What To Look For In A Good Frame Shop

I read a lot of articles in the trade magazines about the most successful, most celebrated galleries and frame shops in the country. But you, our customers never get a chance to read these articles and so you may not be aware of some of the distinctive features of a great frame shop. So here are 7 pointers for you when you’re looking around for a framer.

1.A Good frame shop has experience on their side. You wouldn’t take your new Tesla to a recent high school graduate for repairs, would you? So why would you go to a craft store to frame a precious painting or memento from your family? The fact is that you don’t know about their level of experience and training and for all you know, they could have been working in floral or quilting the day before.  They could be a great designer but know little about the conservation and preservation aspects of picture framing.  Always seek a professional with a broad range of framing knowledge and experience who is up to date with all aspects of the picture framing industry.

Hint: It’s Ok to ask your framer how long they’ve been in the business and if you’re not confident in their design or experience, ask for a second opinion.

2. A Good frame shop has design credibility. Look around at the walls of the frame shop. Do they have very little on display? Have they made what even the novice would consider “questionable” design choices? Do the displays and designs in the shop make you feel at ease or instill shock and awe as you look around? First impressions of a frame shop are important indicators and if you don’t like what you see, you probably won’t like what you get.

Hint:  If the designs on display are too “cookie-cutter” or generally straight framed(no mats), this framer may be limited in design experience or ability.

3. A Good Designer Listens. A Good frame designer will ask you questions about your decor, personal taste and color preferences. Based on your comments, a good designer should then suggest ways to blend the framing into your environment without introducing elements that would distract from or diminish your artwork.  Although there are no absolutes in framing design,  good frame shops teach their people about design and color theory and it’s the designer’s job to know which colors and styles would best compliment your project. It’s not your responsibility to make sure that the framing is appropriate. Look for a framer who is interactive but can also offer a definitive and qualified opinion.

Hint:  Always design for the artwork first and decor second.  If the colors and framing are appropriate for the artwork, you will enjoy the finished product more than if it simply matches the sofa. 

4. A Good frame shop features a good selection. Take a look around the design center in your frame shop. Are there a lot of frames to choose from or just a few featured on an almost inaccessible wall behind the frame counter? Do the frames featured on the wall scream “Grandma’s house” or are there the latest and greatest samples on display and in reach? You should know all of your options when framing your artwork (without being overwhelmed by too many choices). This goes for matting and glass selections as well as just frames.  If you don’t find it on the wall, good frame shops have the resources (ie: catalogs, on-line selections, etc.), to help you find just the right materials for your project.

Hints: A. It’s Ok to ask to step behind the counter to look closer at a frame as they are not sacred objects.  B. To avoid confusion, try not to have more than five frame samples on the counter for comparison at one time.   

5. A Good frame shop has great customer service. When you custom frame something, you want to feel that the designer and frame staff care about your project. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re looking for a simple poster frame or an elaborate shadow-box construction, your project should be treated with dignity and respect.  Good designs can take time to create and your project should be given priority when you arrive at the design counter.  Your designer is there to facilitate the design process and needs to be able to give you the attention you deserve (without boring you with their superior design and framing knowledge).   you should leave the design counter knowing that you’ve seen all the appropriate design options without being exhausted or overwhelmed.

Hint: let your designer know if you’re in a hurry before you begin the design process.  Sometimes, it’s better to leave your project at the frame shop and have the designer work on the design independently rather than try to rush the design to fit into your lunch hour.

6.A Good frame shop does their work in a timely and professional manner.   Nobody likes to wait six months for their framing to be completed.  Most frames shops  should be able to complete basic framing within 2-3 weeks barring any back-orders or time-consuming design elements.  If there is a delay, it’s up to the frame shop staff to let you know, so you can plan on when to come and pick up your order.   If you have an absolute deadline for your project, let your framer know in advance as there may be ways to expedite your project using in-stock or locally sourced materials.

Hint: Frame shops that do their own work without outsourcing or relying on chop services can generally get the project completed faster.  Ask whether your framer does the work in house or ships things out for completion.

7. A Good framer shop is budget conscious.  Quality custom framing is not inexpensive and if it’s too cheap, it’s probably because of some kind of compromise you or the frame shop is making in the design or execution of the project.   A good frame shop will make every effort to accommodate your budget for each project without compromising the quality of materials or under-framing  your artwork.  Look for a frame shop that has a great range of pricing options including ready-made frames and in-stock options that may be offered at a discount.  Remember that not all projects need a triple suede mat and a water-gilded ornate frame.  There are ways to make even the simplest framing look great and a good frame shop will know how to get you the best result without spending all of your grocery money.  Ask for a complete estimate before signing that check.

Hint: Chain store specials are not always the best way to save money on picture framing.  Compare and shop prices and most of all, frame your artwork with the shop that you feel will do the best job rather than the cheapest.

FYI:  The Elsinore Framing & Fine Art Gallery does not wish in any way to cast aspersions on the work of any other frame shop.  This post is simply a way to pass on some of the wisdom that we’ve gathered in our almost 30 years in the industry.  We hope that you will consider us as your local resource for quality picture framing.

Brent Allen-Gallery Manager