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Easy and Budget-Friendly Ways to Display Posters

Perhaps at one time in your life you were OK with hanging your beloved posters up by Scotch tape.  You just ignored the shiny glare of the taped down corners and admired the beauty of the content. When you moved, you would ever so carefully attempt to take the poster down, but sometimes you ripped it or the paint (goodbye deposit!) off the wall. After your 5th move, your poster looked more like some garage band's flyer ripped down from some kiosk in the front of a head shop instead of a piece of meaningfulness.

Now you are older and wiser and you know that you want your posters and fine art prints to look nice and to stay that way.  However, you are also really busy and don't have time to deal with getting something professionally framed. You don’t want to have to leave the house and go talk to someone at some frame shop and make decisions (ivory, ecru, or arctic white matting?) and then spend four times as much on some mahogany frame as you did on the art. So, you just poo-poo the idea of buying unframed artwork, no matter how cool you think it is. 

Stop being so sensible. You can totally buy cool posters and display them without spending tons of money or, in some cases, even leaving your house.

The first assumption people have about framing posters or fine art prints is that they have to mat it.   Matting can be tricky.  Matting is named for the material, the mat board, which will showcase your poster within its frame.   It can get really complicated as far as having to decide on the mat board's width, thickness, and finish. On top of that, some posters and prints are double-matted! As I am cheap and lazy, my first inclination is just not to bother with adding a mat board and, to be quite honest, I typically don't.  However, I do like the polished look (when complimentary to the art) and sometimes I need to cover a pretty big blank space, so increasing the poster’s width and height via over-sized matting and framing can be great fixes, so I am totally open to it.  My advice to you is to pick your frame first and go from there. 

For example, my poster Mariana looks pretty sophisticated in this frame without matting. I especially love how the frame's raised wooden dots replicates the series of dots within the artwork:

ocean inspired art by angie curneal palsak

However, I cannot imagine my (Reality + Time)  poster on display without matting:

red and maroon swirls abstract art angie palsak

From my perspective I feel that the added border of the white mat board helps the eye to really focus on the design.  However, perhaps if I found some space-aged looking Mid-century modern chrome frame, I may feel differently. There is no right or wrong answer to this! 

If you do want to mat and frame your poster you should consider going to your local framer (I always like to keep it local) and start the conversation out by being very specific about your price range. See what he or she can do for you. 

If you are not satisfied with that price or do not have any local framers, I recommend going to a chain store which has a framing department when they are having a sale.  I never buy any of my frames for full price because department stores and chains all play the same game with their prices:  one day the frame is $50.00 and the next day it is on sale for 50%.  Keep your eyes opened and be patient. Framing sales happen about twice a month, usually a few weeks before a holiday (“Let’s give mom a framed picture of us!”) and then immediately after (“Let’s frame that photo of mom opening her picture!").  I am not knocking those stores as I have purchased some really pretty frames from them.  However, you will need to examine the frames closely as they are often nicked and scratched.  (Like your milk from the dairy case, you will want to grab from the back.)  Also, be sure to note whether or not you need to attach a hanging device to your frame.  Quite often the frame will have D-rings installed which means you need to add your own wire. (Not that hard, but be aware that you can slice the fingers up if you don’t have wire cutters and insist on cutting through the wire with a combination of scissors and a steak knife.) If you are lucky you can find a frame with a good ol’sawtooth hook.  Easy-peasy! Just hang the damn thing!

If you are not finding any frames you like or are feeling overwhelmed and cannot make up your mind, you should consult with the in-store framer.  He or she can help you pick out a custom-made frame and possible matting.  Again, the prices can be very reasonable when there is a sale, so do not rule this option out.  (A word to those who hate leaving the house:  if you go this route you may need to pick the finished piece up at a later time.) However, that being said, working with the store’s framer can be fun as the framer typically will be an artist him or herself and will respect that you are trying to make the word a prettier place by displaying art.  You can usually get a nice hook and wire added for two dollars or sometimes even free, when working with a framer. 

One thing to know is that my posters do not have a one-inch border (as typically recommended for framing).  Why?  Because I think they look great framed without a mat and if you buying a 16x20 frame (which can sometimes be easier to find than a 17x21 inch frame) you are going to have to trim off that one-inch border anyway. So, if you want to buy one of these "snap it together frames" from Walmart ($5.99!) or some other dealer of cheap goods, I say go for it.  I do not believe that you have to mat fine art prints or posters unless that is the look you are going for.  Also, keep in mind that if you are going to be using a lot of framed artwork in the same space, you may want to consider consistency in the framing style.  So, if you have one piece without a mat and framed in black plastic, then you may want the other pieces to be as well. 

Don’t forget that frames can add further drama and polish to your pieces.  For example:

This yellow frame ( gives the yellow bricks further continuity in Follow?

Check out what this amazing person (Danish architect and designer Jorgen Moller) invented:  It doesn’t look that complicated to put together and only costs $17.95.  I haven’t purchased one myself, yet, only because I found this amazing magnetic poster frame on Amazon from a company called Benjia:

It only cost $13.99 for the 16x20 hanging set and there is literally nothing to it:  two strips for the top and two strips for the bottom.  I used mine to hang this poster right by my back door. The magnetic strips are weighted enough that the poster doesn't even move in the breeze! 

Another alternative to framing (but not quite Scotch tape) are the poster putties on the market.  I have not tried any of those, so I improvised with some masking tape. One wall in my basement is covered with chalkboard contact paper.  So, I hung one of my posters on it and then drew a frame around it.  Kinda cute:


milkshake art by angie curneal palsak

And finally:



art on display

This is a fun little corner in my basement. I think my poster Khaos fits in with my perpetual Halloween decorations and my husband's Dio tapestry, wouldn't you agree?  Instead of hanging the poster up, I just leaned it against the stool.  If I get sick of look at it, all I have to do is move it somewhere else and, best thing ever, there will be no lonely nail in the wall left without purpose. Furthermore, this non-permanence can lead to more daring artistic choices and experimentation with color and design. In fact, I am actually in the process of designing some seasonal art.  More to come soon! 

Well, I hope this relieves any anxiety or apprehension you have about buying unframed artwork.  You should totally go shopping now!  Shop here