Why is framing so expensive?


PFG, Picture Framing God
I've been asked this question more times than I'd like to recall.
How do YOU anwser this question?

I'm not so much interested in theory as in your script. I am putting together anwsers to some of the frequent questions that are asked in our business. I have several new employees and having a written script to base there answers off of gives them more credibility than an "I don't know".

I will post my response tommorow as not to taint you.
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True Grumbler
How's this: "CUSTOM framing is expensive because it's CUSTOM. It's not churned out in a third-world factory, it's made to measure to your specifications, by hand, right here, in about a week. It's an inherently inefficient way to manufacture a product, therefore expensive. We can't make the expense go away, but we CAN ensure that you get your money's worth, in craftsmanship, design and service."


PFG, Picture Framing God
Well, my litle spiel sure does pale in comparison to THAT one! (I especially like the 'third world country' part) "[hmhm] Custom framing is done one at a time just like you want it, by trained professionals who know what they are doing. Like any other custom work, it will take a while, about two weeks. And I guarantee you will like the result.


CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
If a customer asks me that question (and they do!), I generally re-phrase it for them when I explain it.

Custom framing is a good value when compared to simply buying a stock frame/ mat and putting your picture in yourself. We take the time to find the right design for your artwork and use the best quality materials to make sure it lasts a lifetime. You could buy less expensive materials yourself and do the framing, but they would wear out quickly and need to be replaced. They also wouldn't protect your picture the way the materials we use will.

It's not 'expensive' - it's a smart investment ... all customers love to be told that they're smart :cool:

John Ranes II CPF GCF

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Diver Dave,

Interesting that we too, found the question asked so often, that when we created our Ask the Experts page on our website, it was one of the first "pre-loaded" questions that we set into the site.....others have naturally followed...

Ask the Experts at The Frame Workshop

You'll have to visit our site to see my respones...clever huh?



MGF, Master Grumble Framer
I tell customers that custom framing is expensive because the materials are the very highest quality: Mouldings are made of only absolutely straight (yeh, right) stock that has hand applied finishes, sometimes ten to fifteen layers per finish; glazing materials have been developed especially for framing; only c/p interior materials are used--not just acid-free; appropriate mounting techniques are time-consuming and therefore cost more, etc. If they seem interested, I also explain the difference between a manufacturing/retail business and a straight retail business.

I do this because then the point is made that I'm not marking up low-end materials to make that price as high as it seems and pocketing the high profit.

If I am working with a new customer, this information is offered as I am pricing the design. I may be nuts, but heading off the reaction to the price this way works every time for me because, it seems, it comes across as empathy rather than defensiveness.

Joining you from beautiful Sunriver, Oregon where we have taken the laptop on our vacation. :rolleyes: I've answered my own question, Yes, I must be nuts.


PFG, Picture Framing God
1: Shut up, quit your whining and go get in line at the cash register.

2: What are YOU complaining about, I'm the one who has to pay for all this stuff, mouldings, glass, mattboards, this building, insurance, taxes, payroll etc. etc.

3: I'm a greedy old man.

4: I'm not expensive, it's my suppliers.

5: If you invented something and had a mock up custom made it will cost 100 times more than when it goes into production. Custom framing is much the same thing, we are making one mock up for you.

6: Every thing is produced individually for your picture, it takes time and the materials and labor are not cheap.

7: I'll tell you what, go back and see if you can talk my assistant into taking a cut in pay, if you can do that, I'll give you this job for half price.

8: Do I look like I work for minimum wage? Would you bring your treasures to me if I did?

9: No matter what my price is, there will always be someone who will do it cheaper, there will always be someone who is more expensive.

10: "The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten."

Feel free to add to this list.



SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I don't frame, but as a conservator I get this question a lot. And to be honest, as a consumer I ask this a lot. I try to give alternatives:

* these are the problems, these are the options, these are the risks, these are the approximate costs.

* if it were mine, I'd do this...

* refer them to appraisers before a decision is made...

* if I didn't have the money for conservation treatment, I'd spend my dollars on 1) good quality framing/framing materials AND/OR 2) good quality storage materials, rather than conservation treatment.

* if it's valuable/important to you I'd do this.../if you, as the custodian/curator place little value on on the piece you can do this...

* These are the pro's and con's...

Trying to reach the best solution for the artwork, the client, and the client's pocketbook, I often talk myself out of jobs - this is why I'm considering a small consultation fee ( which would include handouts and suppliers lists) deductable towards the cost of treatment.

Once you have a good relationship with your client, you can help both them and yourself, and the world is your oyster. (As far as cultured pearls go these days!)



PFG, Picture Framing God
"10: "The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten."

I have this sign posted above my design table. When someone comments on it, I know they understand.


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
A couple of other points I bring up are that custom framing is one of the few things (if not the only thing)in the average home that is truly custom. From the choice of the art, the design and location of the piece it is the one thing that no one else will have - AND it is hung is such a way as to BE LOOKED AT! ! ! Why wouldn't you spend money on something like that? Do you or your guests sit around admiring the dining room table? One quick look and you're off to the kitchen to get the food to put on it. Not so with a lovely piece of art, well framed. You look at it and derive pleasure from it for years. Again - why wouldn't you spend every last cent in your wallet on this?

Just a quick rant as I prepare to deal with a Pearl's refugee who is particularly cautious about over spending in a custom frame shop.

Pam MacFadden
Miami, FL

B. Newman

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
My favorite sayings...

"Buying custom framing is like buying furniture for your walls."

