A GUIDE TO PREPARING YOUR ARTWORK FOR GALLERY DISPLAY
Consider your type of artwork
2D wall art –
Type of medium: Oil, acrylic, watercolor, pen & ink, pastel, photography, collage, etc.
Type of substrate: Stretched canvas, canvas board, gessoed board, paper, other material (thick or thin)
3D sculptural and wall art –
Type of medium: Ceramic, metal, wood, textile, glass, etc.
What should be framed and what can be hung unframed
Stretched canvas –
- Studio canvas (1/2” thick): Work done on this thickness should always be framed. It is not designed to be hung on it’s own. Likewise the edges should not be painted. Do not put this type of canvas under glass or plexiglass.
- Gallery canvas (1-3/8” thick): Work done on a gallery canvas can be framed or left unframed. When not framed, a gallery canvas should always have the edges painted. This can be either with a solid color, or the painting itself can continue around the sides of the canvas. Either way the unframed canvas should have a finished look.
Paper – Work created on paper, such as watercolor, drawing, painting, printmaking and photography, should always be framed under glass or plexiglass. And in many cases it should also be mounted and/or matted.
Board – Work done on boards like painting, scratchboard, drawing, collage, etc., should usually be framed (Unless the board is of a deep dimension – e.g. at least 1” thick – and can be finished on its sides.)
Tips for framing your wall art
It’s a good idea to invest in good quality frames for your artwork. A good frame can add value and help make your art pieces have a higher price point. You should always choose frames that enhance your work and add to the quality of it, not take away from it. There are plenty of places to buy frames, check in your local area or shop online through art supply stores like Blick. If you’re short on cash, try your local thrift store or a big box store like Michael’s or Target.
Make sure the frame is sturdy enough to hold your work. Check the mitered corners to make sure they are made well and not coming apart.
If you are putting your work under glass or plexiglass, be sure all surfaces are clean and dust-free before framing your work. Glass can be cleaned with an ammonia-based product, like Windex and a paper towel or cloth. However, never use ammonia-based products on plexiglass. They can damage the surface and make it look cloudy. You should use something like Brillianize or Novus. These are safe for plastics, and you can even purchase solutions that help minimize the appearance of any scratches. You can also use a solution of mild dish soap and water. And always use a soft micro-fiber type of cloth to clean the plexiglass.
How to wire your wall art correctly for hanging
To correctly prepare your work to be hung in a gallery, your piece should always be wired on the back. This consists of two hooks secured on your work and a wire strung between them. Do not use any other type of hardware, like a sawtooth hanger or other small hardware that is attached to the frame. The only time this is acceptable is when the framed art is extremely small and lightweight. Use of small hardware must be approved by the exhibit curator.
3D work to be hung – Some sculptures (ceramic, wood, metal, glass) are meant to be displayed hanging on a wall or from the ceiling. These pieces should always have a secure and safe way to hang them. The hanging mechanism should be an integral part of the piece. It is not up to the gallery staff to figure out how your heavy sculpture can be hung!
Work on stretched canvas – Whether your canvas is framed or unframed, the wire should always be attached to the stretcher bars – not the frame!
Work on paper that has been framed – Work that is framed and under glass or plex usually has a backing that closes the frame. In this case, you will use D-rings instead of eye hooks. These will be attached to the frame.
Supplies you will need to wire your artwork:
• 2 eye hooks (these should have close to a 1/2” of thread) – for work on stretched canvas
OR • 2 D-rings (with long, sturdy screws) – for work on paper that is framed
• picture wire (twisted steel, preferably plastic coated)
NOTE: Use eye hooks/D-rings and picture wire rated for the weight of your artwork
• wire snips
• measuring tape or ruler
• drill with a small bit (or a thin, long nail and hammer)
• screwdriver (for D-ring only)
Placing eye hooks on stretcher bars:
1) Measure one side of your framed canvas (or gallery canvas) and determine 1/3 of the distance.
2) Make a mark on the inside of the stretcher bar 1/3 of the way from the top of the frame (or canvas).
3) Turn the work on it’s side and drill a small pilot hole where you made the mark (the bit used to make the pilot hole should be narrower than the thread of the eye hook). You can also hammer in a thin, long nail. Don’t go in too far. Then pull the nail out to make a pilot hole. Now screw in an eye hook.
4) Repeat on the other side.
Placing D-rings on a frame:
1) Measure one side of your frame and determine 1/3 of the distance.
2) Make a mark on the back of the frame 1/3 of the way down from the top of the frame.
3) Laying the frame on a flat surface (be sure to protect the front of the frame), hold the D-ring at the mark and determine it’s placement depending on the width of the frame. Adjust the mark at needed.
4) Drill a small pilot hole where you made the mark (the bit used to make the pilot hole should be narrower than the screw). Then screw on a D-ring.
5) Repeat on the other side.
Attaching the wire:
1) Start with one end of the picture wire coil, and thread it through one eye hook, leaving a 3” – 4” tail.
2) Twist the tail tightly back on itself, coiling it around perpendicular to the long end. Continue to twist until the tail is completely wound. The wire should be neat and tight around itself. Even though this is the back on the artwork, it’s still important that is looks good!
