Care of Artwork
I would recommend that you bring your item in to one of our store locations to discuss the framing with one of our design specialists. The best framing designs are created based on a conversation about your tastes, the intended hanging location, and the appearance of the item itself. This way, the framing is customized for your piece, rather than being a simple standard design. There is no charge for design advice, and a design specialist will be able to show you samples and ideas, as well as provide individual advice and a quote.
When thinking about matting dimensions, there are really three variables to consider:
1) The image size (or, the size of the opening in the bottom mat layer).
2) The mat border width (on each side).
3) The frame size.
Basically, if you know any two of these, it will give you the third. For example, with custom framing, one generally knows the image size, and selects an attractive mat width, and the combination of these will give you the dimensions of the custom frame. In the case that the frame size is fixed, as with a ready-made frame, or your frames that have already been purchased, it is usual to cut a mat to the dimensions necessary to take up the difference between the image size and the frame size. Note that this often results in a mat border that is slightly different between the top and bottom, and the sides, but this is generally accepted as normal for this approach. It is less usual to vary the image size to fit established mat border and frame size dimensions, since this can result in "cropping" (or covering) a portion of the image.
Most mat borders end up in the 3-4 inch range, although the size of the art, the width of the frame, and the overall dimensions of the hanging area can all influence this width. The best way to get advice that is tailored to your specific situation is to bring your items into one of our store locations, so that a design specialist can show you some ideas and help you create the right mat design.
Although you will occasionally find other sizes available in a ready-made style, the traditional standard sizes for wall frames are:
8 1/2x11 "document" frames, 10x13 frames, and 27x41 movie poster frames may also be considered to be "standard", depending on who you ask. You will find the best assortment available in the most common sizes, which are 8x10, 11x14, and 16x20. We can also order any one of our 700+ custom mouldings to a specific size.
First off, I would recommend using at least two colors. This allows you to use an accent color without overpowering the piece. Three colors can be even more striking, although to really make a triple mat design work well it helps to have a basic understanding of color theory (or a naturally good "eye" for color).
Probably the easiest way to ensure that you select the right colors for a piece of artwork is to bring it in to one of our store locations so that one of our design specialists can work with you to select a color harmony that complements the artwork. That being said, I'll give you a kind of formula for creating a basic mat design. . . Keep in mind, though, that in aesthetic matters there are no unbreakable "rules". Still, while there are certainly other possible approaches, this one will tend to produce a pleasing combination:
For the top mat, select a fairly neutral color that has the same basic value (lightness or darkness) as the overall artwork, or the background of the composition. For a very dark work, use a fairly dark mat. For a light work, use a lighter mat. You can use a color that is prevalent in the artwork, but make sure that the color of the mat is not more intense or vibrant than the same color in the artwork. It is also common to simply use a white or off-white mat as the top mat, regardless of the value of the artwork. For a framed piece hung on a white or off-white wall, this is a viable approach, but I tend to think that the design works better if the value of the top mat is closer to the value of the art.
Then, select an accent color to use for the second mat. A good choice for the accent color would be the color of a focal point in the subject matter of the artwork, or the color of some item in the image that you would like the matting to draw attention to. Alternately, a good rule of thumb is that the third most predominant color in the artwork tends to make a good choice for an accent color. This second mat is there for impact and contrast, so it will generally be a more intense color than the top mat, and usually of contrasting value with the background of the artwork as a whole (a light color for a dark background, and a dark color for a light background.)
This approach is one of the most commonly used in creating a basic double mat design. If you would like to add still more interest, you can use a third mat in between these two layers in the same color family (or the complementary color family) of one of the other mats, in a midrange value, or tone. The exposure, or amount of this mat layer showing, should be somewhat larger or smaller than the bottom mat exposure to prevent a monotonous "stripe" effect.
