Picture frames on a budget: Best tips to save money when framing

The ascendance of online framing companies has heralded a new, low-cost way of getting your art framed. Our research shows that the cost of online custom framing services are about 70% cheaper than the high street - happy days! With that said, there are still plenty of ways to go further and save even more of your hard-earned cash.

Whether you’re working with a limited budget or simply can’t justify the inexplicable prices that some picture framing companies charge we’ve got a few industry insider tips to help you save money on your next purchase. When looking for decorative accessories to finish off the look of your home, price all too often can get in the way. You’ve already blown the budget on a new sofa or flooring and now there’s not much left for framing your pictures. Sound familiar?

We hear it a lot. Frames are often considered towards the end of an interior refresh and, whilst picture frames are some of the most affordable ways to breathe new life into your room, it can be tricky to find the right product for the right price. Fortunately, our website caters for every budget, and since we make each frame to customers individual specifications you can be as thrifty or extravagant as you please. We even have a dedicated range of cheap frames for those needing picture frames on a tight budget.

What can make framing expensive?

Before we start looking at some money saving methods it’s worth knowing what influences the cost of a framing; below is a quick recap:

  • Frame design – the design of your frame (eg. simple or ornate) and the materials it’s made from (eg. wood or aluminium) will affect the selling price. All things being equal you’ll find that a wide ornate wooden frame moulding will be more expensive than a simple narrow aluminium moulding.
  • Additional options you choose – any options that will increase the time spent making your frame will typically lead to a higher price. Adding accessories too, like mountboards and hanging hardware, will also increase the price you pay. Decorative mount options such as v-grooves and double mounts (or accent mounts) will push the price even further up.
  • Design it yourself or face-to-face consultancy – the level of involvement during the design process with your framer can drastically increase or decrease the overall price. As they say, time is money; so the hours spent with a professional picture framer (talking through the various options and designs) will be costed into the frames selling price. However, online framing like eFrame, provide you with DIY guides (measuring and design suggests etc.) to allow you to make the choices on your own – saving time and money.
  • Quality – some framers set out to keep costs low at the expense of quality; for instance, they might use a weaker moulding made from plastic or MDF. Conversely, independent custom framers will more than likely use sustainably sourced wood to craft your frames. As a rule of thumb, you’ll get what you pay for, so we’d advise steering clear of the cheapest frames available as they won’t last anywhere near as long as a quality product. There’s a general law of diminishing returns so we think there’s a happy middle ground to be found regarding price and quality.
  • Printing – your cost-saving journey doesn’t end with the frames, if you’re planning on getting artwork printed and fitted as well then it’s worth making sure you know exactly what you’re getting and how much it’s costing in advance. This means you should know the paper quality, the print quality and the quality of the ink. The last thing you want is to spend more on a print just to see it fade a few months later.
  • Delivery and the speed of production – make sure if it’s a gift or for a project deadline that you place an order with plenty of time to spare to avoid needing to pay for priority production and dispatch.
  • Quantity – generally speaking, if you buy more frames you will save some money, so check out our frame quantity discounts.

As a rule of thumb, you’ll get what you pay for, so we’d advise steering clear of the cheapest frames available as they won’t last anywhere near as long as a quality product.

Identify your requirements early

Now we know what can affect the cost of a frame, your first money-saving step is to identify the purpose of your frame. Is it simply a decorative accessory or will it be used to protect the artwork too? Not understanding this simple question may mean that you end up spending on features and accessories you don’t need, such as barrier board. There are other factors you need to consider before starting to customise your frame, such as:

  • Your budget – only spend what you’re comfortable with, but remember that your budget should be proportional to the value of your artwork. An off-the-shelf frame that’s worth £5 will not adequately protect a valuable piece of artwork.
  • The picture you’re framing – do you need your frame to protect valuable or sentimental artwork? If your artwork is irreplaceable then you’ll need to make sure you’re using conservation grade materials, like barrier board and UV-glazing. These options will add costs but will serve to protect the value of your asset.
  • The frame style – the kind of moulding that fits your interior, where you might hang it and the style of artwork your framing will all affect the design of frame you choose. Don’t be afraid to look around and see what designs may be more cost-effective than others. As well as the design, also consider what materials are used to make the frame.
  • The frame size – the size of your frame will largely depend on the size of your picture. Size can have a significant impact on the cost of your frame, so if you’re on a tight budget you may be better off framing a few smaller pictures than one large picture. You may find our measuring guide helpful.

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Our top tips

Buy in bulk

Our first tip is one of our simplest, buy in bulk! Nearly any framer will favour a high volume order and incentivise consumers by offering bulk discounts. Most customers don’t take advantage of this as they only need one or two, but this means each unit costs more when you could be saving. For small independent retailers, it makes sense to maintain a healthy level of stock, so buying in bulk is a really easy way to cut down on your spending and increase your profits, especially if you produce artwork in a standard consistent size. For individual customers, gallery walls offer great versatility and would cost less per frame than a couple of large statement pieces, or even add a couple of extra frames to your basket as future gifts!

