Framing Advice

The purpose of a frame

The first thing to know about framing is that it should make the art look good. Good presentation enhances the art; bad presentation can kill it. The second thing you should know is that framing is supposed to take care of the art. Preservation is important, because most damage to art on paper is caused by improper framing. Presentation mistakes can always be corrected, but mistakes in preservation are usually permanent, leading to complete destruction of the art in some cases.

How to choose a frame

Choose a modern contemporary frame to suit a contemporary painting or print. Modern styles are simple, plain, flat frames. Traditional styles are more decorative, ornate or elaborate. Black and white photographs or drawings suit black, silver or pewter frames. Light coloured pictures suit light natural wood or stained frames. There are many shades of gold frames available from antique gold to more modern subtle shades. Traditionally, paintings were framed in gold frames and many dark traditional paintings are still framed in this way.

Framing original oils, acrylics and giclée on Canvas

Paintings or prints on canvas should be stretched on stretcher bars. Framing works on canvas requires a frame which tends to be wide and fairly deep to hide the stretcher bars and strong enough for the additional support. Thinner frames or slips can be placed on the inside of the frame for additional depth and decorative effect.

Framing prints and originals on paper

The whole array of art works on paper; drawings, watercolours, gouaches, pastels, etchings, engravings, woodblocks, lithographs, silkscreen’s and photographs–are always placed behind a glazed surface for preservation. However, the work should NEVER be placed directly against the glazed surface. Works on paper are some of the most vulnerable art objects, and need the protection of mounts and frames. The mount provides a rigid support for the work of art, to prevent bending and folding and other damage that might occur to paper when being handled and touched. It separates the work of art from the glazed surface, creating a “breathing space.” In addition, mounts are used for their aesthetic properties, often strengthening features already present in the piece of art.

Framing charcoal and pastel paintings and drawings

Due to dust, pastels and charcoal drawings are framed behind glass. Perspex should not be used because it has a static charge and draws dust particles to the surface. Although mounts can be used, dust can fall onto the mounts. A better option is to frame with a spacer between the artwork and the glass. This could be thin strips of wood in the rebate (lip); the glass sits between them which allow the dust particles to fall without creating visible deposits.


All drawings and paintings on paper should have either mounts or spacers to separate the glass from the art surface. This is important because moisture will condense where there is no air gap, inviting mildew and mould. Mounts come in many colours.

Mount width

Narrow mounts are usually more distraction than enhancement. Wide mounts create focus toward the art.

Acid free mount

Conservation mounts are manufactured from 100 percent rag or a high alpha cellulose content.


Dry mounting is recommended for photos and other non -porous paper artworks which have no significant value.

Glass and perspex

Clear picture framing glass is most common and least expensive for general purposes. Perspex is plastic; it is lightweight and does not shatter, but it scratches very easily and is not as clear as glass. Ultraviolet-filtering glass is recommended for all preservation projects. It is coated inside to filter out more than 95% of harmful UV light, which causes fading. UV rays are in all light, but very strong in sunlight and fluorescent light. Museum glass is the highest grade picture framing glass available. It has the same UV coating to filter out the harmful rays but is also completely non reflective. Claryl glass has the same viewing quality as museum glass but doesn’t have the UV filter.

Do's and Don'ts

NEVER hang paintings in direct or bright sunlight: It can fade or crack in months!

NEVER hang a valuable painting above a working fireplace. Both heat and smoke dust will damage it.

MAINTAIN a constant room temperature all year. Paintings on canvas should be taut on their stretcher bars, without ripples. Have the painting re-keyed occasionally to take up slack as canvas naturally loosens over time. Humidity is a major enemy of paper, as being hygroscopic, paper naturally absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. This causes the paper to expand as it dampens and contract as it dries, possibly resulting in rippling of the paper. Moisture also promotes the growth of mould, particularly if the artwork has been framed with the glass directly touching the paper as this can encourage condensation to form.

Light is another danger to be aware of as all light fades works of art on paper. Fading cannot be entirely stopped by subdued lighting but obviously the stronger the light exposure then the faster the fading will occur.  Avoid hanging any artwork in direct sunlight particularly as the Ultra-Violet (UV) rays can be very harmful. Fluorescent lights are also a strong source of UV rays, but fitting Perspex covers to the light fittings can reduce the damaging effect. Display your artwork as far from direct light as possible and consider using UV Protective glass for any valuable or treasured pieces.

It is not a good idea to hang artwork directly above heat sources, such as radiators, as the increased airflow created by the warm air rising across the face of the artwork can help to carry pollutants. The fluctuations in temperature caused by the heating switching on and off can also encourage cockling.