One of the largest costs to artists is framing their work. Professional custom framing can cost hundreds of dollars, even for small artwork. If you're just starting out trying to sell your art this extra cost can make it impossible to display your art professionally and still make a profit. However, there are still many ways you can get around these expenses and still make professional looking, presentable art.

Work in Standard Frame Sizes

Thinking ahead when you create your artwork and making sure you stick to the standard sizes makes it so much easier to find a frame that will fix your artwork without too much cutting or cropping. Some popular sizes include 4x6, 5x7, 6x6, 8x8, 8x10, 9x12, 12x12, 11x17 and 24x32, though these may vary based on region. Always check the sizes that are available for sale in your area, as this is the best way to know if you can access the frames that will suit your purpose. It is harder to change the size of an artwork after you discover that a frame isn't available than to plan ahead and figure out what size you'll put the art in when it's finished. 

Gallery Wrapped Canvases

If you prefer to work on stretched canvas rather than paper or unstretched canvas, you may not need a frame at all. It is quite fashionable at the moment to continue a painting around the sides of the canvas, making the edges look finished from any angle. Some artists paint a black or coloured edge on their canvases rather than continue the image around the sides. Either way, you get a neat, finished edge, eliminating the need to frame the canvas.

Precut Matboards

Some framing stores sell precut mats in a variety of standard sizes. If you don't want to splash out on a frame, you can still put your artwork in between two sheets of formcore board with a window on the front through which you can see the artwork. The artwork and matboard is then slipped inside a plastic sleeve to keep it safe. This is a popular method of displaying art on a rack in stores or at market, as potential buyers can flip through the paintings or prints on offer without risking crumpling or smudging them. Keeping art in matboards without the heavy, fragile glass also makes them easier to transport and store.

Buy Premade Frames from Op Shops and Department Stores

While some boutique stores sell expensive photo frames, there are still stores that sell frames cheaply. Thrift shops, department stores and bargain stores are all good places to look for frames. In Australia, stores like The Reject Shop and Target are excellent places to find frames that work well for framing art. In addition, the frames you buy in thrift stores (which can still have art inside) may have originally been custom made by a framer. If you know what you're looking for, you could get a very good quality frame for the price.
You may also find you get prices if you buy photo frames online than if you buy them in your local area. When you shop online for frames, you have the benefit of increased competition, but keep in mind that shipping costs may negate the benefits.

Homemade Picture Frames

Many people have put up instructions on how to make your own frames. There are videos on Youtube that explain the steps to make a frame in detail, and common mistakes people make. If you don't want to pay someone to frame your art, you could learn to do it yourself. Making your own frames can give you more options to frame non-standard shapes and sizes. It also opens up the avenue of doing framing for other artists as well, which could increase your income.

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(price as of Jan 11, 2016)

As you can see, there are a lot of ways to make your art look professional without breaking the bank. Inexpensive picture frames are around, you just have to know where to look. Even if you're just starting, you should still be able to sell your art for a profit without having to invest too heavily in custom framing. However, once you get started you might find that you'd like to give custom framing a try. A professional can often put together a frame of better quality than one that has been mass produced in a factory in China. It's up to you to decide which of your artworks, if any, should be treated to a custom frame.