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 from dust, smoke and other airborne particles.
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 paper products 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 now virtually meaningless for conservation purposes.
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 – Rising archival mount board, Crescent RagMat museum board, Bainbridge Alpharag, Bainbridge Alphamat.
Alphamat comes in about 300 colours and surfaces, is fade resistant and has a pure lignin – free solid white core. This our standard conservation board which we use in most of our framing of customers' pictures. Technical info on this product is available if you’d like to know more about it.
Rising mount boards, Crescent RagMat and Bainbridge Alpharag (known as "ragboard" because they are made from cotton fibre) come in a smaller range of useful natural and earthy tones. Ragboards such as these are the preferred matting and 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.
The matboards we use are manufactured using environmentally sound adhesives and colourants that won’t contaminate waterways. Alpha cellulose pulp 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 backing of corflute – an inert polypropylene board which will not allow moisture to pass through and contact with the artwork. We also stock materials such as neutral Ph foamcore and mdf board (which though highly acidic is sometimes useful to add rigidity to the frame, and as a backing for mirrors). Backing options will 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 complete 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 the 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. There are also a number of types of "museum glass", some also reducing reflection, though they tend to be costly. We don't recommend the etched surface 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 minimise 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 particularly 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 glebepictureframesand designed for the layperson 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 St Johns Rd. 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!
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 correspondingly higher.
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 & corflute 25
Mylar & acid-free board 25
Rag barrier & a/f foam-core 15
Acid-free foam-core only 10
Non acid-free board 5
Wood product (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.
For more information, we invite you to refer to the lists of publications and websites on our Books and Links page...