is this? In fact, I sometimes prefer photo frames without glass because there won't be any glare on the art. Cheap picture frames usually have a terrible glare and it almost ruins the art completely.

How do you frame a cheap poster? ›

An Easy and Inexpensive DIY Frame for Posters and Art. - YouTube

How much is a good frame? ›

60 FPS is the ideal middle ground of frame rates for playing a game. It's noticeably smoother than 30 FPS but not noticeably inferior to 120 FPS.

How many types of picture frames are there? ›

Discover the different types of picture frames that vary in shapes, materials, features, displays, textures, and picture capacity. Knowing these variations will help you choose the best picture frame to complement not just your photos and mementos but also your entire home decor.

Why are eye frames so expensive? ›

One reason: the manufacturing and materials used to create eyeglasses. It's true that frames and lenses are manufactured better today than they were 30 years ago. Additionally, when it comes to lenses for those frames, there are many upgrade options that promise (and often deliver) a better experience.

Is it worth framing a poster? ›

Learning how to frame a poster is well worth your effort, and we promise — it's easy! It's also a big step up from taping or pinning your poster to the wall. Whether you want to showcase your Music posters or vintage posters, framing will protect your art from damage and elevate the overall look.

Is it expensive to frame a canvas? ›

How much does it cost to frame canvas? It depends on the size of your canvas, but we framed each of our 24″x18″ canvas paintings with one six-foot 1×2 common board which costs just under $3.50!

How do you become a professional framer? ›

How to become a Framer
  1. Graduate from high school. Framers should have at least their high school diploma or GED to enter this field.
  2. Have a driver's license. ...
  3. Complete an apprenticeship. ...
  4. Earn an associate degree. ...
  5. Join a professional organization.

How big is the picture framing industry? ›

The market size, measured by revenue, of the Picture Framing Stores industry is $2.0bn in 2022. What is the growth rate of the Picture Framing Stores industry in the US in 2022? The market size of the Picture Framing Stores industry is expected to decline -3.2% in 2022.

What does framing mean in business? ›

Framing effect is often used in marketing to influence decision-makers and purchases. It takes advantage of the tendency for people to view the same information but respond to it in different ways, depending on whether a specific option is presented in a positive frame or in a negative frame.

What are the types of framing in photography? ›

Types of Framing

In general, there are four different types elements you can use to create a frame within your shot: architectural, natural, geometric shapes, and light/shadow.

How does framing help visual design? ›

It creates visual hierarchy in your work and guides the user's gaze around the layout. It also allows you to draw attention to the focal point in your layout and set it apart from its surroundings.

What are the elements of framing? ›

Framing is a construction system. Studs, plates, headers, rafters, girders, flooring and joists are all terms used to identify different components in framing.

How does framing affect the quality of a picture? ›

Framing is what makes a picture interesting. It gives us a different point of view and a distinct sense of how we see the image. It also helps with the composition, creates depth, and makes the object even more interesting, especially when placed in a thematic frame.

Why do photographers use framing in a photograph? ›

Framing in photography simply refers to a compositional technique that helps bring attention directly to your subject, by blocking off part of the image to form a frame around a point of interest in your photo.

What should always be considered when framing a shot? ›

Let's get started.
  • Rules of Shot Composition.
  • The Rule of Thirds.
  • Balance and Symmetry.
  • Leading Lines.
  • Eye-Level Framing.
  • Depth of Field.
  • Deep Space Composition.
10 Jul 2022

How do you frame an expensive painting? ›

Tips on Framing Your Artwork - YouTube

How much does it cost to mat and frame a picture? ›

The cost for custom framing varies greatly, depending on the materials. The frames themselves can range from $16 per foot to $200 per foot. A 7x5-inch double-mat, clear-glass mounting for a photograph costs about $120, while an 8x10 conservation-glass frame for a college diploma averages $200.

