Custom vs Ready Made: Which to Choose?

When it comes to framing artwork, photographs, or keepsakes, there are various options available, including off-the-shelf and custom frames. While both options have their advantages, they are not created equal. If you're unsure which one to choose, read on for a detailed comparison of custom and ready-made frames, and discover the benefits of each before ordering.

What’s the difference between a custom and ready-made frame?

Custom frames are frames that are tailored to fit a specific piece of artwork or photograph in terms of size and style. They are made to measure and designed to complement the item being framed. Because they’re made to a bespoke size, they can better protect your piece and increase its perceived value. Custom frames are typically made with high-quality materials and can be customised to meet your preferences, including budget and appearance.

Off-the-shelf picture frames, also known as ready-made frames, are pre-made frames that come in standard sizes and basic styles. These picture frames are mass-produced and can be found online in high-street shops. While they may be convenient and budget-friendly, they often look bland and lack the high-quality materials used in custom frames. Critically, however, they may not fit your artwork perfectly, which could compromise your item’s overall appearance and protection.

We allow you to choose the exact dimensions, materials, colours, and styles that suit your taste and complement your item.

Where can I buy frames?

Online custom framers, like eFrame, offer both custom and standard size frames. We allow you to choose the exact dimensions, materials, colours, and styles that suit your taste and complement your item. Custom frames, often called made-to-measure or bespoke frames, can also be found in traditional framing shops, although they are typically more expensive than buying from an online framer. Learn more about the benefits of online framing.

You don’t need to have your artwork or photograph printed before finding a frame. We allow you to print and personalise your frame together. This allows you to upload your digital image and print it to the desired size and quality before framing. However, if you have a physical print or artwork, all you need to do is measure it and tell us the dimensions – you can fit your picture at home yourself.

Is custom framing worth it?

With the key differences between custom and ready-made frames covered, let’s discuss why custom frames might be a better choice for you.

Personalisation and choice

When it comes to custom framing, one of the main benefits is the ability to personalise almost every aspect of the frame. Unlike off-the-shelf frames, where what you see is what you get, custom frames can be tailored to your heart’s content.

Here are some of the key elements of a frame that you can customise using an online framing tool like our design studio.

Frame material: With custom framing, you can choose from a range of materials, including wood, metal, and eco-friendly options that have PEFC and FSC certifications. We stock over 600 frame options in wood and metal.

Frame colour and finish: Custom frames come in a range of colours and finishes, from classic wood tones to bold metallics. The wide choice on offer means you can choose a frame that complements your artwork perfectly. Try matching the colour scheme of your artwork or photo, or select a contrasting colour to make it stand out. This choice allows you to create a cohesive design that complements your existing interior style, whether contemporary, traditional, or anything in between. Don’t hesitate to email us for expert advice or use online inspiration if you need a bit of creative help.

Mount colour, texture, and thickness: A mount is a decorative card border between the artwork and the frame, and it can have a big impact on the overall look of the piece. With custom framing, you can choose from a wide range of mountboards to complement your artwork. Try mixing and matching different mouldings with mount colours to understand what options are available and which would work best for your artwork and decor.

Consider choosing an accent mount that complements your artwork or photo by matching the colour of the mount with a prominent colour in the piece. This can help draw attention to the artwork or photo and create a cohesive look.

Glazing type: Custom frames offer a range of glazing options, including glass or acrylic, with different levels of UV protection and anti-reflective coatings. This helps protect your artwork or photo from damage and fading and allows you to showcase it in the best possible light.

With so many customisable options available, creating a frame unique to you and your piece is only possible by opting for custom vs ready-made.

The perfect fit

Another key benefit of custom framing vs choosing an off-the-shelf option is the ability to order a frame that fits your pictures’ dimensions to the millimetre. Our custom frames are individually crafted in the UK by our professional framers to match your item’s precise dimensions. By making a frame that fits perfectly, your picture can be fitted securely and will look better when hung on the wall. We have a handy guide on hanging your frames.

Unique sizes - tape measure
Explore all the frame sizes with our interactive frame size tool, and find the perfect frame in seconds

A well-fitted frame significantly improves the visual appeal of your artwork, accentuating its details and allowing it to take centre stage. In contrast, a poorly fitted frame can detract from its beauty and make it appear inexpensive. We have a measuring guide to teach you how to measure your picture to maximise visual appeal.

The flexibility ordering bespoke sizes provides ensures that even uniquely sized pieces can be displayed beautifully without compromising their integrity (cropping them to fit the frame).

A frame that fits your picture perfectly prevents any slipping or movement within the frame, which can cause creases or tears, ensuring the piece remains in its original condition. If your frame has a mount, use acid-free hinging tape to keep your artwork in place to prevent slipping.

Finally, you can order custom frames for non-flat items such as 3D objects or textiles. This is known as shadowboxing or object framing. Shadowboxing involves creating a space between the item and the glazing using a spacer, allowing the item to be displayed three-dimensionally. Object framing involves creating a custom frame that accommodates the depth of the item. If you have a non-flat item that you want to custom frame, it is best to choose a frame from our deep frame range and contact us to get a quote.

Quality materials that last

A frame manufactured using quality materials ensures your picture is properly protected and preserved from the damaging effects of ultraviolet light, moisture, accidental damage and insects. Custom frames offer a wide range of premium materials, including solid wood and aluminium, that provide superior durability and resistance to wear and tear compared to cheaper, off-the-shelf alternatives. Consider preservation framing for valuable or sentimental artwork.

