Is Your Art Protected When Being Framed?

Acid free mat residue

Typical mat stain when a wood pulp based mat is used in framing

Over the past few years, I have seen a proliferation of people entering the framing business who are either not familiar with framing to protect the art and other works on paper, like a historical document or even a diploma.  When a document, print or other work on paper is matted with other than a 100% cotton rag mat, the part of the paper item that is covered by the wood pulp mat develops a shading or toning.  Also called a “mat burn”, this is caused by the acids or chemicals in the matting interacting with the artwork.  The longer the mat is adhered or mounted on the item, the more intense or discolored the artwork becomes.

Over a longer period of time, the acids from the “acid free” mat can “eat” into the paper of the artwork or document. Impurities from these mats can react from certain conditions.  1) The makeup of the mat boards.  The more acidic the mat board, the more damage that can be done.  2) Environmental factors.  Light and heat can react with the impurities in a mat board to cause the chemicals to bleed onto the artwork.  The more intense and longer these elements contact the mat board, the more staining and damage.

As a matter of fact, I have been asked why a framed print has faded.  Even though fading is subtle and is not noticed immediately, you will see signs of the fading when a certain color is no longer bold or crisp in the photograph or print.

Colors are very sensitive to light.  Given this, it it to the best interest of your artwork that it be shielded and protected from the presence of light.  Outside of having a darkroom or closet with your wall hangings, which is not realistic, the next best thing is UV protected glass or acrylic.

UV light is probably the worst for your framed art and photographs as it can be the most intense light in your room.  UV light is a type of electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun.  And although it is not noticed by the human eye, it can be detected by items it touches, like your framed items.

Once colors are impacted and faded, there is not way to restore the vibrancy and crispness to their original condition.

Wood pulp mat

The result from an improper mat being on a framed document

Another case where art is compromised through poor framing lies with the glazing, either glass or acrylic.  Unless the glazing is honestly UV filtered, subtle fading will occur, affecting the colors in the art.  Even black ink will lose its sharpness in time.

Remember, when displayed and hanging on a wall, your artwork or document will have constant, everyday exposure to light and other environmental conditions.  Thus, the continuous light, especially UV light, will fade colors and bold inks over time.

In this case, the best protection is UV filtered acrylic or glass, especially higher grade 99% UV filtered glass or acrylic.  Although you only see your wall art occasionally, light coming into a room (regardless where the sunbeam hits) will hit the framed artwork constantly everyday, 365 days a year.  Even a cloudy day gives off light.

Although you may not know the subtle changes in color or dullness, after a period of time when you view your art, even diploma, you will notice the changes in appearance.  The printing won’t be as strong as you remember.  The colors won’t be crisp or brilliant anymore.  The artwork or photograph has been altered.

A good example of the destruction of light is the change in a newspaper’s appearance.  The first day, the paper is fresh and bold.  After a short period of time in the basket or magazine holder, the paper has darkened in appearance.  Although this is a case of inferior paper being affected, better quality paper will still feel the effects of light.  Just over a little longer time.

In summary, you frame things because they hold meaning or provide an excellent splash of color to your walls.  In either case, the framing should not damage them, but rather, protect them for your enjoyment for many years.  Museum  grade framing is needed to protect and preserve your artwork and artifacts for years.

Without UV filtered glazing

Example of the damage light can do when constantly hitting colors and ink over time

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