Framing tips you should know before
you start painting!
Interviewed from his New York studio, archivist
framer Don Gatanis
talks about archival framing and shares his knowledge
on 'things' artists should know.
"If you are an artist and intend to have your
artwork framed there are some simple concepts that
should be kept in mind while first developing your
work, whether it is a painting, illustration or
the size of the completed piece.
materials needed for your 'framing package'.
piece be mounted.
use archival materials.
Regardless of whether you intend to use a mat board as
part of your framed artwork, it is important to know
the standard sizes of mat boards. Typically, the maximum size for
a mat board is 32 inches x 40
inches. Any larger and the mat would be considered a 'custom
size' and would likely be reflected in a higher price.
The Framing Package defined:
Once you have determined the overall size of the
artwork, it is important to identify the basic
materials needed for your 'framing package'. This package includes 5 items.
board (museum board)
wood, metal, gesso, polystyrene moldings
glass or plexi-glass
considerations. Depending on size, proper support
for hanging may be needed.
most important element of framing is using 'archival
Archival materials in the broadest sense means
‘reversible’. Essentially, an art piece can be
removed from its frame and the original art remains
undamaged and in its original state.
Once you have established your framing package,
determine the type of mat board and method of mounting
needed for the project. One hundred percent cotton rag
museum board is used most frequently. Varying thickness called ‘ply’
Colors of mat board
vary, though white or
off white is appropriate for most artwork.
Basic methods of matting:
- Over-mated: Mat board is cut in such a method that
it covers a portion of the image.
mounted: Shows the edges of the paper,
painting, or photo.
Hinging your mat board:
Hinging is the process of attaching the mat board
to the backboard, of which your picture is attached.
While there are many ways of hinging a piece of
artwork, an archival process is recommended.
paper and wheat paste is considered the appropriate
archival method. Used as the adhesive between mat
board and back board (the mount).
sensitive tapes may be used but are not considered
Do NOT use masking tape or any form of sticky
tape directly on artwork.
Your framing choice should complement and not over
power the artwork. Consideration should be foremost to
the artwork and then to the environment in which it
will be displayed. Key elements to consider are:
It is important to assess the durability of materials
used for your frame. For example, soft woods may only
last 1-2 years and then would need to be replaced.
It is also important to assess where the piece of art
will be displayed and whether there are any
environmental issues that could damage the work. Check
the room for excess moisture, avoid placing your work
to close to a heating vent or register.
Simplicity in your framing choice is a good general rule.
All works on paper require some form of glazing.
Therefore, the molding (frame) must incorporate the
depth and thickness of the artwork, whether the
artwork is ‘floated’ or requires spacers. The
artwork should never touch the glass.
Historically, glazing choices were limited to
glass, but with the advent of new technology there are
now many choices of glazing available to the framer.
- UV filtered glazing: The worst thing to a piece of artwork is UV light.
Exposure over time can damage and discolor the
artwork; especially susceptible are watercolors,
pastel and photographic material. Therefore, UV
filtering glazing is your most archival glazing
will include plexi-glass and glass, prices varying
Generally used on large, and/or traveling pieces.
Particularly in transporting, weight restrictions
and breakage become primary considerations. Plexi
is durable, strong and lighter than glass. On the
down side, plexi-glass is susceptible to
scratching, though abrasion resistant
plexi has reached the market.
Glass requires considerably less maintenance than
plexi. It is easier to clean, and does not
scratch. Also. glass must be used for all pastels. Any medium that can move
(known as fugitive) like pastel, pencil and charcoal
drawing should use glass as the glazing choice.
Clarity. If clarity is more important than UV
protection, than non-reflective glass is the best
The backing of your framed artwork should be
archival, acid free foam board or acid free corrugated
board (blue board). Brown corrugated cardboard should
never be used.
Framing artwork on canvas:
Most modern and contemporary canvas are put in
floater frames. The edges, or sides, of the canvas are
still visible after framing is completed.
The canvas must be placed in the frame in a manner
that it can be easily removed in the future without
damage to the original artwork.
Stretching canvas is an art in itself and one should
not expect a framer to know how to stretch a canvas,
especially painted artwork. For canvas
stretching methods click here.
Back of canvas:
Caution should be used when placing a backing on a
stretched canvas. Often dust collects, or an artist
signature may be covered. The canvas must breathe,
therefore, if a backing is necessary add holes and
filters to allow air to circulate.
Following are a few suggestions if a piece is to be stored before going to a framer.
artwork flat and moisture free. Do not roll,
unless on a very temporary basis.
attention to humidity in your storage area. Too
much humidity may lead to mold or mildew, while too
little can result in the paper or canvas becoming
dry and brittle.