To frame or not to frame when selling a painting?

I am never sure about offering my paintings already framed. Shipping from the UK is cheaper without a frame so I mostly offer them without to keep the buyers shipping fee down. Also, my choice of frame (black) may not be the preferred one. Does anyone have thoughts/experience?

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I don’t frame usually. The pieces look so much better but frames are so up to buyers taste.


If it’s oils or acrylic, it’s easy enough to sell it unframed. If it needs to go under glass, sometimes it’s better to frame it. However, sometimes the buyer wants a different frame.

Thank you Sunny and Theresa…just what I think too. I shall keep to unframed for shipping and keep my frames for local UK displays.

I offer only unframed work and I know I only have to worry about packaging it safely. If I add a frame (with glass or acrylic glazing - needed for pastels) that’s adding a lot more that can go wrong - glass can break, acrylic can get scratched, frame corners can get dented… On top of that, the buyer might want to re-frame the work anyway and would not appreciate the extra expense of my frame and paying more for shipping. For gallery sales that would be different, but for online sales I think I’ll stick with unframed.

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I just started in DPW about 3 weeks ago. I only paint with watercolors on paper so I have mailed the two sold without frames. I made the assumption that is what all are doing unless specified differently. Am I correct?

Have any of you tried to sell by showing the piece framed vs unframed online. I never see anything but unframed images although the common theme in a gallery is that the framing helps sell work faster and for more money. Yes, there are always going to be those that want to frame it differently. What about those that would buy it more readily because it looks better framed? The ones that can not see beyond a finished presentation. I believe there may be many lost sales there. In a gallery one is rarely asked to frame it differently. Everyone seems focused on that rare occasion. Yes, a little more to ship of course.

I think gallery and online–and “daily painting” in particular–venues for presentation and selling are different animals. I agree that almost everything looks better and is worth more framed. But I don’t know that showing framed work is as effective online, and I think most people shopping for daily paintings usually are not interested in paying the additional cost for framing and shipping.

If all the clients see is unframed, how could you sell it any other way? I almost never see framed work for sale except on auction sites where someone is trying to unload something they no longer want. I don’t understand why what one can sell and sell more readily for more money as well (perceived value is higher) at an art fair or gallery one can not or does not sell online the same way?

Probably because photographing a frame to its best advantage, with the painting inside, is a lot more difficult than shooting or scanning the art alone. Also, when selling a large volume of small works, framing all of them would be a significant speculative expense. Not having to frame everything in order to show it is one of the advantages of selling online. It can also be an advantage for sellers, who can choose whether and how much to spend on a frame and also defer that part of the cost.
Do you sell many paintings online, and are they always framed? If so, how do you do it?

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OK, I will fess up.

I started my day job while in art school in the late 60’s. I needed to pay my way through art school although custom framing doesn’t pay very well (Everyone thinks it’s expensive but it never has made my wallet thick) and most begin in it thinking it a great fun and a useful skill soon learn doing many other things pays better. I have stuck it out for the past 45+ years. It has kept me enmeshed in the arts working in galleries, art supplies and my own shops while I painted on the side.
I’ve heard all the arguments against framing. I’m unsure why the hostility to frames and framing is so prevalent. I believe it’s all about our economy but maybe it’s more than that.
Everyday, I design and build framing to the best of my ability. My clients very often come in to pick up their new framing saying, “WOW!” This is EVERY DAY not just once in a month. I’ve stayed in this because I’ve not seen that in other businesses. It’s a pleasure to know I have put something on the wall and in their lives for the next 30 years and more. Yes, It’s all about the art but at the same time the art can be enhanced immeasurably by it’s presentation, "the frame."
We all understand what poor framing does. So why do so many artists brush it off completely and not deal with it? We are leaving it to the inexperienced and gambling on the unknowing to frame our hard work? We all know the potential damage but just giving up on the frame completely? Why have we given in to it? I fight every day for the art. I frame to the art not to match the couch unless the customer pushes me to that compromise, I will not. I work every day to make art as strong, beautiful and eye catching as I possibly can. But all for nothing if the artists treat it that way.

