Framing can seem pretty daunting. All those colours, glazing, mattes, frames, textures, hinges, mounts, acrylics... We know it can seem scary and expensive. So to avoid the possibility of your artwork staying in the delivery box, or the onset of a panic attack while looking at plexiglass, Rise Art has devised a short and easy guide to help you frame your artwork.
Why do you need a frame?
So firstly, why does your artwork need a frame? Why can't you just stick some pins into it and tack it to the wall? Frames aren't just used for aesthetic enhancement, they help to protect your work from dirt, dust and handling; while maintaining a controlled setting essential for the life of the piece.
Works on paper are some of the most vulnerable art objects, and need the protection of mattes and frames. The matte (also known as a mount) provides a rigid support for the work of art to prevent bending, folding and other damages 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, mattes are used for their aesthetic properties, often strengthening features already present in the piece of art. Depending on the work, you may want to have it matted to the edges of the paper, or have the image "floated." Floating a work of art means exposing the whole sheet with its edges. This technique is not as secure, but is often chosen for aesthetic reasons, particularly if the paper has rough or unique edges that are part of the work of art itself.
However you decide to matte your piece, the bottom margin is generally slightly wider than the top to give the entire image a visual weight. All materials used in the matting and framing should be archival. This basically means that matting boards are acid-free and made of all-rag fibres. Any reputable framing store will use archival materials. Or, if you decide to frame the work yourself, you can find these items in a well-equipped art supply store.
The whole array of art works on paper- drawings, watercolors, gouaches, pastels, etchings, engravings, woodblocks, lithographs, silkscreens & photographs--are almost always put behind a glazed surface for preservation. However, the work should never be placed directly against the glazed surface. 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.
This leads us to another issue- glass or acrylic? Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Glass is cheaper, easier to clean, and more resistant to scratches. However, it is heavier, more breakable, sensitive to variations in temperature and highly reflective, so it often creates a glare.
Acrylic surfaces, or Plexiglas, are often more suitable for framing because they are better thermal insulators, as well as shatterproof, and can be treated with an ultraviolet filter to protect the work from light damage. Large pieces of art should usually be placed behind Plexiglas because it is a lighter substance than glass, and therefore there is less chance of the piece falling off the wall. Yet, acrylic surfaces have a propensity for attracting dust and cannot be cleaned with regular glass cleaners. In addition, due to their inherent properties of static electricity, acrylic surfaces should never be used in framing pastels, charcoals, or any other powdery pigment surface.
Regardless of what kind of glazing you select, works of art behind a glass or acrylic surface should be opened every few years to clean dust and allow the materials to air. If you have more questions on framing, why not comment below? Or alternatively, check out these useful links.
For tips on framing yourself.
For general tips.