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Framing your work of art, painting, print or whatever can make or break its appearance. Below are some ideas, tips and examples for you to have a look at.
Your framer should be able to advise you on different styles available.


The matte is the cardboard that surrounds a picture. It should be chosen to both conserve the artwork as well as to compliment it. Make sure that when you choose a matte, that it is acid-free so that it won't stain your artwork. Then the colour should help to pick up the colours of the artwork as well. Don't let the matte overpower the artwork. Have a look at the mattes on the left. For this picture of 'The Infantryman', which is a picture in graphite lead and which is a combination of greys of varying tones, I decided to keep the theme going. I chose two mattes to make it a double matte. The lower matte only shows about 7mm of colour which is a cool grey. Above that matte is the warm grey which is about 100mm from edge to edge. You'll also note that I chose a black core matte for the upper matte and a white core (natural) matte for the lower. The black core matte, once cut, will show through the dyed fibres of the cardboard and give an outline to the image. This is especially noticeable in bevel cuts, ie cuts at angles less than 90 degrees (see below).


With this picture, we decided to use a triple matte; a dusky pink on the lower matte, a burgandy for the middle matte and the same dusky pink for the upper matte. You can see how the pinks pick up and compliment the skin tones of the girls and the burgandy compliments the russet colours of the hair.


A window cut is a great device for highlighting in or on mattes. It requires two mattes; one upper and one lower. The upper matte will have a window cut into it to reveal the lower matte and whatever else is being highlighted. You can see the bevel cut here where the cut is made at 45 degrees revealing the white of the fibres.


Shadow boxes are great for presenting larger items such as medals or badges. In the example at left, a set of Army Pilot's Badge (wings) is being presented. Because the badge is about 5mm thick, it makes it difficult to keep the matte flush, and so a spacer is incorporated in the framing. The result is a light shadow surrounding the item which helps to highlight it. The spacer is usually foamcore or other light material. In the image at left, you can see that by keeping the upper and lower mattes the same colour, the shadow is subtle.


Here is how a shadow box is designed. Note how the upper matte has been cut at 45 degrees (ie bevel cut).

Here is an example of a picture that has been framed using black core and a shadow box. The matte colour was chosen so as to not overpower the image because there were going to be distinct lines around the image from the black core. The larger outline is made by the frame itself, the colour of which was chosen to compliment the colour of the chalk used to create the image.

If you don't want to use two mattes, another way to incorporate a line around the artwork is to use a 'V' cut or groove. A 'V'-shaped groove is cut around the inner window revealing the white fibres of the cardboard. The result is a fine white line which surrounds the picture.




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Independent Productions and Aviation Services is the website of Conway Bown, Australian Army Official War Artist and Aviation Consultant. Services include portrait painting and other portraiture, aviation services such as CRM - Crew Resource Management - and Helicopter Underwater Escape Training - HUET - which may include Emergency Breathing Systems - EBS - training using Helicopter Aircrew Breathing Devices - HABD - or Helicopter Emergency Egress Device - HEEDs.

During 2006, Conway Bown deployed to the Middle East as the Australian Army's Official War Artist, what the US Armed Forces call Combat Artist. This website features the artwork created during this project as part of the Australian Army's Official Art Scheme.

For more information on War Art, Combat Artists, Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET), Emergency Breathing Systems (EBS) or Crew Resource Management (CRM), please visit the relevant webpages:

HUET - RHO Aviation

CRM - RHO Aviation

EBS - RHO Aviation

Official War Artist - IPAS.