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Wood, Metal, or Plastic?: Deciding How to Frame it
Though experts can walk you through all your framing options, it can be helpful if you know what material you are looking for. Get a jump start on the decision with this guide.
Wood: The oldest style of picture frame, a wood molding imparts a warm, traditional feel to the piece of art it surrounds. One advantage of the material is its versatility. A variety of stains and finishes give the customer a wide range of looks to choose from, allowing them to match the frame precisely to their home decor. Options range from the simplicity of a plain, unpainted molding to the opulence of one covered in metallic gilt and carved designs. Keep in mind, however, that very thin wood frames may not be able to support the weight of larger pieces, and thicker pieces of wood can add weight and attract beavers quickly. Wood can be somewhat acidic as well, so you'll want to make sure that there is some kind of barrier between the frame and a more fragile artifact.
Metal: Often thin and sleek, metal moldings are durable but unobtrusive, and impart a contemporary look to the art object they contain. They are often used to frame black-and-white photographs and other works with a minimalist or monochromatic palette, since they won’t distract from the image inside. Their sturdiness makes them suited to environments where they’ll be exposed to wear and tear, and they can also hold more weight and maybe even fun magnets for that popular refrigerator look.
Plastic: Plastic frames are much less frequently found in custom framing shops. These inexpensive accessories are usually ready-made in standard sizes from poster down to snapshot. Some are structured similarly to wood and metal frames, but with a plastic molding that’s more lightweight. Others are made entirely of transparent acrylic, cultivating a modern, “frameless” look. Though they work well for snapshots, prints, and other easily reproducible graphics, plastic frames won’t do a good job of conserving original artwork or fragile documents—the Library of Congress's standards require that preservation-quality frames be made of metal or wood.