Protect Your Art Investment With These Archival Framing Tips

Two dimensional art is vulnerable to the effects of ultraviolet light and art on paper or canvas can be damaged by environmental contaminants and acids that can be present in poor quality framing materials.  I select the best quality materials to frame my art, with an eye toward long term preservation of the original creation state of the art.  This protects of the value of the artwork so that generations in the future can enjoy it.   If you are taking art to your local frame shop these are the things you should be asking for:

  1. Ultraviolet light blocking glass or plexiglass.  This blocks 99% of the damaging light that leads to fading of the artwork.  I use UV-blocking plexiglass because it is safe for shipping.  If you need to save money, and you are getting your art framed locally, you can opt for UV-blocking glass.
  2. Acid-free mat board comes in two grades.  Museum or conservation rag mat is considered the best choice because it is made from cotton which is naturally acid free.  I select Rising brand rag mat board for framing my art because it is made from recycled cotton.  If you need to save money you can select acid-buffered mat board which is made from wood pulp.  Technically speaking it is not acid free, because wood pulp contains acids.  The wood pulp has been treated with calcium carbonate to neutralize acid that might in the future be generated from aging of the paper or from atmospheric pollution.   This is what many framers will use if you ask for acid free mat, unless you specify rag mat board. 
  3. The backer board behind the art should be either a piece of acid free foam core or a piece of rag mat or acid free mat board. 
  4. The art must be attached to the backer board using a method that is both acid free and reversible.  I use archival plastic or linen adhesive backed print corner pockets attached to the backer board.  The corners of my prints are tucked into the corner pockets and may be easily slipped out, should the frame need to be changed in the future. 
  5. The position of the hanging hardware is not relevant to the archival preservation, but it is a consideration for the structural integrity of the frame.  Many framers will place two clips and strung wire on the back of the frame.  This makes hanging and leveling the art easy and convenient.  However due to the forces of gravity this type of hanging will damage the frame over time by forcing open the lower corners of the frame, especially on large and heavier artworks.  A better placement for the hardware is vertically on the right and left sides of the frame, and the use of two attachment points to the wall.  This prevents the forces of gravity from pulling apart the frame corners.