3) Now pull the rest of the wire coil across to the other eye, add 6” – 7” and cut the wire.
4) Thread that end of the wire through the other eye. Hold the wire loosely at the eye with one hand and pull some slack back through the eye with the other hand. The slack in the wire should allow center of the wire to go up no more than half way to the top of the frame. If you leave too much slack in the wire, the artwork may hang forward off the wall, or may even show above the frame. Never want to do that!
5) With the proper slack determined, trim the end of the wire to 4” and twist the wire around as explained in step 6.
6) Use the pliers to crimp down the very tips of each end of the wire. You’re finished!
3D Art –Sculptures (ceramic, wood, metal, glass) should be able to sit flatly and securely on a pedestal or shelf. The piece should not rock of tip over easily. If the sculpture has a very rough bottom that would scratch furniture or glass, it’s a good idea to apply bumper pads to the bottom (at least 3 or 4 of them).
How to label your artwork
On the back of wall art, you should write the title of the piece, your name and the year the piece was created. This should be written on the art itself (e.g. on the stretcher bars), not of the frame. If you don’t want to write directly onto the back of your art pieces, secure a paper label on the back with the same info. This becomes very important in case the gallery label is separated from the artwork.
How to price your artwork
When figuring out what to charge, remember to price your art fairly and consider the gallery’s commission that will most likely be charged. It is helpful to inquire what other similar work has sold for at the gallery where you are showing. A good rule of thumb is: If you really want to sell the work price it slightly lower. If you’re on the fence about selling it, price it higher – at a point that you would be okay with accepting for the work.
Of course, you do not have to sell your work. If you are showing a piece that is really special to you and you want to keep it, mark it as NFS (not for sale). The galley is a good place to get your name out to the public. Someone who sees your piece may be interested in buying other work of yours.
Here is a more in-depth discussion of how to price your artwork: https://www.darkyellowdot.com/how-to-price-your-artwork/
How to take good photos of your work
Who hasn’t at some point needed a picture of their masterpiece? Whether it is to show to a client or a gallery or as a submission to a exhibit or just to post on social media, there are times when an accurate representation of your work is essential. It is also a good way to catalog and archive your work. After you sell a piece, a good image of your work will keep it in your portfolio and on your website.
There are a number of good YouTube videos available to help you with taking a photo of your work.Here is a very in-depth article on taking photos of your artwork with an iPhone: https://willkempartschool.com/how-to-photograph-your-paintings-with-your-iphone/
But to get you started, below is brief article by Ben Boswell of Ask An Artist:
All artists should know how to take an accurate photograph of their artwork. Photographs providing a clear and honest representation of your artwork are essential for everything from your own web pages to competition entries. This doesn’t mean owning professional kit or taking photography lessons; following these simple rules should result in photographs that will do you and your work justice.
For an accurate photograph, work should not be behind glass or framed and the photo should not include any surrounding objects. Ideally use a white wall, or improvise with white board against a wall, as a background. It is also important to be honest: never be tempted to ‘improve’ your artwork by working on your photo. You will be storing up trouble if the original is a dim version of its photograph.
Here are the four basics to address: white balance (getting colors as accurate as possible), avoiding camera shake, squaring up the camera to avoid distortions and even lighting.
- White balance
Almost all cameras have a custom white balance setting. Check your instructions to enable this option and the camera will do the rest. Just photograph a white card before your artwork to set the balance. If you are using a mobile phone, you will need to adjust the white balance yourself using a photo-editing app. All editing apps have color balance corrections, but none are automatic so include a piece of white card in each shot as your guide for corrections.
- Camera Shake
If you have a tripod and a cable release, use them. If not, improvise using whatever will support your camera at the right height. That could be a table top or books, but you may have to improvise to hold your machine steady (try a plastic bag full of rice as a beanbag). Use the time-release function to avoid shaking the camera or phone while taking the shot.
- Getting the camera square to the wall
Use the edge of your work to do this. If that is not practical, tape a piece of newspaper to the wall and use the grid of the text as a guide. Once the camera is set square, tape the work up and take the shot.
- Even Lighting
Work taped up in landscape orientation will be easier to light. You will need a pair, or ideally, four matching lights. I recommend cheap LED site lights from a DIY or building supplier. If you have two, position them level with the center of your artwork at 45 degrees on either side. Four lights should go at approximately level with the top and bottom of the artwork at 45 degrees on either side. Diffuse (soften) the light by placing a thin sheet of material about 15cm away from the light. You’ll need to improvise holders for this or enlist help. Layout paper, tracing paper or thin white fabric all work well. If you are using four lights, you material should cover both lights to turn them into single large light sources on either side.
Finally remember to save your photos in two formats: low resolution for electronic use and high resolution for use in print. I suggest 1000 pixels across at 72DPI for low resolution and images as they come from the camera (at 300DPI) for high resolution.
Remember to be critical when looking at the photos you have taken. The purpose of them is to represent your art work as truthfully and faithfully as possible. Be honest and proud of your work; you’ll be setting yourself for a fall if your photo is an altered version of art work.