If you were having trouble seeing and needed some glasses, would you rather go to an eye doctor to get a prescription specific to your eyesight, or grab a pair of stock “cheater”/reader glasses from the drugstore?
Sure, the store-bought readers will cost less and might help you to see a bit better, but prescription glasses measured to your eyes specifically will surely be a better, more perfect fit.
So just like the eyeglass frames you wear on your face, the picture frames you put your precious art and photos into are best when custom-made.
If you have a standard-sized photo, purchasing something like an 8” X 10” frame from your local arts and crafts or hobby shop might fully suit your needs, but pre-built, standard-sized frames that you buy off a shelf lack that custom, personal touch.
While the seemingly lower monetary cost — and instant gratification — might seem attractive, sometimes you get what you pay for.
And the good news is, much like Warby Parker revolutionized the eyeglass frame industry, picture frames are following suit.
The Cost of Online Picture Frames vs. Store-Bought Frames
While the common assumption that store-bought picture frames will be astronomically less expensive than custom-made frames purchased online, the cost for online picture frames and store-bought picture frames is actually fairly comparable when we’re talking about smaller, standard-sized frames made with higher quality materials.
This isn’t too much more than what you’d pay in some “big box” stores, although cost can certainly fluctuate depending on many factors.
It’s also hard to compare custom-made frames to store-bought frames in terms of cost as it’s not exactly apples to apples from a material standpoint. Cheap frames are typically just that — cheaper in a monetary sense, but also cheaper in quality. (Which is definitely a consideration when looking to preserve special memories long-term.)
For example, standard-sized frames bought in a brick & mortar store are often made with lesser-quality materials to make up for the overhead a physical store has to account for, whereas online retailers can usually invest overhead savings into a higher quality material.
There is no denying you can probably find a good deal on stock, standard-sized frames, but what is the true cost over time?
This illustrates how there are more considerations in deciding which kind of frame is best for you other than cost alone, as pricing for picture frames is based on many factors.
Problems with Store-Bought Picture Frames
1. Store-Bought Picture Frames Only Come In Standard Sizes
As the description “standard-sized” suggests, store-bought picture frames usually don’t come in odd sizes. Rather, they almost always come in basic photo sizes– 8” X 10”, 11” X 17”, 24” X 36”, etc., meaning you are limited in what art you can put in.
In some cases, you might have to add decorative backing to accommodate a frame that is too large or even trim down your art to fit a frame that might be too small.
With custom framers you can have a frame made to the exact measurements of your art, ensuring a perfect fit.
2. Store-Bought Picture Frames Feel Less Personal
Perhaps the most discouraging issue of buying a store-bought picture frame is the lack of personalization.
With custom framing, every item is cut and assembled according to your specifications, so even if you wanted a standard-sized frame, you could still pick what color and style frame you wanted (including matting) by going the custom route.
With store-bought frames, you get what’s on the shelf, and not much else.
This is less of a technical or quality choice, and more aesthetic, but when buying any product having a variety of choices often adds an extra special touch.
3. Store Bought Picture Frames Can Have Acidic Backing
Some people might write the backing off as an unimportant part of the frame — it’s the back, after all, and most people are concerned with how a frame looks from the front.
While aesthetic concerns are valid and should be on your mind when buying & hanging a frame, the backing is actually something very important to consider when preserving a piece of art long-term.
If a backing is not acid-free, that means it will not actively combat the corrosive chemicals found in most prints and pieces of artwork.
Many store-bought frames use cardboard-like materials in their frames (acidic), which makes it likely that your art would corrode over time.
An acid-free backing is always preferable when it comes to maintaining the integrity of your art long term.
4. The Corners of Store-Bought Picture Frames Aren’t Always Lined Up Properly
Custom framers tend to put maximum care in each frame they make, ensuring such details are tailored to the customer, and that the product arrives at your door in the best possible condition.
Store-bought frames are often mass produced overseas, which means that it was made with no buyer in mind, just to sit on a shelf.
This is often visible in the finishing of the frame corners, which can often be misaligned when it comes to store-bought frames.
The quality standards in custom frame shops are higher, and they require a thorough corner molding process that ensures cracks won’t occur.
Granted, any frame is at risk of damage / misalignment when being shipped, but any issues with a custom made frame should be the exception, not the standard.
5. The Materials of Store Bought Picture Frames Can Be Subpar
This can be a subjective topic. We’ve covered in other posts— particularly our wood vs. metal picture frame post— about how some materials are quite rare and expensive, but when it comes to an average consumer?
Ultimately it all comes down to your willingness to spend money on a project, but in most cases, there has to be a compromise between affordability and aesthetic quality — you have to find a source that uses affordable, but high-quality materials. (Often not the case with “stock” picture frames.)
With store-bought frames, the wrapping material on some wood frames can have creases and can be thin.
Sometimes you might even have issues discerning what material the frame is made of, and might have to assume it’s plastic.
Or maybe the rails will snap in half with the slightest amount of pressure and turn to dust by simply pressing the frame rail against a flat surface.
In addition to being made with subpar materials, store-bought frames can also be unattractive — blemishes and scratches on the frame can cause them to look cheap or damaged.
The Case for Buying Custom Picture Frames Online
We’ve already covered the fact that custom picture frames are generally a better choice, but why specifically should you choose to order a custom frame online?
The long and short of it is really that it comes down to cost: local picture framers tend to be much more expensive, and it is more time consuming to get in your car and go to the location multiple times, rather than ordering from your phone or computer. You also have to be comfortable with leaving your art in someone else’s hands for a period of time.
Much like a local frame shop, online custom framing sites specialize in creating frames that you couldn’t buy in a standard size at retailers, but the advantage to ordering online comes into play both with convenience and cost-savings.
While the lead time and cost can vary depending on the site, buying custom picture frames online typically means a faster, easier, & more convenient experience — with a more affordable price tag.
In some cases store-bought frames are certainly more affordable than their same-size counterparts found online, so if cost is the most important thing to you — and you’re willing to compromise on quality — then store bought frames could likely be a good option.
However, custom picture frames bought online aren’t that much more expensive than those bought in stores, so if you want quality that will last you much longer, look much better, and lets you customize options, ordering a custom picture frame online is the way to go.
|Store-Bought Picture Frames||Online Custom Picture Frames|
|Less personal; aren’t made specifically for you. Only standard-sized.||Designed, cut, and assembled to your specifications.|
|No cost of shipping.||Additional shipping fee is a consideration.|
|You see the frame before buying.||You don’t get to physically see the frame until it arrives in the mail.|
|Sometimes made abroad.||Often manufactured in USA.|
|Poorer quality control can lead to misaligned corners, scratches, & dings.||Stricter quality control guidelines.|
|Backing often acidic, which can corrode your art.||Most use acid-free materials to preserve your work long-term.|
|Generally more affordable, at the expense of the material.||Has a higher cost, but made with better quality materials.|
|Usually aren’t packaged for transit.||Packaged with transit in mind to keep corners, acrylic, and moulding safe.|