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Framing (Paper Artwork)

Artworks made on paper, fabric or similar supports require framing for protection from the atmosphere and handling. This task is best left to professionals; however, any artist who decides to do this on their own should follow some established rules. The cost of using the best methods and materials may outweigh the value of an artwork. The artist should use their judgement on the extent of protection needed for the artwork by considering the most likely causes of deterioration in the circumstances.


Unless necessary, artworks should not be mounted on a board. Where there is mounting, it must be done on a conservation board using a glue or adhesive that is pH neutral, of vegetable origin, and reversible. The choice between an organic water-based or solvent-based glue or adhesive is largely dependent on which material is less likely to affect the type of artwork (e.g., watercolours, etching, acrylics) during application and removal, should the need arise.


Artworks should never come into contact with the glazing, which is usually made of glass or acrylic. There are two reasons for this rule. First, glass, in particular, tends to condense moisture and cause mould and mildew to grow on the artwork. Second, acrylic paintings can adhere to glazing over time and cause irreparable damage when removed. A matboard or spacer can be used to separate the artwork from the glazing. Where a matboard is used, small to medium artworks must be secured with tape only in two places to accommodate the natural expansion and contraction caused by changes in temperature; if it is secured in more than two places, ripples may occur. Larger artworks, however, need to be secured in more than two places to hold them in place. The tape should be pH neutral and non-yellowing, An archival tape is good for this purpose. Never use scotch, masking, drafting, and packing tapes in framing.


Charcoal and pastel artworks should only be glazed with glass because acrylic sheets tend to develop static electrical charges and cause lifting. Using a fixative on the artwork may provide some protection against this type of lifting.


There should always be a 1/4 inch margin between the edge of the artwork and the wood frame. Wood generally becomes acidic with age. Contact with a wood frame will cause acid migration to the artwork that will affect the composition of the paper and cause it to break down or brown. The acid migration might also cause colour changes to the artwork.


The backing board should be made of 100% rag or be lignin-free and buffered with alkaline to counter the absorption of acid from the atmosphere. Museum and conservation boards are suitable for use as backings. Boards made of wood (ground or pulp), chipboards, and cardboard are not suitable for use as backings. These boards tend to be acidic and have iron and copper content that will oxidise and stain the artwork.



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