Wood, Metal or Plastic: Which frame should I get?

The material (wood, metal or plastic) of the picture frame has a definite impact on the look of the picture being framed. There are a number of considerations that will help determine which material will best suit the picture:

  • Size of the picture to be framed. The larger the picture, the larger the frame required. This is especially true if you plan to add matting to the picture. Wood picture frames can get quite heavy the larger it gets and will require strong hanging equipment.
  • Aesthetics. Vintage picture frames typically use wood or filigreed metal. Meanwhile, contemporary designs such as gold or silver picture frames would naturally use metal or plastic that mimics the look of metal. Consequently, the design of the picture frame should complement the overall look of the wall gallery or room.
  • Budget. The cheapest option would be plastic but high-end plastic frames may even cost the same or more than metal or wood frames. The prices of wood and metal frames may be comparative. However, antique picture frames (whether made of wood or metal) will fetch higher prices. Aside from the type of material, other factors that affect cost include type of glazing, use of convex lenses or additional features for the glazing (i.e. UV protection, visual clarity).

To help you make a more informed choice, below is a comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of the different type of frame molding:

  • Wood. Wooden picture frames are ideal for portraits and classic artwork. These types of frames provide a wide variety of colors and finishes, including natural wood finishes as well as matte or glossy finishes. The same goes for molding styles – wooden picture frames come not just with round or flat molding, but with more intricate details and designs. This is ideal if you are going for a classic look or if you plan to use convex lenses. Wood also seems more cozy and inviting. Conservationally speaking, wooden frames allow the easier attachment of a dust cover so that the photo is well-protected from the entry of dust and dirt. However, wood, when not preserved carefully, can fall victim to warping and distortions. Wood is also heavy. Thus, you are limited as to the size of the frame. Wooden picture frames should be kept well-ventilated and away from sources of heat or cold, such as the furnace or heating vents.
  • Metal. Metal picture frames look cooler, bolder and more modern. These frames are ideal for modern photos, black and white photos or abstract art. With metal molding, you also have a wide choice of colors and finishing. The colors tend to be more longer-lasting and brilliant. Metal picture frames are more durable as it resists warping. However, you cannot easily place a dust cover at the frame’s back, which leaves the frame prone to the entry of dust and dirt.
  • Plastic. By far, plastic picture frames are the most affordable option. There are also some types of plastic molding that can mimic wood or metal. However, plastic frames tend to be more flimsy, as these are generally made with foam or pressed paper fillers inside a hollow shell.
20th Jul 2014 Eric Morgan

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