How to Pick the Best Picture Frame Color and Style for Artwork

Still lifes, nature scenes, photography? Yep, there's a frame for that.

Frames for a stark still life
Photo: Michael Chini

There are several ways to maximize a piece of art, whether the art is a print, an expensive original, or you painted it yourself. (In fact, there are at least four options for every genre.) But even if you love gallery walls and large statement pieces, you may not know how to pull it all together.

So we asked an art expert for actionable advice on picking a cohesive picture frame color and style. Jeffrey Feigenheimer is A.I. Friedman's corporate framing director and has a ton of experience picking frames for iconic artwork. He shared a handful of simple design ideas for common artwork types you may have in your home.

01 of 04

Art Poster Options

Frames for an art poster
Michael Chini

A Color From the Poster

To make your poster the star of the room, choose a glossy metal frame in a bold color from the artwork. Just keep the frame's width under three inches so it doesn't overpower the image.

Natural Wood Shadow Box

A shadow-box frame makes a poster (or an inexpensive online print) appear more like real art. This one is 15⁄8 inches higher than the poster, which draws attention to the image. Ask for a mat that covers the lettering, even if it's wider at the bottom, for a look that's even more upscale.

Wide White Wood

A white two-inch matte frame is an excellent pick for a white wall. It makes the artwork seem lofty like it's floating. It's another way to give a poster a clean, polished look, even with visible lettering.

Narrow Black Metal

A poster's lettering can be just as graphic as the art itself. So when the text shines, Feigenheimer uses a frame that picks up on it, like a thin black one. This frame pairing is especially effective if the poster has a beautiful, bold font.

02 of 04

Soft Nature Scene Options

Frames for a soft nature scene
Michael Chini

Tinted Metal

A shimmery frame can modernize a traditional scene, like a seascape. Feigenheimer chose a warm pinkish tone to contrast the blues, but a cooler metal, like silver, will also work. A print's white border can serve as a mat. It's more casual.

Wavy White Wood

If you want to make a custom print look even more like the original artwork, frame it up to the edge, covering the white border. The example above is a beach scene, so Feigenheimer kept the look light with a white frame with grooves resembling waves.

Raw, Rustic Wood

The art's subject can inspire your frame choice. Whitewashed wood makes you think of a seaside cottage, so it's a natural fit for this scene. For a darker, woodsy landscape, Feigenheimer might use a rich-toned, knotted wood.

Narrow White Border

A lightly textured mat in a soft neutral can calm down a rough feature in your artwork, like a rocky mountain or billowing waves. Pair with a simple, thin white frame, making the mat your standout element.

03 of 04

Still Life Options

Frames for a stark still life
Michael Chini

Gilded Grandeur

If an image is clean and uncluttered, one option is to go to the opposite extreme with an ornate gold frame. The double mat with gold edging, called a fillet and comes with most frames, dresses it up even more.

A Color From the Painting

A simple trick is to focus on the object that stands out—here it's the watermelon—and pick a metallic frame in that shade. If you skip the mat, the color has more impact. Keep metal frames narrow; a slight shimmer is all you need.

Earthy Dark Wood

Chocolate brown is an excellent choice for warming up a crisp image like this. Ignore the wood furniture in the room and pick a brown close to the colors in the art instead. Feigenheimer likes a wide white mat to keep the look from getting too heavy.

Barely-there Border

To play up a dramatic aspect of the art, like a black background, pick a frame that matches. This frame is metal, but a lacquer frame would have the same effect. Revealing a portion of the print's white border gives the illusion of a double mat.

04 of 04

Cool Photograph Options

Frames for a cool photograph
Michael Chini

Light Wood + Woven Mats

Feigenheimer likes using mats to play up the color in a photo. Choose two that match the shades in the image—one deep hue and one lighter one, like this blue and green—in varied widths. A thin, neutral frame works with mats of any color.

Detailed Dark Wood

You can't go wrong if you take a cue from the photo's style. This one is retro. If you imagined the furniture in this woman's home, it would be pretty old-school. So Feigenheimer went with a stained beveled frame and a traditional linen matting.

Glossy Blue + Muted Mat

The texture of a piece of art is a great starting point for picking a mat. For example, to draw on the soft sweater and the deep blue skirt in the image, Feigenheimer used a blue lacquer frame and suede matting. The smaller second mat in the same color is just an elegant add-on.

Neutral Wood

A classic natural frame with a white mat makes the photo the main attraction. That's why galleries often use this combo. And it's so versatile that it works in any type of room, alongside all styles of furniture.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles