Art on paper—drawings, etchings, watercolors, gouaches, woodblocks, lithographs, pastels, engravings, photographs, or silkscreens—require excellent protection in order to keep them pristine for years to come. Carefully consider how you will frame your paper art, and do not skimp on protecting your investment with quality materials.
Frames should always enhance the artwork. In addition, you should like the frame, as you are going to be looking at it frequently.
If you are unsure of yourself when it comes to choosing the right frame, professional framers are a great resource for helping you narrow down the selection, including the material out of which it is made, the color, and the simplicity or ornateness of the style. Remember, however, that advice is advice, and if you do not like a particular frame, do not let yourself be talked into buying it.
Some ways you can narrow down your choices are to consider the artwork as it relates to the frame:
- You can juxtapose simple, stark art with a more ornate frame for balance
- Choose a frame color from out of the colors in the piece
- Dark wood warms crisp images often found in modern art
- To fully showcase the art, choose a barely-there frame
- Match the frame’s style to the period of art you are framing
- If possible, ask the artist what type of frame would best suit the piece
- Enhance rich colors, textures, or subject with a rich frame
Matting provides a sturdy support for paper art and keeps it from rolling or tearing. Matting can be single or double, in any color, and made from several different materials. For the most color variety, choose a wood-pulp mat. These are the least expensive mats, though if they are acid-neutralized and lignen-free, they can last for years.
Cotton fiber mats will protect expensive works of art in perpetuity and are three to four times more expensive than high-quality wood-pulp mats. You will never need to replace a cotton fiber mat as long as it remains undamaged, but you will have to settle for neutral or subdued colors.
Glass or Plexiglass (Acrylic) Coverings
To prevent dust and dirt from damaging your artwork, frame it with glass or plexiglass for extra protection. Paper art should never be allowed to touch a glass or Plexiglass covering (which is where the matting becomes especially functional).
While either glass or acrylic will do the job, there are some advantages and disadvantages to each.
Pros of Glass
- Less expensive than Plexiglass
- Comes in four types: clear, non-reflective, conservation (filters 99% of UV rays), and museum (eliminates 99% of UV rays and is 85% non-reflective)
- Can’t be easily scratched
- Does not build up static electricity
Cons of Glass
- Can shatter
- Is heavy, which can make it unwieldy for larger pieces
Pros of Plexiglass (Acrylic)
- 1/3 lighter than glass, which makes it more ideal for large pieces
- Less reflective than glass
Cons of Plexiglass
- Twice as expensive as glass
- Can be scratched
- Can build up static electricity, which can pull certain art mediums off the paper, such as charcoal, graphite, or pastels
Beautifully framed art enhances a home and allows you to enjoy each piece any time you wish.