Tools I Use For Framing

Tools I Use For Framing

I Frame My Artwork.

This is for two reasons. One, custom framing retail-wise is expensive. At the moment, I am preparing for my very first solo exhibition with twenty-three pieces to frame. If I used local framers, my budget would be exhausted before half my pieces were ready to hang. Two, I like to frame my pieces with a certain aesthetic that I don’t think I would be able to control using a local frame shop. I feel bad about not supporting local frame shops but an artist has to do what an artist has to do.

When I first started my own framing process, it took more than half a day to get two pieces framed. Full disclosure, I order frames from Custom Picture Frames. They carry a simple natural pine frame that’s perfect for presenting my work. I had a couple of hiccups with them, like busted or scratched non-glare acrylic. They immediately sent out a replacement at no cost.

art framing tools assembled on wooden butcher block tablelettered for description
My art framing tools.

My Framing Tools List

Following along with the lettered items in the photo, here are the tools I use and the reasons I find them useful.

A. Artist’s Tape. For adhering artwork to matting. If needed, I can remove the tape without damaging the artwork.

B. Measuring Tape. Hanging hardware should be placed one-third down from the top of the frame. I use the measuring tape to measure and mark where I should place the hanging hardware on the back of the frame.

C. Kneading Eraser. Sometimes the matting can have some scuff marks and a kneaded eraser can remove marks without damaging the mat.

D. Glue. This is the only place I dare use glue (if you’ve read my About page, you’ll know I am a disaster when it comes to using glue. I use a bit of glue to adhere my business card to the back of a framed piece.

E. Old Hand Towel. I could use something better but this works for holding onto the edges of the non-glare acrylic. I chose to use non-glare acrylic because it’s lightweight and I am really afraid of handling glass. I can just imagine the blood, the damaged artwork, the dispair! Anyway, an old towel (clean, by the way) is handy for managing the acrylic and removing bits of stray stuff that can get caught between the acrylic and matting. Framing in the dry winter air and its static cling made the process especially trying. (Insert lots of swearing under my breath here.)

F. Philips Screwdriver. Why is it called Philips anyway? Simply put, I need a Philips screwdriver to screw in the little screws that mount the hanging hardware on the back of the frame — one-third down from the top of the frame.

G. Gimlet. This is such an important tool. I am sure it has saved me from additional swearing under my breath. The gimlet allows me to create starter holes for the little screws so I don’t end up slitting the frame’s wood.

H. Little Stubby Screwdriver. Maybe it’s called a Steve or Stuart screwdriver. I don’t know. Anyway, this little guy saves my fingers from bleeding by prying up the metal prongs holding the foam core backing. I need to turn the prongs up to remove the backing, matting, and acrylic, next position and tape my piece to the matting, then put it all back together, turning the metal prongs back down with the screwdriver before adding hanging hardware and wire.

I. No. 2 Drawing Pencil. For marking where I should mount the hanging hardware on the back of the frame.

J. Scissors. Scissors will cut through the excess hanging wire. They always send a generous amount. Hanging wire should never be pulled taut across the back of the frame between the hanging hardware. Instead, there should be some slack to allow the wire to hang the artwork comfortably from a wall hook.

K. Personal Stamp. Not at all necessary for framing but rather my way of signing my pieces. My initial letter K for Kristin developed when I was very young and it stuck. I found a place that makes stamps from a graphics file so I had my own made to stamp the back of each framed piece and then sign my full name next to the stamped K.

L. Business Card. This has my studio name, contact information, website URL, etc. It’s important for artists to market themselves where ever they can. My work often has to stand alone and speak for itself as to who created the piece, how can the artist be contacted, and where can I find more of her work. I always glue a business card to the back of my framed pieces.

The obvious key to making my framing process go smoothly is to have all my tools assembled and easy to reach along with a clean tabletop. It’s helped reduce my compulsion for swearing under my breath.


Was this helpful? What would you add? I know some of this stuff could be terribly obvious. I also know I should probably show photos of the framing steps as listing the uses for the tools isn’t enough visually. Hopefully, you were able to follow along. My thinking is to help elevate the trepidation of framing your own works if you have never done it before.

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