The practice of bottom weighting mats is a subject of great debate in the framing world, and I have heard a number of explanations for its function. One suggestion is that framed pictures used to be hung higher on walls, and that weighting the bottom helped to compensate for the angle of viewing (this never made much sense to me- in that case, you would need to weight the TOP to overcome visual foreshortening). Another common explanation is that many works of art are created with the focus of the image slightly below center, and that weighting the mat helps to keep the image from looking like it is “sinking” in the frame.
The explanation that makes the most sense to me is that many galleries (especially in photography) will reuse the same frames from exhibition to exhibition, and when the frame is a different shape than the artwork, you need to absorb the difference in the matting. Often, the extra border width is simply placed at the bottom of the mat (perhaps because this way it looks intentional, rather than a side effect of recycling frames?) People have grown to associate this “look” with gallery framing, and sometimes emulate the design even when it is possible to order a frame the same shape as the artwork.
With the exception of “gallery” framing, most framed artwork I see nowadays is framed with even matting, so weighting the matting is far from a requirement. If you choose to create this look, I would suggest that you make the variance in border width large enough so that it doesn’t simply look like a mistake (that is, make it noticeable) but not so large that this design element distracts from the image. I’m thinking something along the lines of 20%-30% (for example, four inches top and sides, with five inches on the bottom).
In framing design, there are very few "rules", although there are some guidelines. In general, the best mat border width is determined by a number of factors, including the overall size of the piece, the width of the moulding, and the particular hue and value of the mats and the art. In general, the goal is to attempt to give the art enough "space" inside the frame to allow the eye to rest upon the art without being distracted or crowded in by the framing.
That being said, mat borders nowadays tend to fall in the range of three to four inches. Although mat borders of two inches were common some years ago, the accepted width has been growing in recent years, in part due to the increasing width of mouldings. In most cases, you will want your mat to be appreciably wider than the moulding: A mat that is much narrower than the moulding ends up looking like an afterthought, or a way to force a picture into a frame of the incorrect size, while a mat that is the same width as the moulding can be visually unsettling; it is more attractive to have some variety in the design, and avoid the visual monotony of repetitive widths. As a rule of thumb, I like to shoot for a mat that is approximately 2/3 of the total width of the combination of mat and frame, (or about twice the width of the frame). For a two-inch frame, this would give you four inches of mat border as a basic starting point.
With a signature mat, I recommended that you use a smooth-textured mat style (many mats are manufactured without the strong surface texture that could make writing awkward), and a ball-point pen such as the “gel” pens that are popular with scrap bookers. Sizing the mat appropriately is definitely an important concern. You will want to make the mat border much wider than you might normally for a photograph, especially if you have a large number of guests attending. I see these mats frequently cut with borders that are seven to nine inches in width, and even a photo as small as 8x10 may need a frame that is 20x24 or larger!
Another recommendation I have is to place the mat inside the frame, without the glass, when the guests are signing the mat. Since the lip of a frame will cover about 1/4” of the edge of its contents, if you place an unframed mat out to get signatures, some guests will invariably write to the edge of the mat, and this text is then covered when the item is framed! By having guests sign the mat within the frame, you prevent this from happening.
There are two types of glass available to fight glare. The traditional type of “non-glare” glass has an etched surface that scatters the light that reflects back from the surface of the glass, and softens the glare. The newer type of “anti-reflective” glass has a special coating that improves light transmission to reduce glare without the distortion that can result from an etched glass. We have both types available, and both provide UV protection for your art. I encourage you to visit one of our stores to see samples of these products, and to determine which would be right for your situation.
There are a number of basic characteristics of preservation framing that will help to maintain the condition of your item. The glazing (glass or acrylic) should be UV-protective to help prevent damage to your item from ultraviolet light. The glass should be spaced away from the surface of the art, which is usually accomplished through the use of matting. The matting and backing materials should be preservation-grade, acid- and lignin-free, and the artwork should be mounted in a reversible manner to the backing. Fortunately, UV-protective glazing and preservation-grade materials are the standard option at Aaron Brothers, so selecting the proper materials to preserve your item is not difficult, or an added expense. Beyond these basic guidelines, when you bring your map in to one of our store locations to have it framed, the design specialist can discuss with you the particular approach that will best fit the needs of your item.