What is rule of third in photography? ›

What is the rule of thirds? The rule of thirds is a composition guideline that places your subject in the left or right third of an image, leaving the other two thirds more open. While there are other forms of composition, the rule of thirds generally leads to compelling and well-composed shots.

How do you frame your own prints? ›

How To Frame Your Art - YouTube

Can I make my own picture frame? ›

You might not know how to make a picture frame, but it's easier than you think. All you need is a couple framing studs—you might even be able to use leftovers from a past project—and a few basic power tools. This guide will walk you through how to make a picture frame you can customize to suit your decor and style.

Should you put paintings behind glass? ›

An oil painting needs to breathe, so finding the perfect frame should not include glass. Glass will suffocate the art and possibly damage the paint.

Should framed art have glass? ›

Framing art with a protective glazing (glass or acrylic) is usually a good idea. Printed artwork such as photographs are generally fine with glazing, and the right choice of glass or acrylic, along with a quality picture frame, can help prevent the deterioration of photo paper over time.

What can you do with an empty picture frame? ›

8 Ways to Use Empty Picture Frames in Decor
  1. Frames to Fill a Space.
  2. Frames as a Faux Tray.
  3. Frames on the Ceiling ?!?
  4. Frames on a Gallery Wall.
  5. Frames to Balance a Space.
  6. Frames to Enhance Florals.
  7. Frames as a Part of your Tablescape.
  8. Frames as a Base for a Wreath.
4 Apr 2020

How do you make a fake frame? ›

Genius "Fake Frame" Trick You Need Before Hanging! - YouTube

How do you professionally frame a poster? ›

Framing the Poster
  1. Decide on whether or not to use a mat. ...
  2. Decide on the right frame. ...
  3. Undo frame hinges or clips and remove the contents.
  4. Clean the glass or plexiglass front and let dry.
  5. Attach poster to an adhesive foam board. ...
  6. Slide the glass/plexiglass piece into place in the frame.

How do you keep poster frames from falling apart? ›

Quick Tip: Hold Cheap Poster Frames Stay Together - YouTube

What is a good frame time? ›

Frametime shows you whether your frames are being delivered at consistent intervals within a second. So for a smooth 60 fps, each frame should be rendered in 1/60 seconds, which is 16.67 milliseconds.

Is 30 frames per second good? ›

If you want to capture quick movement and slow motion, choose 60 frames per second. If not, shoot at 30 frames per second. When generating videos for social media, shooting at 60 frames per second is rarely necessary because everything is displayed at 30 frames per second.

How many frames can humans see? ›

The visual cues in the world around us move at a particular rate, and our eyes can take in this information at a specific pace of perception. Most experts have a tough time agreeing on an exact number, but the conclusion is that most humans can see at a rate of 30 to 60 frames per second.

Why are digital frames so expensive? ›

Digital photo frames have higher resolution

A quality digital photo frame costs more than most smart displays, and the big reason is that frames have higher-resolution screens, which translate to crisper images, and better colors and brightness.

How many photos can 32GB hold? ›

How many photos can a 32GB SD card hold? Considering the same parameters as before, a 32GB SD card should be able to hold about 6,300 images shot on a smartphone with a 12MP camera. Similarly, on the GoPro, a 32GB SD card will be good for about 7,620 images.

How long do digital frames last? ›

Most good digital photo frames can continuously display the same picture for ~1,000 hours before any screen burn-in or damage to the LCD takes place. You are never going to display the same photo for more than 1,000 hours (or you'd be better off framing a printed picture) so this isn't something to worry about.

What is the difference between a poster frame and a picture frame? ›

On top of that, poster frames often lean toward a very minimalist frame that's thinner than most picture frames, especially ones with any decorative elements. This is because these frames often aren't meant to add to the design of the print or poster inside but rather showcase and protect them.

Why do we frame pictures? ›

A picture frame is a protective and decorative edging for a picture, such as a painting or photograph. It makes displaying the work safer and easier and both sets the picture apart from its surroundings and aesthetically integrates it with them.

