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Selecting the Best Online Custom Framing Service For You

Not so long ago, choosing a place to get a picture custom framed wasn’t so hard. Most communities had a couple of independent “Mom and Pop” framing shops. Then there were the big national craft stores that offered framing, and many malls also had custom framing stores. The choice was fairly simple, usually coming down to familiarity, price and convenience.


Now with the explosion of internet shopping and its promise of 24/7/365 convenience at the push of a button and pricing transparency, people have a much harder job picking an online custom framing. By latest count, there are more than 200 established online custom framing services available at your fingertips and more seem to be cropping up every week.


While you can find articles that rank various online custom framing services, those lists represent the opinion of the reviewer and don’t go into detail about the many different decisions that customers must make when selecting an online service, not to mention how to navigate the entire process in order to get the perfect frame for your treasured item.


Custom framing, by definition, is a custom process where you are in charge of the many design decisions required in creating an original, unique framed piece, whether it’s a picture, photograph, diploma, wedding or birth certificate or any other treasured memento.


Here are some tips to help you find the right online custom framing service for your special needs and a guide for making all the critical design decisions through the process.


Begin with Search


Online shopping usually begins with a search and over 70% start on Google. Typically when searching any popular search term, like “custom framing” or “custom frames,” Google presents links to paid advertisers’ websites first, so any company can rise to the top of a Google listing simply by paying for advertising. Savvy searchers go below those paid advertised listings to the ones’ that arise organically from their search.


But that presents a greater challenge because a search for “custom framing” presents over one million hits. That’s where narrowing a search with other terms helps. For example, if you require special services or desire a specific type of frame, include those terms in your search too.


Say you need a large frame for an oversized poster, add the term “big” or “large.” If you want museum-quality framing, add “museum” or “archival” to your search. Or, if you’d like a picture transferred to canvas rather than paper, adding “canvas” will help you find exactly what you are looking for.


Visit the “About Us” Page


Once you’ve found an online custom framing service that fits your search criteria, after browsing the site’s home page – its virtual “street-side” presentation online – go to its “About Us” description to decide if it’s a company you can trust.


The landing page is comparable to how a store might look from the street – its window display, door and signage. The street-side view helps a shopper decide whether they should open the door and check it out. But once the shopper opens the door, they take in all the other cues and clues that help them decide whether they actually want to shop and spend time in the store.


Likewise, an online shop’s home page makes the first impression, but its “About Us” page helps you decide whether it is an online website that you want to do business with. Do they have a compelling story about why they are in the custom framing business? What does their company stand for and is it a company you can trust?


If the online company’s home and “About Us” page passes muster, then it’s time to navigate the custom framing process. If it doesn’t, move on because there are plenty more to choose from.


Pick-and-choose guides take you step-by-step


Now that you’ve settled on an online framing service that you feel confident can serve your needs, it’s time to start the shopping process. Unlike picking a dress, a handbag or any other already-manufactured product online, custom framing is a completely customized, personalized experience. You have to choose more than just size and color to get what you want.


That is where a good online custom framing service should step in and guide you through the decision process. You’ll want to be sure the website hand-holds you through the process. A good online custom framing service should provide ample guides to help you navigate the design process.


Measure first


Even before picking the frame, you need to start with the size of your picture, or if it is a digital photographic image, the final image you want to display. For digital photographs too, you might want to crop or edit the image, so that is another consideration.


For more complicated items, such as collections of 3D objects, you may need to do more digging to see if shadow-box frames are available or whether the service accepts mailed-in items for framing. Not all online services do, so you may need to keep looking.


To mat, or not to mat, that is the question


With the piece’s original size defined, next you need to decide whether you want the picture matted or not. A mat adds dimension and drama to a framed picture and it can help make colors in an image pop, if colored mats are an option.


Some services offer standard one or two-inch mats, while others let you select a custom-sized mat. This may be important, especially if you have a small image to display. In that case, a wider mat will make the image appear that much larger.


A mat increases the final size of the picture frame and thus the final price, but many customers find it well worth the value since it draws even more attention to the framed image. And different colored mats can be layered to add even more dimension to the image.  Finally, when choosing a mat, look for archival-quality, acid-free paper for added protection.


Sky’s the limit in frames


Then comes the choice of frame: wood or metal, fancy moulding or simple, colored or neutral, thick or thin. All kinds of options are available and many good online custom framing services offer a visual display so you can see what the final framed piece will look like right on the screen.


Some even allow you to upload the image, most especially if you are framing a digital photograph.


Before making a final selection, think about how the frame style matches the picture’s style and how it fits in the overall scheme of your home and other framed pieces on your walls.


Remember, the picture and the frame must meld to give one attractive visual presentation.


Clear cover protects


And a final choice in the custom framing process is selecting your choice of glazing, that is the transparent barrier that sits between the contents of any picture frame and the outside environment. Glazing choices generally are glass and acrylic.


Plain-old glass might be the basic choice, but ordinary glass may actually obscure the image because of reflections and glare. That’s where an anti-reflective coating comes in. It allows the true colors to come through and virtually eliminates reflections so you can view your picture without distraction.  And many times, high-quality glass provides a level of UV protection so colors won’t fade.


Setting a budget


Each stage of the online custom framing process may add cost to the final package. A good custom framing service clearly displays the costs associated with each choice as you are designing your piece. That kind of price-as-you-go transparency will avoid sticker shock at the end and allow you to choose different options at each step to keep within your budget.


As for setting a budget, that depends upon so many different factors. It is hard to approach custom framing with a strict budget. It’s best to give yourself a price range beforehand and try to work within it.


But remember, your custom-framed item will be designed to last a lifetime, so think of it as an investment, not a frivolous expense.


What You Get


If you are sending a digital photograph for framing, the online framing service will deliver the final custom piece to you. But if you ordered a custom frame online for a picture or item in hand, you can expect to receive a box with the frame and all the individual pieces, including mat and hanging hardware, ready to put together and mount on the wall.


It then becomes a simple do-it-yourself project and takes only minutes with instructions included in your package. When handling your piece, be sure not to fold it, crimp it or stain it, so work with clean hands and on a large, flat surface that gives you plenty of room to spread out.


Final Considerations


Before clicking the buy button, another thing to consider is the shipping time. Since custom-framing services make-to-order, the turnaround time could be a couple of days to a couple of weeks. You’ll need to allow enough time for your order to be filled and shipped. This is especially important as the holiday gifting season approaches.


In closing, no online custom framing service does it all, though most can satisfy your basic needs. What’s important is that you choose an online service wisely, using the information on the company’s home and “About Us” page to guide you.


Then look for a website that can guide you step-by-step through the design process, which involves a number of decisions that will determine the final outcome of your custom design. Then, take the plunge and let your inner artist design the perfect custom frame to spotlight your treasured item on the walls for you, your family and guests to enjoy.

This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.