How To Choose Picture Frame Color

How do you choose a frame color for your print? Can you mix frame colors in a room? What about wall color, should that be taken into consideration?

Surfing No 9 - Fine art print by Cattie Coyle Photography in frame shop
Above: Surfing No. 9 in a black frame without mat

I get many questions about frames, and which frame color to choose is one of the most asked. In this post, I share my opinions, along with some great advice from framing experts Tara Gavin, On The Wall Framing, and Dara Deshe, Simply Framed, and interior designer and builder Rebecca Lincoln, Coastal Dwelling Design & Build

What color frame should I get?

Cattie Coyle, Cattie Coyle Photography
Generally speaking, I love a white or natural wood frame for a coastal, beachy feel, with a mat if you want it a bit more formal, and without a mat for the most casual look. For a classic and more traditional gallery-style feel, go with a black frame with a white mat. To make it slightly less formal, use the black frame without a mat. Having said that, it’s important to always take the art into consideration too; a very light and minimal image can get a bit lost in a white frame and mat. And sometimes black is a bit too harsh for a very delicate picture. You don’t want the frame to overwhelm the art.

Frame color feels per Cattie Coyle PhotographyPrint pictured above: California Dreaming No. 1

Dara Deshe, Simply Framed
The most common mistake we see is choosing a frame to match the home rather than complement the art. Since design trends change, we recommend picking a frame that is timeless and can work from room to room. Our go to is a black, white, or natural frame.

Rebecca Lincoln, Coastal Dwelling
I do stick to white frames. I want the art pieces to sing praise to whatever they are showcasing, whether it’s a picture or a painting. However, it does depend on the space, home, and art piece too; a rustic barnwood or driftwood frame can work wonders for a unique art piece, especially landscapes.

Tara Gavin, On The Wall Framing
My favorite frame color will always be black. it is timeless and if I had to choose one to use for the rest of time that would be the one! As long as it were available in varying widths.

What’s the best frame color for black and white photos?

Cattie Coyle, Cattie Coyle Photography
I usually choose black frames for black and white prints, occasionally a darker natural wood, but most often, a black frame is my first choice. 

Tara Gavin, On The Wall Framing
Once again I will typically default to black unless the black and white is more of a soft or somewhat “white washed” black and white. In that case I will likely use white as the black might seem little harsh.

Palm Trees No 1 - Fine art print by Cattie Coyle Photography

What’s the best color frame for Sepia photos?

Cattie Coyle, Cattie Coyle Photography
I always go with black frames for sepia or warmer toned black and white images as well.

Tara Gavin, On The Wall Framing
I rarely see sepia these days. Like everything else, perhaps it has come back into style? I would probably use black for Sepia photos because sepia tones are warm and the warmth of those tones can compete with a white frame and make the frame or the photo look “dirty."

Can you mix frame colors in a room, or do all picture frames need to match?

Cattie Coyle, Cattie Coyle Photography
I say yes, you can absolutely mix them! It all depends on the look you’re going for. For a streamlined, minimalist look, stick to one frame color and matting style. But you could also go in the totally opposite direction and mix in anything you want, including 3-dimensional unframed items. In our old home, I had a gallery wall of sorts that included some of my photos, framed both with and without mats, drawings by my Dad, my Grandfather’s camera, a vintage globe, etc. A wild mix, but every item had a special meaning to me, and I loved how eclectic it was.

Rebecca Lincoln, Coastal Dwelling
No, they don’t necessarily need to match. You will always have to ask yourself how eclectic you want the gallery wall to feel. If you prefer cleans lines and symmetry, always stick with the same frame and same sizing. If you want to jazz it up a bit, mix in clean white frames with vintage or rustic frames for an added unique feel to your gallery wall.

Tara Gavin, On The Wall Framing
Frames DO NOT need to match. In fact, it is more interesting when they don’t. If we happen to be doing a gallery wall we will sometimes match the frames but in an entire room with many walls, we like to mix the frames for visual interest and to work with each individual piece. If every piece is calling for a black frame, we will then vary the widths of the frames for visual interest.

Gallery wall by On The Wall Framing for Michelle Berwick Design
Above: Gallery wall by On The Wall Framing for Michelle Berwick Design. Interior photography by Mike Chajecki.

Can you mix black and white picture frames?

Cattie Coyle, Cattie Coyle Photography
In my opinion, yes. I probably wouldn’t place just one black frame on a wall with 4 white frames, I’d perhaps do 2 black and 3 white frames to balance it out a bit better, while still taking into consideration the best frame color for the art.

Tara Gavin, On The Wall Framing
You absolutely can, but when I decide to mix frame colors on say a gallery wall, I will often choose a third color such as a white oak or even a slightly bronze option depending on the room and the art. If I am mixing colors, I will go for it!

Magoito No 12 by Cattie Coyle Photography in customer's house

Do you take wall color into consideration when choosing frames? Can you put a white frame on a white wall?

Cattie Coyle, Cattie Coyle Photography
I say absolutely, I always choose the frame color based on the art, not the wall.

Tara Gavin, On The Wall Framing
I don't typically take the wall color into consideration. I always tell people to choose the frame to match the art and not the room. And yes — I have white frames on my own white walls!

How about you, what do you think is the best frame color for art prints? Do you have a favorite? What do you think about mixing frame colors in a room? Share in the comments below!

In situ photo of Magoito No. 12 kindly shared by private customers in East Hampton, NY.

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