Pre-step, before going to the store: Search the store's web site for coupons. (This can save a lot, even though you'll already be saving by going the semi-custom route.)
Step 1: Find a frame you like, preferably to fit the size of whatever you're framing. If your print isn't a standard size, see step 2. (Mark and I are both huge fans of having consistent frames throughout the house, so this is always easy for us, so long as the right size is in stock.)
Step 2: Decide if you want a matte or not. For standard size items, flip through the stock mattes they have available.
Always nice if the mattes are on sale
Mattes also give you a great option for cheating your way into a standard frame size if your posters or pictures aren't a standard size. Just have a matte cut custom for a standard size frame, but with a cut-out for your odd-sized item. (Custom mattes aren't much more pricey than stock mattes.) Whether you're going for a standard matte or a custom matte, make sure the print, matte and frame look good together.
Step 3: Approach the counter with your prints, frames (and mattes, if applicable), along with a friendly smile. Say, "I've like to have these prints mounted in these frames." Then here's the important part -- what you want to ask for to ensure a custom look. Ask for:
- The print to be dry-mounted (this prevents future sagging)
- The glass to be swapped out for UV glass (prevents fading) or museum glass (prevents fading and blocks glare, though it is pricier... my personal favorite)
- The whole thing to be sealed and wired
Step 4: Hand over some dough, wait a day or two, and you'll have yourself some custom-looking framed prints, ready to hang for many years to come.