PSSC Framing Guide

"Poor presentation can make great art look terrible.
Good presentation can make terrible art look great."

This guide will help guide you to having more success in getting your work accepted into juried art competitions. It provides common sense "things you should know" about presenting artwork for gallery exhibitions.

Please be aware that no two art show jurors are looking for exactly the same things. Art appreciation is very subjective. This article provides the most accepted practices for professional art presentation.

  • All artwork should be presented in a simple, professional manner. Consider yourself a professional and treat your artwork with respect. Always use the best materials.

  • The finished presentation – front, back, top and bottom - is part of the whole work. It should appear to be new and well crafted, not battered and shop worn or flimsy or fragile.

  • Frame molding varies greatly in style and quality. Avoid over powering the art with brighter, bolder, or busier framing materials that distract from it visually and look amateurish, cheap, or out-of-place.

Some grand masterpieces are well suited to elaborate hand-carved gold frames; all other pieces look best in more modest frame moldings with clean lines in gold, black, neutral, or natural wood finishes. Avoid frames with bright or multiple colors.

An important decision is whether to mat or not. A growing number of pastelists are choosing to use spacers, and framing without mats. Matting serves to separate the art from the glazing, but it also isolates it for viewing. The artwork should stand alone without being enhanced or abated by the mat and frame.

Mat size should be appropriate to the piece. A wide mat is better; it expands the work and makes it appear larger. Narrow borders visually reduce the artwork and look cheap. A three to four-inch mat with an extra half-inch on the bottom gives a nice visual feel to a finished piece. But, do not use extra wide mats just to make a piece fit in a standard size frame. Also avoid using brightly colored mats. White or off white is best, but carefully chosen neutral colors can work well, too. For an extra touch, consider a double mat.

When transporting matted pastels pastels, it is easy to knock some pastel powder off the drawing onto the mat. Unfortunately, most often the only solution is to replace the mat, because trying to clean it will only make it worse.

The type of glass you use can make a difference. Plain window glass works well to protect your work, but you will always have reflections. There are various kinds of glass that don’t reflect or provide UV protection that come at a higher price, but can present your work in a better way.

Framing Resources:

  • Randy Higbee Gallery (aka: KingofFrame & Art & Frame)

    • 102 Kalmus Costa Mesa, CA 92626 800.506.7624

    • SoCal’s premier supplier of ready made plein air frames

  • La Tourette’s Gallery

    • 9621 Valley Blvd #C El Monte, CA 91731 888-523-7263

    • A variety of ready made frames with very reasonable prices


    • (800) 332-8884

    • Online picture frames in all styles, great for custom sizes too.

  • Jon Thornton, Four Sticks Framing

    • 2675 Skypark Drive #104 (street-side) Torrance, Ca 90505 310-961-4477

    • Reasonable custom framing, call for appt.

  • Colleen at Kathy’s Gallery

    • 4433 Sepulveda Blvd. (Corner of Sepulveda & Anza) Torrance, CA 90503 310-792-4838

  • Frametek (manufacturer of econospacers)

    • 800-227-9934

  • 2 for 1 Frame Store

    • 112 N. Catalina Ave. Redondo Beach, CA 90277 310-379-2434