Not all picture frame moulding is created equal

Next time you’re at your local frame shop, whether it’s for a casual snapshot or the crown jewel of your art collection, here are a few ways to determine the quality of your framing materials.

Is it wood?

Did you know that not all frame moulding is made out of wood these days? Many manufactures are now using plastic and MDF (particle board). The sad part is from the front of the frame, they almost look the same, but that don’t last as nearly long as wood. I would always ask if the frame is made with real wood. Most of the pre-framed art at big box stores are made with plastic frames.

What is the finish?

Just because a frame looks like stained wood doesn’t mean it is. Many manufactures have gone to using printed wood pattern finishes and stickers. That’s right, they print a fake wood grain or put on a sticker that has the finish printed on it. They can look pretty good, but do not last as long as stained wood. Printed designs can also fade, eventually crack and get easily damage.

Wood veneers.

One of the ways a frame is finished is with one wood being veneered over another. This process has been around for hundreds of years and is a great way to make unique and consistent grained frames. Many veneers are well done and last for a long time. Their longevity all depends on the glues and type of wood that the manufactures use. Longevity also depends on the conditions where the frame is. High heat and moist environments are not good for most veneers.


A foil is similar to a sticker in that is has a design printed or etched onto it. The foil is then bonded to the wood with glues, pressure or heat. Foils have become a popular option for manufactures due to their manufacturing costs savings and diversity. Like any other finish, foils have do be done right and over a good base wood to last. Foils are also susceptible to moisture and heat which can cause them to bubble and peel off.

As with any product that you purchase, asking questions about your picture frames can lead to a better investment.

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