Framing advice, Anatomy and Standards

Framing Advice

Photos, artwork etc. should always have a mount. This ensures that the work is not up against the glass and therefore there is an air gap which protects from mildew caused by condensation (see framing anatomy below).

  1. Always choose framing which suits the individual piece, not the area where it will be hung. Remember, a properly framed picture will be around for many, many years while wall colours, furniture etc. will change many times. We will give you the best advice to frame your treasured artwork.     
  2. Never hang your picture in direct sunlight. Over time, even with conservation UV protection glass, fading will occur over time.  Neither is it recommenced that artwork be placed in close proximity to direct heat e.g. over radiators or fireplaces.
  3. The mount on your picture should be relatively neutral and as wide as possible. This ensures that the eye is drawn to the work and not the framing. Remember, correct picture framing should enhance the image, not overpower it.
  4. Depending on where the work will be hung, try to position it at eye level. This will greatly enhance your enjoyment of the piece.

Framing Anatomy

The following diagram shows the anatomy of a picture frame in cross-section, and the typical elements that are included. Items included in a bespoke frame's construction, and the reasons for their use, are described beneath.


  1. Frame : Normally made of wood, the frame provides the strength as well as the decorative support for the work of art. Moulding comes in all sizes and shapes in a variety of colours that will enhance and compliment your work.         
  2. Glazing: is used to protect the work of art from pollutants in the atmosphere. The glazing should never come into contact with the art work, particularly photographs. There are several types of glass available, including: Float Glass (by far the most common); Diffused (designed to be non-reflective); Ultraviolet (UV) Light Filtering (designed to protect colour pigments and paper from the damaging effects of UV light); and plastic glazing (typically used where additional safety is required)
  3. Window Mount/Mat: The mount/mat (or combination of mounts/mats) is placed over the art work, which again compliments the art work and also provides a spacer between the art and the glazing. Mountboard comes in different colours, textures and thicknesses.
  4. Air Space: A space between the art and the glazing in the frame. (Without an airspace, the artwork could become stuck to the glass.)
  5. The Artwork
  6. Under Mount Mountboard: Of the same quality as used in the Window Mount/Mat. This is used to attach the artwork to.
  7. Backing Board: A board used in the back of a frame assembly which also provides support to the artwork and both mounts/mats and to keep them lying flat. It also helps to keep dust, insects and pollutants away from the artwork.
  8. Hinges: are used to hold the artwork to the undermount whilst allowing it to expand and contract as the temperature and humidity fluctuates. Generally made from Japanese paper, hinges are usually used with rice starch paste. Do not use masking tape, carpet tape, or any other highly acidic tape.
  9. Sealing Tape: seals the back of the frame to stop dust, insects, and pollutants getting into the artwork.
  10. Bumper: A small self adhesive pad, normally made of cork, felt or sponge, that is fixed to the bottom corners of the frame. These are used to hold the frame away from the wall allowing free air flow around the back of the frame and also stop the artwork from “swaying”.

 A professional bespoke picture framer will always use the correct materials to ensure that a completed framed picture will be preserved for the future.


Framing Standards

Why choose Conservation Level framing?

Fine Art Trades Guild Conservation Level framing gives a high level of protection for your artwork or objects, whilst looking good and enabling you to view your framed work to best effect. It should give virtually as high a level of protection as Museum Level framing and in many markets, for example the USA, no distinction is made between the two. By using conservation quality materials and the best techniques, the framer can give your work protection from physical and mechanical damage, airborne pollution and acids generated by many framing materials

Conservation Level framing should be good for 20 years in normal conditions, but be vigilant: pictures are rarely hung in ideal conditions, so we recommend that you have the frame checked every five years or so by a professional framer.  The Fine Art Trade Guild recommends that you agree a 'condition of artwork' report on all works to be framed to Conservation Level that are not brand new, prior to framing. Appropriate remedial action on deteriorating artwork should be taken before reframing. Some framers can do this work; not all. Check and ask for credentials    

Suitable for       

Objects and artworks that are to be preserved for future generations and collectables should be framed to Conservation Level, if not to Museum Level. Original artwork deserves Conservation or Museum Level Framing. Limited edition prints of moderate to high value that are not framed to Conservation or Museum Level may not hold or increase their value over time as well as those that are. This is because Conservation Level framing, as well as Museum Level framing, requires that all processes affecting the artwork be fully reversible. In other words, what you have framed to Guild Conservation Level can be returned to its former state, i.e. prior to framing, at any time up to 20 years, assuming that the artwork is not inherently unstable

Good original frames should be retained wherever possible as these can enhance the value of the artwork. Frames can be replicated for display purposes, while the original is preserved in museum storage. Sometimes it is advantageous to retain an original windowmount (possibly gilded or decorated). A qualified framer will know how to do this and protect the artwork from damage ,this original windowmount could otherwise inflict on the artwork

Why choose Commended Level Framing?

Fine Art Trades Guild Commended Level framing should visually enhance the artwork and will give a moderate level of protection from physical and mechanical damage, airborne pollution and acid damage. A windowmount or slip should normally be used to visually enhance the artwork and distance it from the glazing. Processes do not have to be reversible so make sure your framer knows if the chance to get your work back to its condition prior to framing is important to you. The Guild recommends that processes should be reversible whenever possible, as the future value of works cannot always be foreseen and work ‘in mint condition’ commands the best secondary market value.

The target time for this level of framing is around five years in normal conditions, but this can be improved by requesting Conservation Level quality of materials, such as mountboard, where you can afford it. Consult with your professional framer. Always have items and artwork that you value framed with the best possible materials; this will help them give you pleasure for longer. Commended Level framing gives you a wider choice of mountboard colour options than Conservation Level and some artwork will look better when dry mounted, a process that can also help disguise previous damage but that is usually not readily reversible.

Suitable for

Replaceable artwork of limited commercial and/or moderate sentimental value and where visual appearance is important. The target lifetime assumes that artwork is not inherently unstable. Commended Level framing is not recommended for high value limited edition prints or original artwork, which should be framed to Conservation or Museum Level.


Shirts and Textiles Framing

The key principal behind conservation framing is that the framer's role is to encase and preserve the item while leaving it's original condition unchanged.The main threats to shirts and textiles that cause them to deteriorate are UV light, humidity, insects, air pollutants and the quality of materials touching and in close contact with the shirts. 

To this end, the minimum standards are:

Shirts are hand-stitched onto PH neutral mountboards using 100% cotton threads.Recessed box frame techniques allow the shirt to "breathe".  This stops the build-up of moisture within the shirt, and with it fungal growth. When an item is particularly valuable or fragile, the following museum standard upgrades should be considered:

Cotton museum mountboard that is made from 100% virgin cotton fibre.  Most museum board is buffered with calcium carbonate to render it alkaline.  This is a precaution against hostile environments and helps retard natural ageing processes. Museum glass ,which filters in excess of 97% of UV light, cuts down surface reflection to around 1% and presents a beautifully clarified image.

Old fabric is a haven for dust mites and other insects! 

 For further Framed for Life