Choosing The Ideal Color, Style & More . . .

Picture frames are an art form unto themselves, and the selection of the right frame and matte for a photo or art print can be overwhelming.

How often have you walked into a frame shop, only to see a thousand different styles adorning the walls?

“Selecting the right picture frame and accompanying matte can indeed be overwhelming,” says Margot Dark of Contract Pictures Framers Inc., of Cherry Hill, N.J., which has been providing quality picture framing, artwork and installation to businesses and homes for more than 25 years.  “But our job is to put the customer at ease in simplifying the process.”

Thus, Dark offers some more pertinent tips when it comes to picture frame shopping:

Frame Style

  • The style of the frame should obviously go with the mood or style of the art.
  • A good example: a shiny black lacquer frame can look great with Chinese art.
  • If you want rustic, go with a wood frame.
  • A slender metal frame gives a sharp, clean, modern look – for an abstract painting, for example.
  • Metal frames can be less expensive and are good for posters, which generally demand simplicity.
  • A thin wooden frame can create problems for large pieces of art – remember, frames also need to hold the weight of the glass.
  • A wide frame on a small picture can have a dramatic effect – you’ll often see this in museums.


  • It’s generally fine to use black, white or off-white for the matte, but it’s generally not a good idea to juxtapose white and off-white.
  • A black matte and a wood-finish frame work nicely together.
  • Choose a matte color that’s in the image, but not overwhelmingly present and not prevalent along the border of the art so that you have contrast.
  • Same with a double matte – the second color should appear just a bit in the picture to bring that color out.
  • Professionally made mattes come in a variety of textures.  Using texture can help set off the artwork, especially with a plain frame.  For example, a silk matte in a black lacquer frame can be quite impactful.


  • Regular glass is generally fine, but other types of glass exist.
  • Non-glare glass can be useful, although when viewed at some angles can dull the vibrance of the art.


  • Hang small or medium-sized works in clusters, even if that means empty space nearby.  Grouping art like this is most attractive.
  • Group different sizes and different frames together for an eye-catching effect.
  • Leave some open spaces – not every wall needs to have a painting.
  • Hang art at eye-level of a not very tall person.
  • Err on the side of low; most people hang their art too high.

“Having so many choices is a good problem to have,” adds Dark.  “This is why selecting the right picture frame and matte can make the piece of art or photo so much more enjoyable to look at.”