At glebepictureframes we are experienced in framing all types of artwork and we can often suggest a number of different ways to frame any given item. As probably the majority of our work involves the framing of art done on paper, this page is mainly concerned with this type of artwork.
Works on paper often need careful handling during framing due to their fragility in comparison with other items which may be framed such as canvasses, memorabilia, etc. They must be mounted using materials that won’t cause the artwork to deteriorate in any way, and they must be glazed to protect the paper and art from ultra-violet light, insects, and dust & other airborne particles such as smoke.
Essentially anything that comes in contact with the artwork (ie the mount) must be of conservation standard. The mount consists of a number of parts: the mat, the backing boards and barrier papers; the quantity and type of each will vary depending on the type of mounting chosen for the artwork. We will discuss this with you when you bring in your picture for framing.
Mounting materials are generally paper products (though plastics may also be used, see below) made from fibrous matter, usually wood pulp, plus other constituents. The wood pulp contains lignin, an acidic substance which over time breaks down and leaches into the paper of the artwork, turning it brown and affecting the integrity of the paper. Poorer quality materials will brown more quickly, especially in humid or damp environments, and to combat this paper manufacturers have two main options. They can use better quality fibrous materials such as cotton fibre (which contains little or no lignin), or they may add alkaline chemicals such as chloride and calcium carbonate to the paper-making process so that the paper achieves a neutral pH value (the cheaper alternative). It can then be marketed as "acid free". Unfortunately "acid free" materials of this type will revert back to being acidic over time as the alkaline chemicals dissipate, leaving the acid behind in the material. Thus the term "acid free" is virtually meaningless for conservation purposes, though many framers still use it despite knowing that their customers will assume they mean "conservation" or "archival".
At glebepictureframes we ensure that only the best quality mounting materials come in contact with your artwork. The boards we use and recommend are recognised as the best available such as "Rising" archival mount board, "Crescent RagMat" museum board, "Bainbridge Alpharag", "Bainbridge Alphamat", all manufactured in the USA; and "Artique Conservation Matboard" made by James Cropper in the UK.
Rising mount boards, Crescent RagMat and Bainbridge Alpharag (known as "ragboard" because they are made from cotton fibre) come in a small range of whites and useful natural & earthy tones. Ragboards such as these are the preferred mounting materials of museums and galleries around the world. We like the look of it a lot, and use it in the framing of most of the artwork for sale here at glebepictureframes. It is available in standard 4-ply thickness (what you're used to seeing) and also double-thick, or 8-ply. We think the thicker the better - ask about 12-ply and 16-ply - all are available at glebepictureframes.
Alphamat and Artique come in hundreds of colours and textured surfaces, are fade resistant and have a pure lignin-free solid white core. Technical info on these products is available - if you’d like to know more about them, please have a look at the manufacturer's websites - links are on our Books and Links page.
The matboards we use are manufactured using environmentally sound adhesives and colourants that don’t contaminate waterways. The alpha cellulose pulp used in Alphamat comes only from plantation grown trees, and for every tree that’s used, another is planted.
As important as the matboard is what goes behind your artwork. Our preference is to use a rag barrier paper immediately behind the work, and behind that a moisture-proof backing of inert polypropylene board which will not allow dampness from walls to pass through and contact with the artwork. We also stock and utilise materials such as neutral Ph foamcore (a good light-weight and inexpensive backing material), mdf board (which though highly acidic is sometimes useful to add rigidity to the frame, and as a backing for mirrors). Backing options can be discussed with you when you visit us.
There are a variety of glazing choices for your framed artwork, and again we can discuss the pros and cons of each with you. In most cases we will recommend standard 2mm clear float glass. This is the cheapest option, it looks good and of course protects your picture from dust, etc. It doesn’t, however, offer much protection from UV light, which in some circumstances can cause the artwork to fade and also cause the structural integrity of the paper break down over time (think of newspaper left in the sun). Complete conservation framing should eliminate UV rays reaching your artwork. We can do this by using UV blocking glass or perspex (acrylic or plexiglas). The perspex has added advantages in that it doesn't break easily and weighs less than glass. We also have available "Tru Vue Museum Glass" - anti-UV and anti-reflective due to a special coating similar to that on a camera lens, and the new(ish) wonder product Tru Vue "Optium" - an acrylic that wont break, weighs next to nothing, is anti-UV, anti-reflective, anti-scratch and anti-static - ask to see what it looks like, you'll be surprised! We don't recommend the diffused type of non-reflective picture framing glass for reasons we can explain when you drop in (though it is available for those who insist on it).
