You may have purchased or received your first frame as a teenager, for a poster or certificate of achievement. No doubt it was inexpensive (i.e. cheap) and poorly made and you probably didn’t think much about it at all.
When it came time to frame your more important mementos such as graduation or wedding photos, you probably gave it a bit more thought. So, it was off to the big box store for an off-the-shelf frame complete with a mat and real glass.
Later, as you had kids and acquired more images, keepsakes and artwork you likely took the leap into the world of custom framing.
Looks matter, but so does quality
Unfortunately, even as we become more informed consumers of framing, we still tend to focus on how our finished piece will look, rather than on its quality. Of course, your framed piece should look good, but it should also protect your artwork and mementos from the ravages of time.
The biggest threat to your artwork is damage and degradation caused by acid, light and pollution/dust/dirt. Quality framing materials are designed to protect your artwork from these threats.
The quality of a custom framed project is determined by many factors – including the quality of each of the component pieces. The whole, as they say, is only as good as the sum of its parts.
A traditional picture frame set is comprised of more components than you may realize. To keep things simple, however, we’ll cover just the four most important components – the moulding (material of the frame), matboard, glazing and the backing.
Technically, “frames” refers to the entire compilation of moulding, glazing, matting, backing and artwork. The more accurate term is moulding. Moulding is typically made of either wood, metal or plastic and is available in thousands of different styles.
The choice of moulding is largely determined by aesthetics. What look are you trying to achieve? What best compliments your artwork or displays your mementos?
The matting, glazing and backing serve a more critical function in the preservation of your artwork.
Matboards have a window through which the image can be viewed. They are available in many different styles and colors and help to protect and enhance the artwork.
Matboard should always be acid-free.
Acids are a chemical substance with a pH less than 7.0. Acids can react with paper products causing discoloration (acid burn) and deterioration. Acid-free describes materials with a pH of around 7.0. These materials are much less likely to harm your artwork. Paper materials with a pH below 6.5 or above 8.5 are not considered acid-free for the purposes of picture framing.
Matboard is versatile and easy to customize. Options include:
Size: both the opening and outer sizes
Color: hundreds of colors to choose from.
Core: standard core, black core and white core for the inside edge of the mat.
Layers: mats can be bought in single, double or even triple layers.
Design: mats can be cut in many shapes, including rectangular, oval, irregular, etc.
Finish: the bevel cut, v-groove cuts, bottom weighting and many other configurations are possible.
A mat helps to accentuate the item and colors in the frame and serves to focus the viewer’s eye on a specific aspect of the art, acting as a frame within a frame.
Mats can have equal borders or be bottom-weighted (the bottom border is about one-half to an inch larger than the other three borders).
The double mat style has one mat board on top of another mat board: the top mat has a larger opening, usually showing one-eighth to one-half of an inch of the bottom board. Alternately, a multiple opening matboard can frame a collage or multiple collectibles.
More unusual mat styles include:
the museum mat with a very wide border and heavy bottom border,
the oriental style mat that gives the appearance of being narrow and long,
a print mat with narrow top and bottom and wide sides.
Backings are materials used to support and protect the framed object(s).
Most store-bought backings are cardboard, a weak product which contains acid that will eventually leach into the item you’re mounting. Better choices are acid-free foam core, which is pH neutral and will last for decades, and corrugated plastic, good for humid zones or areas prone to frequent temperature changes.
Glazing is the generic term for the glass or acrylic used to cover and protect artwork in a frame from dust and dirt and when a UV-protective film is added, from fading.
Nonglare glass works well on pieces placed directly in front of a window. The drawback is that this glass tends to soften the image and give a slightly fuzzy appearance to the work. It also gives low UV protection.
Conservation glazing is a coating applied to glass that offers 97 percent UV protection.
Museum Glass is the ultimate—clear and glare-free. It also provides the highest level of UV protection.
Acrylic glazing, also known as Plexiglas, is lighter than glass – making it a good alternative for large works of art. It’s virtually shatterproof, although it scratches easily. Available in regular and nonglare forms, acrylic provides about 60 percent UV protection.
Four Star Framing
Your frames should last a lifetime. That’s why Four Star Framing uses only the finest materials to create your perfect piece.