How To Frame a Watercolor Painting?

Did you ever stare in awe at a beautiful watercolor painting in an art gallery and wish you could hang a similar artwork at your home? Or maybe a watercolor painting displayed at an exhibition enthralls you enough that you decide to purchase it, no matter the price?

Well, you are certainly not to blame! Watercolor paintings are unique in the delicate, subtle way each brushstroke makes the subject of the painting come alive. It might not be as majestic as oil paintings, but the beautiful soft blending hues and smooth textures give the watercolor painting its distinct aura. 

Good art is a treasure. If you have a watercolor painting given to you or one you painted yourself, framing the artwork is necessary to preserve it for years to come. Also, beautiful art deserves a grand display. Imagine an exquisite frame hanging in the walls of your living room! A framed watercolor painting truly enhances the quality of its surroundings.

How Does Watercolor Work? 

Watercolor comes in multiple sets accompanied by various brushes varying according to the thickness and color palette. The finely grounded color pigments combine with a water-soluble such as gum Arabic. Finally, the artist pours the desired colors into the palette and mixes some colors to produce different hues. 

The artist then dips the colored brush into a small water bowl and paints the first stroke on paper or other water-absorbent surfaces. With each confident brushstroke, the water quickly evaporates, and the pigments bound by the gum Arabic stay on the surface paper, reflecting the artwork in progress.

Why Watercolor Painting Needs a Frame?

Of course, an attractive frame accentuates the beauty of a watercolor painting. But there is more to framing than just decorating the art. Watercolor paintings are vulnerable to light and moisture. If kept unframed, the colors gradually fade, and the paper brittles and turn yellowish. In addition, the watercolors are sensitive to the UV rays of the sun. 

So framing is essential to protect the original form and quality of the watercolor painting. You would not want to buy an expensive art and let it wither away without a frame.

So how to frame a watercolor painting? Let’s give you a detailed guide! 

Archival Framing

Now, you can take your painting to a professional framer, maybe provide a few inputs, and wait for its completion. But professional framing is often pretty expensive and might take time. Moreover, you have to depend on the choices of the framer regarding the materials used to frame and how the final framing turns out. 

But you can create your custom framing at home using the archival technique. Archival or conservation framing involves using materials that help sustain the original condition of the painting and prolong its life. 

The archival method protects the painting from external factors like light, temperature, humidity, and dust. The technique is also reversible; there will be no traces of damage on the art when removed from the framing package.

What Are the Essential Archival Materials?

  • The archival framing includes:
  • Frame
  • Glazing glass
  • Mats
  • Hinging techniques
  • Mounting board
  • Frame back

Choosing The Right Frame

The style of the frame depends on your tastes. It can be a wood or metal frame, carved, inlaid, or gilded. Keep in mind that your watercolor painting should be the focus. The frame serves the purpose of attracting viewers to the artwork, not to itself. 

So, while the style needs to be appealing, it should not divert attention from the actual painting.

It is better to keep it classy yet simple. Try to avoid over decorative, detailed frames with intricate carvings. While a giant oversized frame shrinks the painting, a barely fitted frame equally disrupts the essence of the painting.

So, make sure you choose a frame that complements the painting both in terms of size and style.

The size of the frame should be deep enough to hold the painting with the mat. First, measure your painting size and the size of the mat. Then calculate the new dimensions and choose the frame that fits the matted painting the best.

The frame also depends upon the subject and context of the painting. Let’s give you an example. Suppose you have an impressionist painting; you should not frame it with the Louis IV frames. The heavily ornamented gold French frames do not qualify with the vibrant colors of impressionist art. But, again, a painting of the Italian countryside suits well with an Italian-styled frame.

Also, the setting is irrelevant to the frame; what solely matters is the painting. If you are putting the frame in your room, don’t choose a frame color that matches the walls of your room. Instead, look at what goes best with the watercolor painting. 

