Picture frames are one of the most important decorative elements in a home. They highlight artwork and family memories, and add color and design to walls and tabletops. But don’t let the word “picture” put a crimp in your creativity. Picture frames can be used to showcase letters and mementos, or even stand empty as works of art in themselves.
With all the picture frames available, how do you choose the perfect one for you? We tested several bestselling models in various styles and price options. These are the frames that rose to the top of the list.
Best Formal Picture Frame
Amazon Basics Nickel Picture Frame
The Amazon Basics Nickel Picture Frame is part of the Amazon Basics collection, and is my choice for best formal frame. This model also comes in black, and is available in three sizes. It comes with an easel-back for tabletop display, and can be hung on the wall horizontally or vertically.
- Aesthetics. The Amazon nickel frame looks sleek and formal to the eye, with precise edges and joints. The silver surface gleams under light, but is more matte than shiny. I might choose this frame for an engagement or graduation photo, or use it to showcase a wedding invitation
- Price. You can pick up a two-pack of this frame in the 4” x 6” size for about $10
- Face material. The face material of this frame is glass, which feels like a luxury at this price
- Feel. The Amazon Basics nickel frame felt less substantial to the touch than I expected. Though the nickel has a silvery metal look, the material is a light, hollow plastic
- Durability. Though I haven’t been able to test this frame over the long-term, the weight and composition of the materials could affect its durability
- Corners. The corners felt sharp on my skin, and could be a concern for families with small children and pets
The Amazon Basics Nickel Picture Frame is part of the Amazon Basics collection, and is my choice for best formal frame.
Best For Design
The Umbra Prisma Picture Frame
The Umbra Prisma Picture Frame is a geometric fame made of heavy-duty, black matte wire. Photos or artwork float between glass panes, while the frame structure shows through on all four sides of the frame. The Prisma comes in five sizes and finishes.
- Design. The moment I unboxed this frame, it stood out as one of the best designed frames I’ve seen. The geometric wire structure is not only beautiful but functional, allowing the frame to stand on its own with no easel backing
- Weight. The Prisma feels solid and substantial without being heavy
- Feel. The matte black metal version of this frame felt smooth and high-quality to the touch, with no flaws or sharp edges
- The Prisma isn’t intended to be hung on a wall, and is designed for tabletop use only
- My picture slid down repeatedly inside the glass pane during assembly. Putting this frame together could be a tricky process for some users
The Umbra Prisma Picture Frame is a geometric fame made of heavy-duty, black matte wire.
Best For Value
Americanflat Black Wood Picture Frame
The Americanflat picture frame is a black, gallery-style frame that gets my nod for best value. This frame comes in various sizes ranging from 8’ x 10” to 12’ x 16”. The Americanflat frame is designed for horizontal or vertical hanging on a wall, and may be used with or without matting.
- Professional look. The Americanflat picture frame has a classic gallery aesthetic that would fit well in almost any decor. I found the matte black wood frame to be sleek and unobtrusive on a white wall, without visible joints or imperfections. This is a frame that can showcase photographs or artwork without calling attention to itself
- Packaging. One of my online-ordering pet peeves is receiving a damaged product. My Americanflat frame was well-packaged and secure on arrival, and in perfect, ready-to-hang condition
- Price. An 8’ x 10” frame of this quality for less than $14? Sign me up
- Simple design. While I like a minimalist gallery look, the Americanflat frame may be too basic for some tastes or decors
- Wood frame. Upon close inspection, the black frame looked to my eye less like solid wood and more like lower-end fiberboard. This wasn’t an issue for me when I viewed the frame from a foot or two away
The Americanflat picture frame is a black, gallery-style frame that gets my nod for best value.
Best For Rustic Style
Barnwood USA Reclaimed Wood Picture Frame
The Barnwood USA rustic frame brings a country vibe indoors with a simple design and rough, reclaimed wood. Available in a number of sizes and six distressed-style colors, the Barnwood USA picture frame gets my pick for best rustic frame. It comes fully assembled, and can be used on the wall or tabletop.
- Aesthetics. The Barnwood USA picture frame looked to my eye like real barnwood. It even had a small knot on one side, giving it a homey, unfinished appearance
- Texture. With its ridged, slightly splintery surface, this frame felt like genuine barnwood to the touch
- Environmentally friendly. The Barnwood USA frame is made from 100% recycled or reclaimed wood
- This frame could feel a little rough on tender fingers if you have children
- The beveled edge around the glass is a different shade from the rest of the wood, which could be an aesthetic issue for some people
The Barnwood USA rustic frame brings a country vibe indoors with a simple design and rough, reclaimed wood.
