Know what you are getting The biggest problem with most reasonably priced frames on the market is that they do not state whether or not the supplied mat is naturally acid-free, buffered PH, to control acid, or preservation quality, which is the top of the line. You will find more details and description of different types of mats in the Selecting a Mat for Your Photographs Article. Most people are on a budget when they shop for framing and matting materials, so simply tossing away a perfectly good mat may seem like a wrong thing to do. As always, there is a solution to every problem, and this one is no exception.
Consider purchasing your frames, and your mats for that matter from a reputable Art supplies dealer, instead of going to a typical housewares store, or a mega store, like Wal-Mart, Target, or Ikea. More often than not, Art supplies stores carry products that are much higher in quality, and the expert advise is often very helpful. In some cases larger Art supplies dealers carry products under their own brand. While most people think of these store branded mats and frames as bargain bin products, you will often find that you are getting quite a bit more for your money, in terms of quality and performance of the product when compared to products from some of the larger national brands. As an added bonus, the staff typically will have much more information about products branded under the company’s name. Do not be afraid of asking questions. Find out all that you can about the line of frames or mats, which you are considering to purchase. Ask the employees some basic questions about framing and matting, and if their answers are poor, or simply wrong, avoid purchasing from that store, unless you are already familiar with their product lines.
Ok, you cannot find any good quality frames around, and you do not want to purchase a complete frame and then discard the mat, so what should you do? Consider custom framing your works. While it may be a little more expensive than purchasing a ready-made frame, with a mat, it may still be worth it. Check with your local Art supplies store, and you may find that they also custom frame paintings, and photography. It is more likely that you will find specials and sales on custom framing, than on finished products. This is because there is much more profit in custom framing, since the framer is only purchasing unfinished and uncut lengths of material. It is much cheaper for the framer to cut and build the frame, and there are no packaging or shipping expenses. Shop around. Of course, with custom framing, you can mat your own photographs, and bring them matted. This way, you are controlling the quality of the protective mat, and the backing yourself. Shop around, you never know, you may find that custom framing is actually cheaper in your area, than finished frames.