We take the preservation of artwork very seriously, so all of our glazing options feature UV (Ultraviolet) protection. We have four types of glass, and four types of acrylic that all incorporate UV protection of at least 97%. We don’t even carry regular, non-UV glass for use in custom framing, since this protection is so important for the lasting appearance of a framed item. Since the UV protection is always included, your selection of a glazing option will depend upon features like improved color clarity, abrasion resistance, or reflection control.
That being said, there is NO glass or plastic glazing that can protect artwork from 100% of light damage, since ALL light (including visible light) can fade or damage artwork over long exposure, and/or at high intensity. In fact, the only way to completely prevent light damage is to store the artwork in the dark and never look at it. Naturally, this is not how we enjoy art, so any type of display will necessitate some compromise of the artwork’s total safety to allow the enjoyment of viewing it. Since the MOST damaging light is in the Ultraviolet range of spectrum, and we do not need to allow the transmission of these wavelengths to visually appreciate the art, it makes sense to block as much of this light as possible without inhibiting the transmission of visible light. By blocking about 97% of the UV light, our glass provides a significant amount of protection without causing any clarity problems. Even with this level of protection, however, strong and direct light will eventually cause some damage. The use of UV-protective glass is an excellent idea for pictures hung in conditions of strong direct light and will greatly extend their life under these adverse conditions, but you should understand that an item that gets direct sunlight is going to fade or discolor eventually, no matter what. If your items are extremely valuable or important to you, another hanging location would be the best thing you could do for them!
Any type of pressure-sensitive tape (one that is tacky to the touch) can leave a residue or be difficult to remove without damaging the art, so when an item is secured to a mat, the safest solution is to either use a reversible, water-soluble starch adhesive and Japanese paper to create the “hinge”, or to avoid the use of adhesive altogether and use an edge-support method of securing the art. The most common (and easy to use) version would be a corner pocket, such as archival photo corners. As long as the mat overlaps the artwork enough to conceal the pocket, and the artwork is thick enough to stand being supported by its corners, corner pockets provide a simple and completely reversible way to mount paper artwork.
When actual moisture condenses on the glass in a picture frame, the most common cause is high relative humidity followed by a drop in temperature. This is actually fairly uncommon in most household environments, unless the item hangs in a bathroom. In this case, moisture on the glass is practically unavoidable. The best way to avoid this is to hang the picture in an area with lower humidity and stable temperature.
If a photograph is framed in a manner such that it directly contacts the glass, it can appear “wet” even though the effect is just caused by the photo’s emulsion clinging to the glass. Over time, a photo in direct contact with the glass will tend to stick, which can ruin the photo. For this reason, you always want to allow a bit of space between the photo and the glass, which can either be provided through the use of a mat or plastic spacers.
Completely sealing a framed item is a difficult and problematic issue. When required for the preservation of a valuable item that cannot be displayed in an area with a stable climate, it generally involves in using a heat-activated adhesive to adhere a polyester and aluminum laminated sheet to the front edges of the glass, wrapping it around the side, and covering the back. Sometimes, a desiccant or conditioning material will be included within this package to help maintain a stable and low moisture level. Since humidity is relative to temperature, however, even sealing the item completely does not guarantee that fluctuations in temperature will not cause problems. It is also a fairly expensive solution.
In practical usage for decorative items, your best bet is probably to simply slow the rate of change in moisture content within the frame to minimize condensation, rather than try to prevent it altogether. This can be accomplished through the use of ample filler boards in the back of the frame, which help to buffer this sort of change, the standard dust cover, and the use of bumpons to ensure air circulation behind the frame. If the back of the frame is in direct contact with the wall, it can wick condensed moisture from the wall into the framing package. A little air space behind the frame helps to prevent this.
