Use these simple tools and techniques to properly secure artwork in a frame.

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Using staple gun on inside of frame.

Building a frame is the all-important first step in getting flat artwork onto the wall, but it doesn't stop there. Cutting the mat cleanly, securing the package of glass, mat, and backer board into the frame, and installing hangers are just as crucial.

Skip the trip to the framing store: You can do all of these steps easily at home with just a few simple tools to help along the way.

Cutting the mat

Mat board plays both functional and aesthetic roles in a frame: It spaces the artwork away from the glass, and provides a bit of visual breathing room between the artwork and the frame. You can cut the mat with a standard razor knife, but a simple and affordable push-style mat cutter (below) creates crisp, accurate bevel cuts, lending a professsional touch to your framing job. Back up the cut with a self-healing cutting mat that protects your workbench, prolongs the cutter, and provides a smooth, clean surface for cutting.

Cutting tool on mat.
A replaceable razor blade plunges down through the sole of the cutter to begin a cut, then swings back up out of the mat at the end.
Using metal ruler to cut straight line on mat.
To cut an opening in a mat, lay out the border area on the back face, place a straightedge on the layout line, and run the cutter along the straightedge.
Inside corner of metal square showing a bevel.
The resulting beveled edge provides a smooth transition from the mat to the artwork.

Sources:
Mat cutter no. 17119-2000, $27; self-healing mat 18×24" no. 58900-2519, $45, Dick Blick, 800-828-4548, dickblick.com.

Securing the package

Yep, professional framers call the stack of the glass, mat, artwork, and backer board "the package." Depending on how often you intend to frame items, you can invest in a tool that does the job with speed, or get it done with tools you probably already have around the shop.

Using a brad setter inside of picture frame.
A brad setter provides great fastener control and depth adjustment, and some models can be used with readily available brads or framer's points. A magnet in the head holds the brad while you squeeze the trigger to press in the fastener.
Using a point-driving tool on inside of picture frame.
A point-driving tool operates much like a staple gun: Squeeze the trigger and a spring-tensioned driver shoots a framer's point into the frame rabbet about 1⁄8"−3⁄16" deep. Adjustable drive tension allows for fine-tuning.
Pushing points into frame with a putty tool.
Glazier's points require no special tools. Simply push in the points with a putty knife or flathead screwdriver. A scrap of wood braces the frame against the pressure required to fully seat the points.
Putting tape on the back of the frame for a seal.
Once you secure the package in the frame, gummed paper tape seals the deal, keeping dust and insects out. Use a damp sponge or paper towel to wet the adhesive coating on the back of the tape.

Hang time

With the back of the frame looking almost as good as the front, give your frame a secure hanging system. As with many things, simpler is often better. A wire hanger makes a great choice because with one nail or hook in the wall, the frame becomes essentially self-leveling. D-rings screwed into the frame provide solid anchor points for the wire. Be sure to choose a wire gauge rated for the weight of your frame.

D-ring on back of picture frame with wire.
Locate the D-rings between a quarter and a third of the frame height from the top of the frame. Start the wire connection with a double loop around the ring, leaving about 2" of extra wire.
Twisting the wire around itself.
Twist the end of the wire around itself, securing the connection and providing a clean finish.
Connecting the two D-ring together with wire on back of picture frame.
Pull the wire through the second ring until you have about two fingers of clearance between the wire and the back of the frame, then finish up by connecting to the other ring the same as the first.

Sources:
D-ring hangers no. 18981-1001 [pack of 10] $10; picture wire (9') no. 18982-1030, $4, Dick Blick, 800-828-4548, dickblick.com.