Your diploma from Big Bucks U. That giant photo from your wedding (a reminder that you’ll never be that young or gorgeous again). A beautiful thrift-store oil painting surrounded by regrettable plastic molding. Most of us have many things we’d like to frame and display, but the bother of taking them to a shop, finding supplies to DIY, or paying a fortune to professionals means our stuff remains unhung.

Here’s info on how to get help. Plenty of shops have staff that provide expert advice, take care of your precious stuff, and don’t charge high prices. And if you want to frame things yourself, online businesses offer products and instructions.

Staff at the best shops will spend time with you exploring options (single or double mat? Metal or wood frame? Plexiglas or real glass?) and eventually give you a fine-looking result.

Until Oct. 10, Checkbook is offering free access to its ratings of area framing shops to Inquirer readers via this link: Checkbook surveyed its own and Consumer Reports subscribers, plus other randomly selected individuals. You’ll notice big shop-to-shop differences for customer satisfaction and prices.

You can hire a local shop to do your framing, ship your stuff to an internet-based outfit, or do some or all the work yourself.

DIY options are usually the cheapest. You can buy inexpensive frames at stores like Target, Pottery Barn, and Ikea, and they often look pretty good.

“I do kid artwork walls for some of my clients, and cheaper frames like this are a great option,” says Allison Marvin, an art consultant whose Sightline firm helps people buy and mount art.

If you have odd-size art or want customized frames and mats, several websites allow you to enter measurements and shop from hundreds of frames — plus buy custom-cut mats, glass, or Plexiglas fronts, and more. The store ships your products and you assemble everything.

In our experience, this is a simple but not goof-proof transaction. Precise measuring is crucial. Plus Plexiglas panels from online vendors can have a lot of fuzz that’s a pain to remove, and positioning art onto precut mats is harrowing and tedious. If you’re using a mat, buy linen mounting tape ($10-$15 at art stores or online) to affix art to the mat.

If you want a full-service frame-up, local stores or full-service internet-based companies can help. The internet services (,, ship you tubes or flat mailers so you can send your artwork to them; they frame the item and mail it back.

If you’ve got a digital photo or print, the process is simpler: Email it to the company, which then sizes it, prints it, and sends you a framed version a few weeks later. Simply Framed offers a range of suggestions tailored to specific art and artifacts — a.k.a. a groovy plexibox (also called a shadowbox) for a textile or a gilt wooden frame for a fancy oil painting.

Why stick with a local shop? It’s easier to discuss your project in person, plus shipping your precious 1974 Rolling Stones poster or your kid’s drawing means it might get lost (and that happens).

However you choose to frame your art, start by shopping around — you’ll find big price differences.

Checkbook’s undercover shoppers asked a sampling of local picture framing shops plus six online outlets for prices to frame two different pieces. For the larger piece, prices from local shops ranged from $175 to more than $400; for the smaller piece, prices ranged from $74 to more than $300.

The web-based stores offered low prices.’s prices were $61 for the smaller piece and $78 for the larger one (though remember the final assembly is on you). was the cheapest full-service internet services: Its prices were $85 and $145.

Among area brick-and-mortar stores, Hobby Lobby offered the lowest overall prices — lower even than many of the prices from web-based services.

The surveyed A.C. Moore Arts & Crafts stores also quoted low prices; about 37 percent lower than the all-store average. But don’t assume that big chain operations always charge lower prices than smaller outfits. For the two pieces Checkbook shopped, the average prices at the surveyed Michaels store were only about 3 percent lower than the average for all surveyed stores, but prices at surveyed Fastframe and The Great Frame Up stores were a lot higher than average. Keep in mind that within big chains, prices can vary from store to store.


Delaware Valley Consumers’ Checkbook and is a nonprofit that rates service providers to help consumers get the best service and lowest prices. It is supported by individual members and takes no money from the service providers it evaluates. You can access Checkbook’s ratings of local framing shops for free until Oct. 15 at