If you notice condensation or buckling of the matting even with these measures, you might also consider a non-traditional framing approach, such as the Colorplak process we offer. This involves mounting and laminating a print to a rigid backing with edges that are beveled and finished in your choice of colors. Although it does not allow the use of matting, it is a “sealed” solution that is safe for hanging in very humid environments, such as a bathroom.
Placing any type of artwork directly against glass is a bad idea, since the surface of glass tends to condense moisture with changes in temperature and humidity, which can cause damage to the artwork. While it is possible to achieve a two-sided float presentation in a way that maintains space between the artwork and glass, I think you can achieve a better look by simply using a fabric of paper mat backing material, along with a spacer to provide space between the art and glass. I especially like the way that dark colors (black is often used) help to accentuate the grain of papyrus. I encourage you to bring your item in to one of our store locations so that a design specialist can show you some options.
It used to be believed that glass was unnecessary (or even detrimental to the artwork because it didn’t allow the artwork to “breathe”), and the function of glazing was handled anyway through the use of varnish. Nowadays, the myth about paintings needing to respire is starting to fade, and framers are realizing that the use of glazing provides protection from dust, insects, physical contact, and even ultraviolet light (with UV glazing). For this reason, many museums now glaze their paintings, although most museums use UV acrylic (or even the newer anti-reflective acrylic) instead of glass, since acrylic poses less risk of damage to the artwork should the glass shatter.
In any case, IF a painting is glazed, then it is imperative that a spacing mechanism is used to prevent direct contact of the artwork and the glass or acrylic. Often, the choice over glazing a painting comes down to finding a balance between aesthetics and preservation. While there are legitimate preservation benefits to glazing an oil painting, many people prefer the traditional look of an unglazed painting. It really depends on how much importance you give to the unglazed look, versus the protection afforded by glass or acrylic.
Questions about the cost of framing are probably the most common type of inquiry I receive! There are many factors that affect the pricing of custom framing, from the finished size and the number and type of mats, to the type of glass, mounting method and, of course, the width and composition of the frame. You should know that no matter what the item, our designers are able to work with you to find a framing treatment that meets your design needs as well as your budget.
The best way to get a good idea of the cost of framing your specific item is to bring it in to one of our store locations, and one of our design specialists will customize a design for your piece and provide a quote. There is no charge for this design consultation, and it is really a lot of fun to explore all the design options!
It is often possible to find a ready-made frame that is a similar shape, but somewhat larger than the artwork, and use a mat to fill the space left by the difference between the two sizes. So, in many cases you don’t really “have” to use a custom frame, but you might also find that you like the look better with a custom frame.
In my experience, customers who want to avoid using a custom frame either can’t wait for a frame to be cut and need to have the framing completed immediately, or believe that custom frames are very expensive. In the first case, if you are not able to wait the 10 days that it takes for a completed custom framing job, a ready-made solution as outlined above is often available on a same-day basis. In the latter case, while custom frames certainly CAN be expensive (because we have some extremely nice options available!) they do not HAVE to be, and we are usually able to find a framing option to fit any budget. I encourage you to bring your art in to one of our store locations to discuss your options with one of our design specialists, and get an exact quote.
Picture hangers that use multiple, smaller nails rather than a single large nail or wall anchors generally leave less damage and are easier to fill and touch up later. There are some adhesive hangers available which can work for very small and lightweight items. Although we do not sell them, there are also gallery-style hanging systems that use wall-mounted tracks and cables, which only mount at the very top of the wall. Another option for display is to rest your item on a floor easel instead of hanging it on the wall!
Depending on how you hang them, groups of photos can relay a story in countless ways. For the best placement, hang photos at eye level and aim for a balance of small and large pieces. It is best if the horizontal center line of the arrangement is at the viewer’s eye level. If you are hanging these photos in a living room, dining room or bedroom where most people would be sitting down most of the time, you might consider making your horizontal center line about two feet lower from standing eye level. In laying out the arrangement, use the following guidelines:
Plan your arrangement:
Using butcher or Kraft paper cut out the shapes of your frames and plays with the arrangement on the floor until you get it right. Keep in mind the boundaries you are working within, such as the width of your sofa, or the length of a table. Place the heaviest piece lowest and to the left, working up and to the right from here.