Solid wood frames offer timeless elegance and natural warmth that can complement any artwork or photo. These frames come in various wood types, such as oak, pine, and walnut, and can be stained or painted in a range of colours to fit your style and d├ęcor, like black, white and gold.

On the other hand, aluminium frames offer a sleek and modern look that can complement contemporary artwork. These frames are lightweight and durable, making them an ideal choice for large or heavy pieces. They come in a variety of colours and finishes, too, including brushed, matte, and glossy.

In terms of glazing, UV-protective and anti-reflective glass or acrylic can be chosen. These premium glazing options help prevent fading and damage caused by sunlight while maintaining your artwork’s vibrancy and condition over time. You can learn more about our available glazing options here.

Finally, there’s a range of acid-free and archival-quality mounts and backing board materials. These are specifically designed to safeguard your artwork from discolouration, deterioration, or damage caused by the damaging chemicals found in standard mounting and backing materials like MDF. We have a range of conservation grade mounts as well as barrier board to keep your piece protected for years.

At eFrame, we offer a wide range of premium materials for custom framing, ensuring that your artwork or special items are properly protected and showcased. Contact our team of expert framers to discuss the best materials and options for your unique piece, and be confident that our frames will stand the test of time.

Protect your investment

Beyond materials, custom framers can employ conservation and preservation techniques to combat damage from insects, moisture, and other environmental hazards. If you send your artwork to us for framing, we use museum-quality techniques, adhering to the highest archival standards, ensuring your artwork remains protected for future generations.

Investing in custom framing services safeguards your artwork and boosts its value over time. A well-framed artwork can significantly appreciate in value, making it a wise and alluring investment for the future.

By harnessing high-quality materials and conservation and preservation techniques, custom framing guarantees protection against the elements, ensuring the beauty and value of your artwork endure for years to come.

The eco-friendly option

Generally speaking, there are more eco-friendly frames with PEFC and FSC certifications available when ordering a bespoke frame vs a ready-made frame.

Off-the-shelf frames often use low-quality materials and are made with little thought into their damaging effects on the environment. In contrast, custom framing utilises high-quality, sustainable materials with a reduced environmental impact. Additionally, custom framing allows you to repurpose old frames and materials, reducing waste and minimising your carbon footprint.

We take a responsible and sustainable approach to framing and strive to reduce waste, use sustainable materials, and minimise our carbon footprint.

PEFC & FSC Logos
Did you know? We plant nearly around 20,000 new trees each year to help preserve the environments from which our frames are sourced.

Alternatives to custom framing: When to buy off-the-shelf

While custom framing is an excellent option for preserving and showcasing your artwork or photographs, it may not be the best choice in certain situations.

Small budget

If you’re working with a tight budget, there may be better options than custom framing. While custom frames offer numerous benefits, they can be more expensive than off-the-shelf alternatives due to their personalised nature and premium materials. If cost is a concern, consider ready-made frames or alternative display options such as photo albums or digital displays.

We have a guide all about why framing can be expensive. Still, if you have your heart set on a custom frame, we also have some top money-saving tips as well as a range of cheap picture frames to suit all budgets.

You’re framing a low-value or replaceable piece

If you have a temporary or low-value picture that you don’t plan to keep for long, investing in custom framing may not be necessary. Off-the-shelf frames can provide adequate protection and visual appeal for these items. Additionally, if you plan to rotate your artwork or photos frequently, investing in custom framing for each piece may not be practical.

You can make your own

If you have the DIY skills and equipment to create a frame, why not try making one yourself? DIY framing can be a cost-effective and fun way to display your artwork or photos, allowing you to customise every aspect of the design.

Remember, each situation is unique, and there may be exceptions to these guidelines. If you need help determining whether custom framing is the right option for your piece, talk to one of our professionals for personalised advice.

Summing up

While custom framing offers many benefits for displaying and preserving your pictures, ready-made frames can be a practical option in certain situations. Custom framing provides precise sizing, personalisation options, more choice, high-quality materials, and superior protection, making it an ideal choice for valuable or sentimental pieces. However, if you’re on a tight budget or framing a low-value or replaceable item, a ready-made frame may provide adequate protection and visual appeal. Ultimately, deciding between custom and ready-made framing depends on your needs and preferences. Armed with the above, you can now ask yourself the following questions to determine whether a custom or ready-made frame is best for you.

  • What is the value of the piece being framed? If it’s expensive, go custom.
  • What is the size and shape of the piece? You can choose a made-to-measure or ready-made frame if it’s a standard size.
  • How important is the protection and preservation of the piece? If you have a throwaway piece, choose ready-made.
  • Do I want to personalise the frame’s style? If you want to create a one-of-a-kind look, choose a custom frame.
  • Do I want to match the frame to my existing decor? Custom frames offer a wider range of options, making it easier to copy an existing look.
  • What is my budget? Custom frames are normally more expensive, but because we manufacture everything in the UK, there’s no price premium for custom frames with eFrame.
  • Am I willing to pay more for high-quality materials and craftsmanship? Choose custom. Off-the-shelf frames are often made to a lower standard.

Find a frame today

Whether you need a custom or off-the-shelf frame, we can help.

Explore