Best For Documents
MCS Format 8.5” x 11” Document Frame
The MCS Format document frame is a lightweight, low-profile frame designed to display documents such as diplomas and certifications. This black metal frame comes with a glass face and hardware for wall hanging and a snap-in easel for tabletop display. The MCS Format is my choice for documents, but can also be used to showcase pictures.
- Weight. I was surprised by how lightweight this frame feels to pick up, particularly because a glass face typically adds weight. This frame would be suitable for hanging from walls of all kinds
- Price. The MCS Format frame can be purchased for less than $10
- Profile. This frame has a slim, inconspicuous profile that looked professional but not obtrusive on my office wall
- Sharp corners. This document frame has sharp, slightly rough corners, and may not be safe within reach of small children or pets
- Backing. The snap-in easel wasn’t as easy or intuitive to assemble as I’d hoped. An attached easel would make the process faster and simpler
The MCS Format document frame is a lightweight, low-profile frame designed to display documents such as diplomas and certifications.
How We Picked
Once you’ve selected a picture, piece of art, or memento to display, finding the right frame is the next step. When evaluating frames, I looked at a number of factors that helped me choose high-quality, well-priced models that stood out from the pack. No matter what your budget or personal taste, consider the following when searching for a picture frame:
Picture frames come in a wide range of natural and synthetic materials, from simple wood to metal to ceramic. Black wood and metal tend to look more contemporary, while ornamental frames with carved molding fit well in more traditional settings.
Depending on style and finish, wood can create a sleek or more ornate, classic look. Wood frames of any style are more subject than metal or synthetic materials to damage by age, sunlight, transportation, and humidity. Plastic and fiberboard may be inexpensive and durable, but limited in aesthetic appeal. Like wood, ceramic and glass can be damaged over time, but will last for decades or longer if treated with care. Metal frames are typically made of aluminum, which is strong but lightweight.
Glass faces may showcase pictures better than acrylic or Plexiglass, but are breakable and can cloud or be scratched. Glass can be treated with anti-reflexive material, but is typically more expensive than ordinary glass.
Because picture frames are a decorative item, workmanship matters. I look for tight corner joints without chipping or cracking, as well as solid backing and hardware that will hold up securely over years of use. Though I prefer wire for hanging, many frames come with sawtooth hooks that may be less sturdy and offer fewer adjustment options.
Frames should be even, with consistent color and molding design. Handmade frames often have more variation, but tend to be higher-quality and more expensive than machine-made frames. With the rise of the crafting movement, custom and hand-made frames are more reasonably priced and widely available than ever before.
Picture frame styles range from simple black gallery style to coastal wood to museum wood and mid-century frames. They can be nearly invisible, or offer an art-like accent to a room or tabletop. Frames are typically square or rectangular, though oval and whimsical shapes are common.
Other styles of frames including photo boxes and digital picture frames, which are used for displaying digital pictures. Your picture frame style depends on your decor, personal taste, and the picture you’d like to display.
Picture frames range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars or more. While custom framing is usually an expensive proposition, framing at home is often significantly less pricey, and can look as professional as work done in a frame store. Less pricey frames tend to be made of synthetic materials or lower-end woods and metals, but can look sufficiently stylish for many tastes and decors.
To help you choose the perfect frame for your pictures and artwork, consider the following tips:
- Select frames specifically for certain photographs or artwork. Measure your picture carefully before buying to make sure the frame will fit. Consider whether you’ll need a single or multi-picture frame, also known as a collage photo frame
- For simple pictures, consider a frame that adds a decorative element such as a pattern, painted design, or texture. Eye-catching pictures may be best showcased by a clean, classic frame that doesn’t compete for attention
- When choosing a frame, consider whether you’ll need a glass face or acrylic. Acrylic is less expensive and likely to break, while genuine glass can provide a higher-end look
- Will you be mounting your picture on a mat or leaving it unmatted? A mat lets you place a smaller picture into a larger frame, which can make for a more imposing effect. If using a mat, add three to four inches to your measurements to allow adequate space in your frame. Try different colors and textures of mats to freshen up framed pictures you already have
- To create a picture wall, cut out pieces of newspaper that are the same size as your framed pictures and tape them to a wall. Move newspaper cutouts around until you find the perfect arrangement for your pictures, then start hammering in framing hardware
- Splurge on higher quality frames for treasured photographs and art. Choosing non-reflective glass, a gilded or ornamental frame material, or an embellishment such as studs, shells, or stones can make a special picture stand out even more
- Consider where you’ll place your frame. A high-humidity environment such as a bathroom or kitchen may require a different type of frame or matting to avoid warping or staining of your picture. Frames not only showcase pictures, they protect them from dust and the elements
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