Maintain order and form:
To keep balance in your arrangement, align the bottom edges of your frames with the top edges of others; align some left-hand edges and center some frames over others.
Transfer ideas to the wall:
Once you’ve decided on the placement, measure the distance between the groupings you’ve laid out on the floor. Write these measurements down and refer to them as you hang each frame on the wall. When you are ready to hang, begin with a central picture and work outward from there.
The arrangement really depends on how many pieces you decide to hang on your staircase. If they are all the same size and only have a few, you might want to hang them diagonally making their way up the stairs. In turn if you have a variety of sizes and quite a few pieces, you might want to do 2 or 3 groupings along your staircase. Also, try to position the items in a manner where they will not be knocked off by someone’s shoulder as they make their way upstairs.
In most cases, the simplest type of hanger to use on dry wall is a standard picture hanging hook. With picture hooks, you will find safe and secure methods for hanging pictures to a variety of wall types. The conventional type picture hook allows you to simply position the hook, and hammer its nail into place. The picture hanging hook is an ideal solution for hanging on dry wall. The nail travels through the hook and enters the wall at the correct angle to keep the weight of the frame pulling to the wall. Gravity is pulling the hook down and the nail into the wall which gives more support to the picture and in turn keeps the picture on your wall safely. There are also other hangers available for heavier items that incorporate wall anchors. We have an assortment of hanging options available in our stores, and associates who can recommend the correct hanging hardware for your exact item.
We carry a number of heavy-duty products for hanging, including “No-Stud” drywall hangers rated up to 200 pounds, and the Hangman Hanging System, which is a set of aluminum brackets that can hold up to 100 pounds each.
Ordering a custom mirror to fit a specific area of a wall can be a challenge, because you need to find a mirror that is sized correctly to create the right outside dimension after it is framed, which varies depending on the width of the moulding used. Fortunately, we offer mirrors in custom sizes, with a 1 ¼” edge bevel, and can easily calculate the correct dimension based on your selection of moulding. Just visit one of our store locations, and a design specialist can show you some options!
It is a challenge to apply frames directly over a mounted mirror for three reasons:
1) The mirror mounting hardware often extends beyond the edges of the mirror, which would require routing out the back of the frame to accommodate.
2) The depth of the rabbet (the portion of the frame that accommodates the contents) would need to be exactly the thickness of the mounted mirror. If not, then you would either have a frame that did not lie flush with the wall, or a gap between the mirror and the lip of the frame, that would tend to accumulate dust and debris.
3) You would need to ensure that the width of the moulding, which extends out from the edge of the mirror, does not have any obstructions (that you have enough available space to fit the final dimensions- unframed mirrors are often sized to completely fill a space.
It might be easier to simply remove the mirrors from the wall and frame them (if the size is right), or frame another mirror, and then hang the frame conventionally. Framed mirrors are usually beveled for appearance, and are not very expensive, so you may be happier with this approach. Otherwise, I recommend you consult with a general contractor about mounting options in your specific case.
Yes, we sell both battery-operated and corded picture lights. Battery operated lights are convenient if you only intend to illuminate the artwork occasionally (during dinner parties, for example), since they do not require running or concealing a power cord. The disadvantage is, naturally, that a cordless light requires regular replacement of batteries.
The rule of thumb for sizing picture lights is that the dimension of the light should be approximately 1/3 the width of the piece. A 12” light, for example, would be ideal for a piece measuring 36 x 24.
Museum Glass does not require a special cleaner, although an ammonia-free cleaner is recommended for all picture framing glass. Since Museum Glass is so clear, however, sometimes fingerprints that would not be noticeable on normal glass are visible on Museum Glass, and many glass cleaners will just smear the skin oils from a fingerprint across the surface of the glass. In most cases, alcohol can be used to remove these fingerprints.