"Quality custom framing will outlast the carpeting and furniture in your home as well as all the cars, clothing, sound systems, televisions and kitchen appliances you'll ever purchase. It can pass from generation to generation and still look as good as the day it was created. It becomes an heirloom and it's an investment in the future."

"Custom picture framers are among the last of an incredible breed of skilled craftsmen. We still build products by hand to the client's specifications."

Of course these are worded like this whenever I use them in print, and are paraphrased when spoken to a customer.



SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
We are in a automotive controlled area and I give the analogy that what we do is "prototype work". That is, the work is not mass produced. It is made to order to your specifications. We also quote what it costs to have a plumber work in your home, what the auto repair shop charges and what it costs to have a wiz kid fix my computer.

We are "such a bargain!" :rolleyes: :rolleyes:


Forum Support Team Angry_Badger
Staff member
I use questions like this as an indicator of my pricing. If I don't get a certain amount of resistance, and have to do a bit of explaining, its time to take a look at having a small price increase.
Often with a new client I will prepare them a bit for the price by explaining the quality of the materials and the amount of time taken to insure their satisfaction before giving them a price. If they appear to be novices, I will ask if they have ever had something custom framed before.

Framing Goddess

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Smarty-pants answers:

-"Compared to what?"

My real response usually has something to do with what Betty wrote- I often use the "custom made piece of furniture" line. I also try to emphasize that a lot of the more expensive mouldings are hand-finished and sport amazing design features and lovely finishes. When I show them a foil finished moulding they can indeed see the difference. Sometimes it is worth it to them, sometimes it is not.
I agree with them that it is expensive, but worth it. Every day I see nice prints go through the shop to be framed and at the end of the day, they are totally transformed into really beautiful pieces. I tell them that that is why I love my job so much- that it is really satisfying to see artwork enhanced in such lovely ways- everyday I am surprised by how much much of a difference a frame can make. I tell them that the final product always looks better than what you can imagine it would. blahblahblah.
I read/heard somewhere more than once that price objections have less to do with the notion that they "don't want to spend the money," but rather with the idea that they want you convince them "why they should spend the money." It has to do with them wanting to know of the value what they are spending their money on.
Of course, sometimes they truly don't want to spend that kind of money, that's why Diver Dave wil hopefully explan his economy line to us!

edie the value goddess


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Life is expensive and quaility custom framing will last a lifetime :cool:


PFG, Picture Framing God
Why is framing so expensive?

While framing is expensive, it’s still an incredible value.
Your framing is individually designed and created by skilled craftsmen from the highest quality materials using state of the art equipment.

We are like a tailor custom making a suit of clothing for your art. You can buy a suit off the rack, but it will never fit as well as one custom made for you.

Here are my answers to the question.

I love the responses and will be adding some of thes to our list.

Our framing is individually custom made to fit your specifications, personality and decor. We use only the highest quality materials to protect your artwork for a lifetime.

Jim Miller

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
With puzzled expression:
"Expensive? Compared to what?"

And if the client doesn't pause to think about that, I continue...

"Custom framing is a great buy, compared to your $1,000 computer, which will be worthless in a few months. And you will never enjoy that computer as much as this frame, which will provide decades of enjoyment..."

"It's normal to spend $500 to $1,000 for window treatments to adorn $200 windows, and they will be left behind when you redecorate or move. You take your framed pictures with you, right?"

"If cheaper is better, why aren't we all driving Yugos?"

"Custom framing is the best you can buy. Dinner for two at the best restaurant costs more than this frame. Do you really value a two-hour dinner more than this picture, which might become an heirloom?"

Friends, it's all a matter of perspective.

Meghan MacMillan

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I get this rather a lot because we are priced higher than the 2 closest competitors.

What I say runs along lines that have already been posted.

"None of what's included exists yet. It will all be cut and assembled to the exact measurements." Absolutely one of a kind, etc.

I love Deb's sign. I'm thinking of turning it into a cross-stitch sampler to hang in my shop.

I find that my response to "Why is it so expensive?" changes slightly according to the way in which it is asked. Sometimes it comes across as "How the [bleep] do you justify that?" but more often it's more like, "I'd like to know just what I'm paying for, here."

David N Waldmann

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Originally posted by FrameMakers:
We are like a tailor custom making a suit of clothing for your art. You can buy a suit off the rack, but it will never fit as well as one custom made for you.
That may be true, but how many people buy custom made suits? That's really a rhetorical question, but I'll answer it anyways. Not many. How do I know? Because my father has been a tailor for nearly 60 years. As far as I know he's the only tailor within driving distance of the area in which we live, and if everyone got their suits from him there are a lot of people still running around yelling "Eureka!".

I personally would stay away from that analogy unless you know that the person does get their suits custom tailored.

Meghan MacMillan

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Most of my customers are ladies, and although they may not have suits made most of them have bought custom draperies or custom upholstered furniture. If more explanation seems necessary I draw some comparisons with those.

If you pick the 72" sofa and a stock fabric it's one thing, but custom framing is like having a 76" sofa made with fabric you designed yourself.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Where else do we get anything made exactly to
our specification? Shoes, clothes,or cars
that are made to order cost a good deal more
than off-the-shelf equivalents and none of those
items involves the careful handling and installation of something that the customer



MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Depending on the customer, the answer can be quite involved. Might include some comment on the quality of materials,overhead for skilled staff and storefront. It will generally end with some rambling on the time involved in discussing a project with the customer, picking out the frame & mats, and settling on the presentation. Then I might ask the customer how much his or her time is worth.