White or any light color is most popular with modern painting frames, while you can also use gold, silver, bronze, or copper-toned frames to give a more classic outlook.

Importance Of Matting

Mat serves two functions. One is to prevent the artwork from touching the glass, and the second is to create a visual depth between the painting and the frame. It is exactly why the mat is so vital in selecting the proper frame size. Always leave out a few inches for the mat while choosing your frame.

As the matboard directly attaches to the painting, you need to choose the color wisely. Most paintings have mats with neutral tones like white, cream, or beige. A brightly colored mat would prove to be a distraction to the original painting.

But that doesn’t mean you cannot use a colored mat. Some colors go well with watercolor paintings. Closely study your painting and observe the application of various colors. You can choose a color for the mat that is either dominant or used in subtle tones in the painting. For example, if the painting doesn’t have white, the white color of the mat could seem very off.

Most importantly, your matting needs to be acid-free, based on cotton. It is the most vital step of archival framing. The acid will leak into the artwork and fade the colors, turning the piece brownish. So, all your archival materials, including mat, mountboard, and frame backing, must be 100% acid-free. 

Hinging Techniques

Archival hinging requires you to hinge the matted painting to the acid-free mountboard to secure and align the painting from falling off. Look for acid-free Japanese paper hinges and rice-starch paste to hinge. 

Please avoid using any adhesive to mount as it is not reversible and can damage the artwork. The most popular archival hinges include the t-hinge and the folded hinge.

Glazing Glass

Watercolor is a light-sensitive medium, and long exposure to sunlight potentially damages the watercolor painting. So, the glazing glass protects the painting from the harmful UV rays of sunlight and fluorescent lighting. In addition, the mat prevents the painting from touching the glass directly. Otherwise, the condensation inside the glass could interfere with the artwork. 

The glass also acts as a barrier from dust and moisture. You can use Plexiglas or real glass; while Plexiglas is lighter than real glass, it scratches frequently, and you cannot use glass cleaners to clean Plexiglas. 

Steps To Frame Your Painting

Now that you know the essential requirements of framing a watercolor painting, let’s get down to creating the frame and finally hang it!

First of all, accurately measure your watercolor painting. The frame and mat board details depend primarily on your art size. It is preferable to buy a readymade frame and other archival materials according to your taste and preference. 

You can make the frame if you want, but mind you, it is pretty hard and time-consuming to create the correct frame angles.

So now you have all the archival materials along with the watercolor painting. Let’s begin framing!

#1 Carefully clean the glazing glass. Avoid leaving fingerprints on the glass and remove all dust.

#2 Flip the frame over and straighten the flexible framing pointers. Next, take out the mountboard and mat. 

#3 Cut the mat board according to the desired size to fit with the artwork. Remember not to cut a mat equal on all sides. It looks way better (when attached to the painting) if the cut is a bit wider at the bottom compared to the top and the sides. You can also use double or triple mats that work well with watercolor. 

#4 Attach half of a hanging tape on the painting and the other half to the back of the mat board.

#5 Flip and position the painting carefully. Use your thumb to press over the taped area and make sure the tape sticks to both the artwork and the mat.

#6 Put the matted painting inside the frame and the glazing glass.

#7 Use the paper hinge strips to attach the foam core mounting board to the mat. 

#8 Hold the frame on both sides and flip over. Observe the front of the frame to see if the painting is in the correct position and alignment.

#9 Flip over again and firmly bend down the framing pointers. 

#10 Seal the back of the frame with the framing back from top to bottom, using the framing tape.

#11 Hang the back of the frame with a wire or a nylon cord.


That’s it! Hang your favorite watercolor painting in a beautiful frame at home. You know prolonged sunlight is harmful to the artwork, so avoid hanging it on walls exposed to direct sunlight. 

You can preserve your framed painting in dim or incandescent lighting. Choose your framing details with time and care to treasure your beautiful painting for years to come!

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