The importance of conservation framing
There are many environmental factors that can have an adverse effect on your artwork. Proper framing should minimize the impact of these factors on your valued possessions. Please bear in mind, however, that even the best framing will not protect your pictures if they are kept in extremely adverse locations.
Temperature and humidity:
Extremes of temperature and humidity can detrimentally affect the condition of artwork, particularly those made of organic materials. Paper will expand as it absorbs moisture from the air and will often flatten out again during drier conditions. Mould flourishes in high levels of humidity causing disfiguring stains. Brown spots known as “foxing” can be due to mould activity, and may also sometimes be a result of metallic impurities in the paper which will rust in a humid environment.
Dust and insects:
Moisture is attracted to dust, and this can create a food source for insects. Insects like to eat organic materials such as the starch and cellulose in paper, wood and textiles. Insect damage is visible as staining, holes and surface grazing.
Damage caused by light accumulates with each exposure and is irreversible, resulting in the fading of colours in paintings, photos, textiles and many other materials. Some materials are particularly sensitive to light and are rapidly affected by exposure. Sunlight is an intense source of energy and contains invisible ultra-violet radiation (UV). UV rays cause irreversible reactions within materials resulting in visible physical changes: paper and fabrics can discolour and become brittle; watercolour pigments, colour in photos and dyes in textiles can fade. Sunlight is not the only source of light and UV radiation which your framed artworks will encounter. Many fluorescent and halogen lamps emit UV rays and even tungsten lamps emit low level UV, as well as generate heat.
Objects are most likely to be damaged when they are being handled or moved. Oils and acids from the skin can cause staining and can even corrode some metal surfaces.
Suggestions to assist preservation after framing
1) Ensure good air circulation (eg ceiling fans etc).
2) Cool dry, places are better than warm moist ones (avoid hanging valued pictures in bathrooms or above fireplaces).
3) Avoid displaying objects on external walls or near windows & doors and away from air conditioning units & heating vents.
4) Ensure items are framed with moisture resistant backings.
5) Keep framed pictures away from direct sunlight.
6) Frame works on paper and textiles under a UV blocking material.
7) Control light levels through the use of curtains & blinds on windows, and timers & dimmers for light switches. Consider lighting pieces indirectly by bouncing spotlights off walls or ceilings.
8) Swap over displays of works on paper and textiles periodically, and leave them in dark storage to slow down the accumulation of light damage.
The glebepictureframes Conservation Rating (CR) System
At glebepictureframes we have developed a scale to enable customers to determine the level of conservation achieved by any framing solution.
What is conservation rating?
At glebepictureframes we want to frame your art using the best preservation methods and materials available to ensure that it will survive looking as it does now for as long as possible. This is known as conservation framing. Of course not everyone needs, or wants to pay for, the maximum level of conservation framing, but a good framing job can be done using less than full conservation materials. The conservation rating (CR) is a scale developed at glebepictureframes and designed for our customers to easily identify what level of preservation is being quoted for in a framing job so that different options can be compared. It also explains what level of conservation is being offered on items for sale in the showroom here at Forest Lodge. A CR of 70/100 or more can be considered “good framing” and this is the lowest rating we recommend at glebepictureframes (the maximum is CR100/100). Many framed pieces brought here for re-framing have rated as low as CR15/100 on our scale!
Conservation values for all the relevant components of a framing job are listed below:
UV blocking 3mm plexiglas 25
UV blocking 2mm glass 20
Clear 2mm float glass 15
Ragmat (cotton fibre) 25
Alphamat Artcare 20
“Acid-free” (a/f) white core 10
Non a/f (acidic) 0
Archival hinging 25
A/f hinging (eg.P90) 15
A/f glue to a/f board 10
Non archival hinging 5
Non a/f glue to acidic board 0
Rag barrier with polypropelene back 25
Mylar with Ph neutral board or polypropelene 25
Rag barrier & acid-free foam-core back 15
Acid-free foam-core only 10
Non acid-free board 5
Wood product only (mdf, plywood) 0
Note that the choice of frame is usually irrelevant in terms of conservation as it doesn’t generally come into contact with the artwork.
A note on pricing
When comparing glebepictureframes prices with those of other framers its important to also consider the level of conservation being offered. Our prices for a CR of 70/100 are comparable to the prices of our competitors even though they may be offering a lesser standard of preservation for your artwork. If you require a standard of preservation for your artwork of up to CR 100/100, you may find our prices slightly higher.
For more information, we invite you to refer to the lists of publications and websites on our Books and Links page...