I can think of a couple of major reasons not to frame. First of all, here in the UK, postal insurance is virtually unavailable for ANY PAINTING that is framed with glass, so eg for watercolours, pastels, I would be sending work in the post with no insurance cover. Even carefully packed work can get damaged by Royal Mail and other couriers. I have a suspicion this also applies to art on canvas, now.
So if there’s no insurance cover…you know the score…
Secondly, I’ve had work on online galleries in the past, showing frames…and been asked to sell the work without them. Even at local shows, I’ve known a buyer to change the frame, even though it was originally selected and assembled by a good framer. When you’re on fixed income (pension!), you just don’t fork out for a load of frames that others are going to change.
There’s no “hostility” to framing at all. I agree that a great frame can make an average work look terrific. But people are funny animals; we once had new neighbours who ripped out a brand-new £20,000 kitchen because the wife didnt like the cupboards. It’s just common-sense to let the buyer choose the frame they want. And certainly, I notice a great difference in tastes between Americans and British…even more a good reason to not spend a fortune on a frame that prompts the inevitable email…“like the picture, but don’t want the frame”.

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I would frame every piece if I could.

I would like to, but the cost and I don’t know the best framing options. I would have to have so many here because I would need to ‘try them on’ each piece to see which is best. The way my brain works…I have to see it first.

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I know what you mean, plein air frame, black frame, gold frame, antique frame, wood frame its enough to drive an artist nuts.

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You wouldn’t like my shop with over 3000 frame corners to choose from, but that’s why I’m here to help make the decision easier and show you options you never would have thought about.

3000 frame corners, yikes!! I think I’m just going to go with those black and gold plein air style frames.

Shipping is an issue. I avoid shipping anything with glass. It’s just too easy to break but Plexiglass is another story. I would not put plexi on a pastel however.

I think artists underestimate the power of their opinion when selling art. It’s a, “package deal,” it comes framed. What are you supposed to do with a custom frame just eat the cost? Just because they say they don’t like the frame doesn’t mean anything. It means they are haggling on the price or they wish to treat it as some decorative piece of fluff and frame it to match the couch, bad attitude.

I get folks in my frame shop all the time that wish to keep a cheap frame because the, “artist framed it that way.” So it must be the best/right way to do it rational. Of course they may be just unwilling to pay to frame it correctly. If you refuse to haggle with them (sell it without the frame) by selling it in pieces where does it end? The conversation has shifted from selling something of value to a simple commodity. The reality as often as not is that they believe they can frame it for less and or they ascribe to the theory, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get.” They are most probably going to spend just as much or more to frame it with the same frame and if they do frame it for less it will be in an unflattering cheap frame. Even in my shop where changing a frame is easier, what am I supposed to do with a custom frame designed specifically for that image? The odds of me selling it are minuscule. You are colluding with the mass production throw away mentality and devaluing your work in the process in my opinion.

They like what they SEE and in part that is the way you have framed it, they just want to haggle. Will you lose a sale sure once in a while? You are the expert however they are likely not. If you get confused with framing choices and you are the artist, think how overwhelmed they are by those same decisions. They only know what they like and sometimes they don’t even know that. They know what a so called expert tells them.

Discount it maybe if they buy two or more but it comes framed. Would you agree to sell your car and haggle over the wheels? No it comes, “as is”

Everyone seems to think when they are finished with the painting that’s the end of it but that’s not true at all. As a longtime artist and custom framer I doubt that black is the most flattering framing on every painting. I have not seen you work but are you just being lazy? Black can be a neutral and it can be a distracting harsh look too. Is your decision made on costs (black is often cheap) or on what best flatters the work? If they are balking about some shipping costs they may be more a prints customer than originals.

The general wisdom in custom framing is that frames and framing is bought not on price but on appearances. Many clients come into my shop and ask for an inexpensive frame. What does that mean? Inexpensive for one may be outrageous for another. Everyone’s is on a different level. I’d be unable to pay the rent if I only sold cheap black frames and the work might look much better if I designed it a whole different way.

I would never put pastels under Plexiglass. Static electricity can pull pastel right off the paper.