Picture Frame Materials 101 | An Overview | FrameStore

Picture Frame Materials 101

At FrameStore, we strive to provide comprehensive information about all your framing options. Whether you’re getting your fine art custom-framed or you’re exploring your options for a shadow box, our framers work with you one-on-one to craft the perfect frames for your needs. Explore our overview of picture frame materials to learn more about wood, metal, and plastic frame styles.


While we offer numerous wood colors and stain options, there are three types of wood that are generally used as art framing materials. Discover the difference between natural wood, MDF, and finger-jointed poplar here.

Natural Wood

We love the look of natural wood because it’s one of the most physically and aesthetically pleasing materials. When stained, the grain varies from frame to frame and offers an additional level of interest and uniqueness to your art collection. Unfortunately, natural wood can have some downsides, including susceptibility to heat and humidity, higher cost, and limited availability. Wood is a high-maintenance picture frame material that requires extra care and attention.


Also known as medium-density fiberboard, MDF is recycled wood material. It’s made up of compressed sawdust that’s bound, wrapped, and sanded for a uniform finish. It looks just like the real thing, but MDF is more stable, cheaper, and requires less maintenance than solid wood. In addition to being a popular picture frame material, MDF is also common in cabinets, flooring, and furniture because it’s less likely to warp due to heat or humidity.

Finger-Jointed Poplar

Another kind of recycled wood picture frame material, finger-jointed poplar, is made of bonding different pieces of wood. These frames are usually made of the extra scraps left over from making doors or cutting solid wood for home improvement. Finger-jointed poplar is the middle-ground between MDF and solid wood framing. It’s plentiful, inexpensive, and eco-friendly.


fine art in metal frames

Another popular art frame material, metal, has just as many options and varieties as wood. Learn more about silver, bronze, and aluminum picture frame materials.


An incredibly costly option, silver is not a very common framing choice. These types of frames can be ideal for framing elegant mirrors. Because of its cost and scarcity, we don’t recommend silver for your everyday framing needs.


While bronze is a beautiful tone that lends power and gravitas to your framed pieces, it does tend to oxidize and turn green. Years of exposure without maintenance can lead to a complete shift in color. It’s not an ideal choice for framers.


Most metal picture frames are made of aluminum because it’s cost-effective and durable — especially when anodized. Resistant to corrosion, lightweight, and beautiful, we recommend aluminum frames for everything from awards and diplomas to memorabilia.


plastic-framed photographs above a desk

Sometimes, people choose to use plastic-type materials for their frames, including polystyrene. They’re the cheapest option out there and are designed to be functional rather than genuinely decorative. Plastic can be a good option for a temporary frame or a piece that you’re testing out in your home. We generally prefer to work with more premium materials for our custom frames, however.

Did you get all the answers you need about picture frame materials? Reach out to us today or visit one of our locations to discuss your options for custom framing!

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