The Materials Used To Make Photo Frames
Modern photo frames are made from a variety of materials and decorated in a number of different ways. Naturally this is because of modern manufacturing techniques, but some effects date back to the origins of picture frames in ancient times. For example, the idea of surrounding an image with a decorative border comes from the ancient Greek and Egyptian civilisations when painted scenes on pottery and walls were divided by patterns and embellishments. This idea is reflected in today’s glass and plastic photo frames that can easily be printed on by printers using digital UV technology. Designs can be complicated and intricate and it is straightforward to personalise each frame. Bright colours are easily incorporated into the designs and changed to make, for example, the same frame for a baby boy or baby girl with just a change from blue to pink. The composition of frames themselves has changed too, today nobody thinks twice when adding several photographs into one multi aperture photo frame, but this is a comparatively recent innovation.
Wooden frames also originated long ago, with one found in the tomb of an Egyptian mummy, but it was religious art that adopted this material and made it the most popular kind of frame for centuries. Framers were incredibly skilled craftsmen who at first worked on the frames before the artists, when the frames were integral to the completed work of art. Simple wooden frames began to be made using strips of wood to surround the picture and this idea continues today with some wooden photo frames showing the simplicity of four strips joined at right angles to make the square or rectangular shape. However, when the mitre joint was invented this quickly became the most popular way to join the pieces of wood together.
Whichever style of joint used to make the frame, today’s wooden frames can be decorated by machine. This means that everyone can afford to buy a solid wooden frame for their photographs and have it in a style to suit their decor. Wood engraving machines can quickly produce detailed patterns and personalisation for any occasion, making each frame unique without the need for skilled craftsmen. Another kind of wooden photo frame that has become popular is the box frame, where the photograph is recessed. More than one aperture can be created using different mounting techniques and the mounting can be personalised instead of the frame. Box frames are usually quite plain. Another popular variant is the photo cube, which is usually made from wood, but can also be metal. Here the sides of the cubes contain the photographs and personal messages and images are engraved into the top.
Some photo frames are made from ceramic materials and these can be decorated using decals. Once such decoration was manufactured in bulk, thereby limiting the degree to which any individual design could be included. However, in the last decade or so, digital ceramic printing has developed and even the smallest images can be produced cost-effectively. First the image is printed onto special paper with ceramic glazes. The sheet of paper is then laminated, before the image is cut out and put in water so that the laminated image floats off the original page. Once applied to the photo frame and thoroughly dried, the image is hardened in place. To make decoration on the photo frame permanent it is fired in a kiln to a temperature of around eight hundred degrees centigrade. Ceramic decals can be made in this way to surround the frame and also to provide personalisation where required.
As mentioned above, glass photo frames can be decorated by UV printing methods, with the light curing the personalised image onto the frame, but they can also be decorated using engraving techniques. This is another example of the work of craftsmen being replaced by affordable machines that can cheaply apply any image or wording to the glass in a fraction of the time of previous methods. Glass etching machines can produce very complex designs and it is now cost-effective to produce photo frames with an individual flourish using this method.
Metal photo frames are personalised and decorated using laser engraving machinery. This is much the same as the techniques used for wood and glass engraving and produces sharp images and lettering. Detailed wording can be reproduced on to the metal along with intricate styling to produce photo frames in the very classic style of metal frames, that are nonetheless individual and personal.
The shape of the photo frame is no barrier to most of the decorating methods, except that in most cases the frame will need to be flat, or nearly flat, for the machinery to work well. Rectangular, square, circular, oval, heart shaped and so on can all be decorated effectively so long as the printing surface is level. The exception to this is ceramic frames that can be decorated even if they are curved because the decals can be applied over quite complex shapes. Whilst the internal shape of the photo frame is usually fairly simple, the shape of the outside can be anything at all. With resins used to make frames they can be made into animals for children’s frames and be manufactured in every colour to suit all occasions. With only the flatness of the surface to be considered for decorating purposes, then only the imagination can limit the style and shape of modern photo frames.
The personalisation of photo frames brings the art of framing back to its origins, where the frame formed part of the work of art. With frames available for new grandparents, parents, husbands, wives and everyone else as well as for particular occasions such as Christenings, special birthdays, graduations and so on, frames are once again becoming attached to particular images or photographs. What could be nicer than to present a photograph as a gift, framed with a message and family names to make the recipient feel really special? Why not mark an anniversary with a photograph in a frame that bears all of the relevant details that are unique to the recipients? There are now photo frames for all occasions that can be personalised to make them extra special as a present with just a little effort required on the part of the purchaser. Finding exactly the right photo frame has never been easier.