DIY Framing Part 2: Style & Color

In Part 1 of my DIY Framing Artwork series, I discuss dimensions of frames, mats and artwork. In Part 2 of my DIY Framing series, I'm going to discuss the most fun part of the process: Style and Color. I personally am a minimalist; you can probably tell by my artwork. The less ornate the better, in my mind. But what I love doesn't necessarily mean you'll be head over heels for it, too.

Regardless of your taste, however, the DIY framing process can feel a bit overwhelming. What colors to choose? What style will work best? Here are some very basic things to consider when it comes to color and style of your mat and frames.

Be Patient

Before I discuss style and color in detail, I want to urge you to be patient, and although you might be anxious to get your frames before your artwork arrives, I recommend waiting to purchase frames until you actually have the artwork in your hands. That way, you can get a better sense of how it will look with various frames and mats. Granted, if you have a frame that you absolutely love, such as a frame  your grandmother passed down, or one that caught your eye in a store, some of these tips will still be helpful.

DIY Framing Artwork: Frames

Style: The style of your frame should resonate with your personal tastes, as well as compliment your artwork. Although it's important to consider where you'll be placing your art, it is most important to choose a style of frame that is going to enhance the art itself. You want to find a style that compliments the artwork so that it doesn't overwhelm or detract from the beauty of the actual piece. If a frame is too ornate, chunky or even too colorful, it can become overbearing. Some styles match certain types of art well. For instance, antique frames work well for older or vintage prints. Plastic, metal, and white or black wood frames work well with modern or minimalist styled artwork. And for artwork focused on nature, rustic and natural woods work nicely.

Color: Choose frame colors that work with the paint on the walls, and the colors within the image. Picking up a subtle hue from the artwork can make your art pop. I provide six different styles of frames and colors below. See how the art looks differently in each of the frames? In the lighter frames, the art is most highlighted. In the darker and heavier frames, however, the frame begins to draw more focus to the edges instead of the art.

Tweet this: When framing art, style & color should enhance, not detract. #DIY w/ these tips. @brettblumenthal #framing

As you probably notice, the lighter tones tend to highlight the artwork much more than the darker or black tones. Also, heavier frames, like the Heavy Rustic Frame displayed above, can feel too heavy for lighter art prints and might be better suited for a heavier or darker painting.

DIY Framing Artwork: Mats

Although you don't need to use mats with your artwork, they make a nice addition and statement to your overall look. Mats are used for two reasons: They keep the glass separate from your artwork so it won’t stick to the glass, and secondly, it enhances the artwork. Here are some tips in choosing the right mats:

Style: You can go with a single mat or a double mat. Some people even choose to go with three mats. If you're new to framing or want to keep it simple, I suggest you stick with one or two mats maximum.

Quality: Be sure to choose a mat that will not damage your artwork. There are three types: Paper, alpha-cellulose and rag mats. Paper mats are high in acid, which can leak into your artwork, damaging and discoloring it. Alpha-cellulose mats are made with wood pulp that has been treated to eliminate the acids. And finally, rag mats are naturally acid-free mats made from cotton. Rag mats are used by museums and are the safest choice, however, alpha-cellulose mats are also a good choice.


  • Get Complimentary: As with your frame, choose colors that match and compliment the artwork. Matting to the artwork and not the room allows you to move the piece to a different room or space if you so choose, while maintaining an appropriate look for the artwork. A good rule of thumb is to match part of the background and not the main color of the artwork itself. A viewer’s eye is drawn to the most stimulating part of the composition, and so a mat that has a color too close to the dominant color of the artwork will draw the viewer away from the art and towards the mat instead. White mats generally work well with most colored walls and home decor, and are an easy way to achieve a clean, crisp look.
  • A Slight Tint: If using a basic white mat seems boring, you can do a very light tint to the mat to add a bit of color without overwhelming the artwork. See the cream option in the examples I provide below.
  • Single vs. Double:
    • Single Mat: Good colors for single mats tend to be those that are rather neutral, such as whites, creams, very pale blues, grays or greens.
    • Double Mats: If one mat doesn’t look “finished,” a second mat can make a big difference. The second mat, or accent mat, is used to help make artwork pop by creating an additional border around a print. The inner mat, which is closest to the artwork, should have more of an accent than the outer mat and should highlight secondary colors in the artwork to help draw the viewer’s eye towards the artwork. Also, you’ll want to have the outside or top mat darker on a dark work of art and lighter on a lighter work of art.

As you can see, the tan mat and the dark brown mat tend to overpower the artwork, and the kangaroo becomes less of the focus. The white, gray and cream is subtle and enhances, and the double mat option brings strong focus to the artwork itself.

Multiple Pieces: If you are doing a gallery wall of different pieces, I highly recommend keeping the mat and frames as neutral as possible. This will create a nice clean look that will allow each piece of art to stand on its own, while also being cohesive with other pieces in the montage.

I've seen some of my prints in beautiful frames that have much more character. One of my customers shared this beautiful snapshot of my nursery art in these very rustic frames. I just LOVE how the baby is looking at them. So sweet.

Although I never would have personally chosen these frames, I love how they turned out! So, go with your gut and choose what speaks to you!

I hope these tips help you with your DIY framing project, and gives you good info for choosing frames and mats for your artwork. In the next and final Part of this DIY Framing Artwork series, I'll discuss good places to purchase frames. Stay tuned!


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.