A final tip about glass cleaning: Always spray the glass cleaner on your cleaning cloth, NOT the glass. When cleaner is sprayed directly on the glass, it tends to run down the surface and seep under the lip of the frame at the bottom, which can cause the cleaner to soak into the mats, backing, and artwork and cause damage. You can help prevent this damage by spraying the cleaner on the cloth, instead.
I could probably be accused of bias, here, but I think one of the best ways to store an oil paining is in a frame! A frame provides support for the oil painting, and also allows for you to appreciate it through regular viewing.
If you are looking for a storage solution that does not involve the art’s display, I would just give you a few recommendations:
1) The art should be stored in a cool, dry, stable environment. Excessive heat and humidity place stress on the artwork, and encourage the growth of mold. Also, fluctuations in temperature or humidity can cause damage to the artwork, as the substrate expands and contracts underneath the paint layers.
2) The art should be protected from physical damage. Many stretched oil paintings become damaged from objects pressing into the canvas, or frame suffering a blow to the surface. This will probably involve storing the canvas in a strong box, with extra air space to insulate the art from pressure on the packaging.
3) Avoid placing anything directly against the face of the canvas itself. Oil paint can easily adhere to many surfaces. If this is unavoidable, use a glassine tissue intended for this purpose to prevent adhesion.
4) If the oil painting is very valuable, you may want to entrust its storage to a professional. There are a number of art storage services available that will properly package and store the artwork in a secure, climate-controlled environment.
Packaging framed artwork for transit is best done by a professional, who should be able to clearly explain the process they use and the precautions they take. This can involve a protective film over the glass to prevent shards in the event of breakage (or even just strips of tape in a grid pattern), corner protectors, foam padding, and multiple layers of rigid packaging. Larger or more delicate items can even be crated for shipment. Another advantage of using a packaging service is that this will generally include some level of damage insurance, to protect your investment in the event something does go wrong. For very valuable items, you might consider starting with a conservator for a referral about proper packing and freight arrangements. For decorative items, I would probably start with a “pack & mail” type of establishment, where you can take care of the packaging and shipment in one stop.
Two things that you will also want to consider given that the item will be on display in a public location:
1) Using acrylic instead of glass will help to reduce the weight of the finished piece, and also provides shatter-resistance, which can be very desirable from a safety and liability standpoint. We also have acrylics with an abrasion-resistant coating to help prevent scratches and allow cleaning with standard glass cleaner and paper towels.
2) “Security Hangers” are available, which can be useful for hanging pictures in public areas. Since they attach positively to the wall, they help to hold the picture straight (and on the wall) in case of casual contact or cleaning by janitorial staff. Also, there is a special hardware component that holds the bottom of the frame to the wall that requires a hanger “key” to disengage, deterring casual attempts to remove the item from the wall.
A certain amount of waving is normal for a watercolor, and usually framing the work behind a mat will help to keep the surface as flat as can be expected. Although you should never expect a watercolor to be completely flat, if the buckling is extremely severe due to damage, you might consider taking the painting to a paper conservator.
A conservator is often able to use pressure and humidification to relax the fibers and smooth out major ripples, but since watercolors remain soluble, it is not the sort of thing you would want to attempt on your own. You can often locate a local conservator in the yellow pages under “art restoration”, or you can get a free referral from the AIC at http://aic.stanford.edu/public/select.html.
Repairing artwork is really the job of a conservator, so we do not offer any touch-up or restoration services. Art conservators are experts in available materials and techniques for stabilizing damaged artwork and improving their appearance in a safe and long-lasting manner. You can often locate a local conservator in the yellow pages under “art restoration”, or you can get a free referral from the AIC at http://aic.stanford.edu/public/select.html.
While we have touch-up markers that can be used to help conceal a scratch in the surface of a wood frame, we do not offer frame repair as a service. If the frame you have is an antique, or extremely valuable, it should be treated as a work of art in itself, and you would be well advised to seek professional restoration.
We do not have qualified art appraisers on staff, but you can often locate a local appraiser in the local telephone directory under “Art Appraisal”.