Get your artwork printed and framed at the same time

It may seem obvious, but often you may be tempted to have your artwork fitted separately from your frame, often due to the cost of printing or the cost of fitting. While it’s true that different retailers will offer different pricing for these services, it’ll almost always work out cheaper getting it all sorted together, cutting out costs of separate deliveries and avoiding an increased risk of damage or lost packages. Working with the same company for both services has the advantage of easy communication, which is important for something as precious as artwork fitting and framing.

Insure yourself

According to the UK Government – businesses selling personalised or custom-made items only have to accept a return if the goods are faulty. Knowing this, making a mistake whilst ordering made to measure products online can sometimes prove costly. Fortunately, our fit protection guarantee takes the stress away. If it turns out you made some kind of measurement error we will replace your frame or mount for free.

Avoid unnecessary options

If your frame comes with fixtures or fittings you don’t need, or if you don’t plan on using the supplied glazing or backing board then you want to make sure to avoid it. This is especially important when buying in bulk, as the cost of all these different elements will be multiplied by the quantity you want and could end up costing a fortune. Typically most framers won’t try to upsell you, so if you’re not convinced you need certain materials (e.g. glazing or MDF backing board) let the framer know to establish a potential discount.

Consider your ideal frames design

Often your interior and artwork style dictate what kind of frame to choose, which then has a significant effect on price. A simple poster print may be paired with a minimalist black contemporary frame, whilst a traditional painting would look best in an elaborately decorated ornate frame. Even if the artworks were the exact same size, the elaborate traditional frame will always cost more than a simple contemporary alternative. To get the best bang for your buck, browse through different designs to get a sense of which might cost more and which would cost less while still looking stunning when combined with your artwork and interior style. Since thin simple painted frames are usually our most affordable, take a look at our selection to see if there’s anything right for you.

Go for a painted finish over natural wood

Natural wood frames often fetch more than a painted alternative since a painted finish can hide the look of the material, so any moulding with good strength properties can be used. A wooden frame on the other hand relies on the appearance of its materials, which means they are more expensive to produce. While this means that a painted frame is more wallet-friendly, it also shows that cheap readymade natural wood frames will never look or feel as quality as an equally priced painted finish, so we’d recommend steering clear of any cheap natural wood frame that isn’t made from solid wood.

Compare prices from different retailers

With a huge variety of retailers online, it can be difficult to find the right place for your frames. Small framers, large retailers and everyone in between will be charging different prices for very different products, so having a look around at different sites can be a great way to gauge how much you might need to spend. It’s important to consider product durability and lifetime when you look for good deals, as frames can cost as little as a couple of pounds, but will break well before a more expensive frame. This is why we recommend sticking to framing retailers rather than supermarkets or chains like Ikea, as a little more money can get you frames built to last years while also offering protection for your artwork.

Recycle old frames or look for second-hand frames

Recycling is something we’ll become familiar with during the coming years, so what better way to start than by repurposing an old frame! More often than not a second-hand frame will be perfectly intact and able to protect your artwork, the only problem is finding a frame the correct size. As well as purchasing a second-hand frame, there are also tonnes of articles online describing techniques to salvage old frames and give them a new lease of life, with examples of frames being converted into mirrors, display boxes, jewellery stands and much more! If cost is holding you back from purchasing your dream frame then take a look online at some crafty ideas, there may be a cost-effective design perfect for you!

Adjust mounts to fit new artwork

This ridiculously underused technique helps you to frame artwork in any frame, giving your frames more versatility. By cutting a mount, or adjusting one to the correct opening size, a new artwork can replace an old artwork even if they are two different sizes, giving you more options in the future as well as potentially enabling you to salvage an irregularly sized second-hand frame. All you need to do is measure the outside dimensions of the frame (which become your external mount dimensions) and the artwork size (which becomes your opening size) and supply this information to a framer for a perfectly cut mount, saving money that would have been spent on a whole new frame. You may even be able to modify your original mount, which most framers will do for little to no cost!

Look for sales

This one may seem obvious, but a strategic attitude to online shopping can save you plenty, especially if you keep an eye on sales. There are plenty of sites and services dedicated to keeping you updated on current sales and discounts, while there are also plenty of tools like Honey to save you extra cash at the checkout. Have a look around social media as well, particularly official retailer pages which may have discount codes hidden in stories or posts. Check out our own picture frame sale section for incredible discounts on popular frames in every size.

With these different techniques, there’s always a saving to be had, so make sure you keep these in mind while you hunt for bargains. For more information on the cost of framing, check out our article here which highlights why framers need to charge the amount they do, which may be a helpful insight if you’re pinching the pennies. For any queries about this article, or if you’ve got questions about the services we provide don’t hesitate to contact our helpful customer service team.