Framing Something Important the Frame Shop Guy's Way

When I first moved to Charlottesville, I stumbled upon a shop called The Great Frame Up when I was looking for someone to cut a custom sized mat for something I wanted to frame.  I don't remember what I was framing, but it was a odd shape and none of the standard mats sold at Michael's would work. The Michael's framing department said they'd cut the custom mat, but I'd have to wait several days.  They obviously didn't do the work in-house.

The person who helped me at The Great Frame Up was so nice that I keep going back.  Though I only buy mats there, they always treat me like a valued customer.

The space where they have been for years was empty the last time I drove my and I was relieved to find them in an even more convenient location for me, a little shopping center called Rio Hill.  The new space is brighter and more open than the old one.

Let me stop for a second and say that I've gone into this place a lot, but always alone. On this occasion, my husband came with me. I should have known that he'd know someone in the shop. As soon as we walked in, the guy behind the counter greeting us like we were old friends...and it wasn't because I've had a bunch of mats made here.

Back to the task at hand. I had an inexpensive Ikea Ribba frame and a standard sized enlargement of my wedding bouquet to be framed. Ikea frames come with funky-sized Ikea mats. With some photos, the Ikea mat works just fine, but my image needed a custom mat.

We laid out some options. Marc and I have a dumb shtick we do when it comes to different shades of white. I know he can't tell the difference, but I ask "which one do you like?" anyway. He answers "the white one."  Lame, I know.

There's a particular mat that looks great with white, Ikea frames. I don't know if mat labeling is universal, but at The Great Frame Up, the mat is C13xx (I don't remember the last two digits). Even when I walk in thinking I'm going to do something different, I wind up with C13.

Though I make an effort to buy custom mats, I tend to do a pretty slacker job on framing. I tape the photo to the back of the mat and slap everything together. My sloppiness once caused me to ruin a treasured photo from my childhood, so I've learned to use Kyle the frame guy's method instead.

1.  Put on special photo handling gloves. Just kidding. I don't do that. I appreciate that Kyle does.
2.  Position photo on the backing with the mat over it. Hold the photo down and take the mat off. This seems so lame, but if you don't hold the photo down pretty hard, it's going to shift, even if you think you're pulling an Indiana Jones move.

 3. Using photo safe tape (found at craft and office supply stores), attach a couple strips of tape to the photo, sticky side up.

4. Now tape the photo to the backing by laying strips of tape across the tape you just placed.  You're almost making a T with the base of the T going behind your photo.

That's it. I couldn't believe I never knew this little method. My old, lazy way of framing sometimes led to photos that slipped or shifted in the frame.

Kyle taped my photo right to the back of the Ikea frame. He said it really wasn't all that necessary to use some sort of liner.


I almost didn't blog about this because I assumed I was the last person to learn that this is how to frame something. Is this new to anyone else?


  1. If you only knew how many times I looked like an idiot trying to make sure my photo was in the window the the matte and taped it to the matte, you would no longer seem silly. Thanks for the tips! I also need to go and invest in some photo tape now.

  2. I just learned the proper way to frame last month and it blew my mind. Not too hard, if print is larger than the mat! After I got the knack, i went around the house fixing all our haphazardly framed prints. :)

  3. This might explain why my photo "slip" after awhile. Thanks!

  4. In the realm of preservation framing, we like to use acid free foam core to back treasured photos, as it will last the life of the photo, and wont ever harm or degrade, whatever it is backing

  5. What is the photo safe tape like? Is it just as strong?

  6. Thanks for sharing! I had no idea and this will really come in handy when we move & have more room for framed photos.

  7. I had NO idea. I've been doing the same as you and knew I was doing it wrong, but didn't know any better. I'll try this next time!


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