Displaying Your Photographs 101: Two Strategies For Choosing Your Frame Color (with examples!)

Choosing the color frame for your photographs can be a difficult decision.  There’s a lot invested monetarily in framing your work and you want to make sure you get it right the first time.  For example, many years ago I was given an print by acclaimed photographer, Art Wolfe.  I took it to the local frame shop and picked the wrong color frame...because it was on sale.  It looks bad.  Really bad.  Unfortunately that print is still sitting in a box in a closet.  What a shame.  

Currently at Saw & Mitre we offer four different colors for framing your photographs.  We’ve specifically selected these four because we feel that they help bring out the best in photographs and will give you a timeless, classic look for your home.  Here are two helpful strategies to help make your frame color choice.

1. Go Classic...

Overall the choice you likely be the most happy with over the long-term is generally the classic choice.  There’s a reason why there are more white colored cars around the world than any other color.  While you may not get the attention getting stares as a red car, in all likelihood you won’t get tired of a white car.  

My general rule of thumb when it comes to choosing a frame color that I know is a classic, safe bet is to make sure that the frame and the photograph have similar tones.  For example, a color photograph of a tree with brown tones will likely look great in a dark brown frame.  Here are a few examples...

Example (above):  The tan tones of the fisherman's hand, the fishing net, and the rainbow trout match well with our maple frame in honey. 

Example (above):  The white tones in the ocean wash pairs well with our maple frames in white.

Example (above):  The brown tones in the seats and the in brides skin and hair tones help bring in the shades of brown in the walnut frame.  (Print by Greg Balkin)

Also, it can’t go without saying that black frames are generally the thought of as the classic choice when it comes to framing any photograph.  Most any photograph will look good with a black frame.

But, sometimes, its not so easy to match the color tone of a frame to colors in the photograph.  This leads us to our next strategy....

2. Thinking Outside The Box...

This approach can be a little more risky, but the reward can be fantastic.  As with anything in life, it’s possible to minimize the risk of doing something by taking some steps to plan out your decision.

If you are having trouble visualizing what your photograph will look like in a certain colored frame try the following:

Tip - Make a color board.  This can be done in your home or on your computer.  Find a object around your home that may have similar tones and put them together to see what you think.  It’s also easy to do this on your computer.  On a Macintosh for example, either the programs Pages or Keynotes can let you create various shapes and adjust the color.  Copy your photograph over then play around with various colors to see what tones work.  

For example, recently I’ve loved the look of framing black and white prints in our dark brown walnut frames.  Conventional design wisdom usually says to avoid mixing black and brown tones, but I find that it looks fantastic.  

Example (above):  A black and white photograph framed in our dark brown walnut frame creates a different feel than a the typical black or white frames used for black and white prints.

Example (above):  Here's a good example of thinking outside the box with a frame choice.  While a black frame would have been a great choice, the brown in the walnut mixed with the blue, black, and white tones of the print creates a different feel to the overall look of the frame.  

It’s also important to keep in mind where in your home the art will be presented.  Take into consideration your paint color/wallpaper pattern and the furniture around it.  When making your color board place the objects near where the frame will hang.  

At Saw & Mitre we want you to be absolutely thrilled with how your art looks printed and framed on a wall.  If you’re having trouble choosing the color frame for your photograph, please send us an email at info@sawandmitre.com, we love helping out and providing design guidance (and often give on-the-spot discounts!).

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