Conservation Framing


Mounting and Conservation

At glebepictureframes we are experienced in framing all types of artwork and can often suggest a number of different ways to frame any given item. As our work largely 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 art (and the mount) from insects, from ultra-violet light and from dust & other airborne particles such as smoke.

Essentially anything that comes in contact with the artwork - such as the mount itself - must be of conservation standard. The mount consists of a number of parts: the mat (in front of or over the artwork), the backing boards and barrier papers behind, and the hinging or method of attachment. We'll discuss with you the best type of mounting for your picture when you bring it in for a no-obligation consultation.

The mounting materials used by most picture framers are generally paper products (though inert 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. To combat this paper manufacturers have two main options: they can use better quality fibrous materials such as cotton fibre (which contains 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".

'A trip to the picture framer's is the most joyous outing I can imagine. I've spent more money on framing than anything else I own!" - Eleanor Catton


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: Crescent Museum Board, Crescent Ragmat and Rising archival mount board - all are made from cotton fibre and are therefore free of lignin.  We also stock some Bainbridge Alphamat and Artique Conservation Matboard colours.

Rising and Crescent Museum Boards (known as "ragboard" because they are made from cotton) 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.

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.

Backing Materials

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 (either white 5mm corflute or white 3mm bollaboard) which will not allow dampness from walls to pass through and contact with the artwork. In some circumstances we may use clear mylar or white tyvek, materials recognised for their conservation properties. We can also utilise materials such as neutral Ph foamcore and (acidic) mdf in certain cases. Backing options can be discussed with you when you visit us.


There are a variety of glazing choices for your framed artwork (glass/perspex, UVblocking/non-UV blocking, reflective/non-reflective and any combination of those) and again we can discuss the pros and cons of each with you. In many cases we will suggest 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 UC blocking perspex (Plexiglas or Shinkolite). We don't generally recommend UV blocking glass because if it were to break the artwork could be damaged - not a satisfactory outcome for conservation framing! The perspex doesn't break easily and also weighs less than glass. We also have available non-reflective Artglass, a popular product which also blocks around 70% of UV light.  These 3 options are usually enough choice, though other glazing materials such as TruVue Optium are availble too, please just ask! 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).

"Art enables us to find Ourselves and lose Ourselves at the same time" - Thomas Merton

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, led and halogen lamps emit UV rays and even the old 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.

"The aim of Art is to repesent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance" - Aristotle


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.


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 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 the highest standard of preservation for your artwork you may find our prices slightly higher.