What is a wall of pictures called? ›

A gallery wall is a curated display of photographs, posters or prints, creatively arranged on a wall using photo frames.

Are custom frames worth it? ›

A custom frame not only shows off the beauty of these objects, but will also protect them from light and dust. When you have any special piece, like a prized vintage record or signed jersey, it is so important that these items are framed properly in order to be preserved for a lifetime.

Is it expensive to frame a canvas? ›

How much does it cost to frame canvas? It depends on the size of your canvas, but we framed each of our 24″x18″ canvas paintings with one six-foot 1×2 common board which costs just under $3.50!

Why are diploma frames so expensive? ›

That Paper Is Worth $150,000 or More!

So, why are diploma frames so expensive? Because they're crafted to protect one of the most important and fragile documents you'll receive in your lifetime!

How much is framing Australia? ›

Steel frame for a home costs between $9.50 and $11 per square metre in materials. Lumber prices vary, but the typical cost of wood framing a home is between $1 and $5 per square metre.

Does framing increase the value of art? ›

Not only do they enhance the final look of the painting, they also protect it. More often than not, a frame can even add to the monetary value of the painting. Essentially an integral part of the work of art it accommodates, a frame is as important as the art itself.

Is Michaels expensive for framing? ›

Prices for framed art prints are determined by the size of the artwork. Art prints can also be purchased without a frame for a lesser cost.
Custom Framing Site.
Sizes up toFramed Photos
16 x 20$99
20 x 28$129
24 x 36$139
32 x 40*$194
4 more rows

How do you professionally frame art? ›

How To Frame Your Art - YouTube

What is a floating frame? ›

What is a float frame? A float frame, as the name implies, is designed in such a way that the artwork appears to float within the frame; it is not pressed behind a piece of glass. Because of this illusion, viewers of your artwork gain a sense of three-dimensional depth when viewing the piece.

Can you frame a canvas with glass? ›

Oil paintings should be allowed to breathe, as the risk of trapped moisture caused by framing behind glass could degrade the paintwork and canvas. Oil paintings on paper are an exception, and framing behind glass is recommended. However you must ensure the painting is fully dry to prevent trapped moisture.

How do you frame a poster? ›

Framing the Poster
  1. Decide on whether or not to use a mat. ...
  2. Decide on the right frame. ...
  3. Undo frame hinges or clips and remove the contents.
  4. Clean the glass or plexiglass front and let dry.
  5. Attach poster to an adhesive foam board. ...
  6. Slide the glass/plexiglass piece into place in the frame.

How much should framing a diploma cost? ›

An average frame with no mat can cost anywhere from $30 to $75. The price will most often depend on the size and the type of materials used.

How much is a degree frame? ›

Quality diploma frames and mattes are not cheap. They can range in price from less than $100 to well over $400, depending on what features you are looking for.

Is an expensive diploma frame worth it? ›

While cheap diploma frames will look good for a short period of time, they won't protect your diploma or surround it with the class and sophistication it deserves. Professional framing not only protects your diploma for a long time but also gives it an added sense of flair and style.

How much does it cost to frame a stretched canvas? ›

If your canvas is already stretched (up to 1.5” deep), we'll frame it as is with about ¼” gap to reveal the sides. If it's unstretched, we'll stretch it around ¾” deep natural wood stretcher bars before framing it.

How much does it cost to frame a small house? ›

The national average cost of framing a house is between $3,500-$35,000, depending on the size. House framing costs are generally priced by the square foot, and your total price will depend on the house's floor plan, site elevation, design of the home and regional material and labor costs.

How much does it cost to have canvas stretched and framed? ›

Your cost can range anywhere from $8-$20 per linear foot ($50-$150 per print), depending upon the size of the image and the thickness of the stretcher bar you choose. You will also have the inconvenience of a time delay, as it may take several days before your stretched prints are ready to pick up.


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