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FRAMING ART WITHOUT USING A
MATBOARD? FRAMING SPACERS ARE THE ANSWER! IDEAL FOR ORIGINAL SOFT
PASTEL PAINTINGS. SEPARATE ARTWORK FROM ITS FRAME'S GLAZING (GLASS, ETC.) USING ART SPACERS.  Scroll down for an
in-depth article about the use of framing spacers to frame soft pastel paintings and
other artwork. See also the tools and supplies
page for more useful related items.
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NO artwork or photographs should EVER be framed in
direct contact with the frame's glazing (glass or acrylic "plexi-glass").
Doing so WILL DAMAGE the artwork; it's only a matter of time. Lack of an
airspace between any artwork and a frame's glazing contributes to buckling and
mold among other problems because moisture is trapped directly against the
artwork, and because changes in temperature and humidity are transferred
directly and unevenly to the artwork's surface. A small investment in
framing spacers to complete your framing project correctly is money well spent,
particularly for original artwork.
framing spacers serve a variety of functions, but their primary function
is to separate artwork from the glass of its frame. ArtRight.com offers
two types of framing spacers; Framespace® and Econospace® .
Unlike the spacers sold by many frame shops, all spacers sold by ArtRight.com
are made of neutral pH materials. Of all frame spacer products on the
market, Framespace® and Econospace® are BY FAR the best. Most Framespace® is
designed for use with standard "single strength" glass. Some
Framespace® is also available for use with 2mm "picture" glass and
Both types of spacers are available in individual 5 ft. lengths and full bundles.
Framespace can also be ordered custom-cut to fit your picture
ANY SPACER CAN BE USED IN VIRTUALLY
ANY FRAME, WHEN USED WITH "ARTIST TAPE"
AND THE APPROPRIATE "OFFSET MOUNTING CLIPS" AS
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Here are some additional methods and pointers that are helpful with the issues
1—Using any desired number of mats, simply install a spacer between the
artwork and mat board. The spacer should be hidden under the mat board, usually
about a half-inch to an inch outside of its bevel cut. The spacer should also of course be made of
neutral pH materials. For this, you can use strips of a conservation-grade mat
board together with a neutral-pH tape (such as “artist’s tape”) or
acid-free ATG (“double sided tape”). It is best to
use strips of acid-free foam-core board for this application.
When this method is employed, any pastel particles coming loose from a soft
pastel painting will fall behind the mat, instead of in front of the mat where
they will be visible.
A similar effect could be realized by using a double mat, the bottom mat having
a larger opening than the top mat. This is really only suitable for very small
pieces, however, as it doesn’t provide much of an airspace between the artwork
2—To frame a soft pastel painting with no mat as is often preferred, a framing
spacer can be attached directly to the glass. The problem with this, however, is
that most framing spacers rely
upon an adhesive. In time, adhesives fail, allowing the spacers to fall out of
position in their frame. There is one framing spacer available that is
mechanically permanent, as it clips securely to the edge of a frame’s glass.
This spacer is made of a neutral pH material, and available in a variety of
colors (clear, black and white) and sizes which allow airspaces of up to 3/4
inch. Click here for more information: http://www.artright.com/Framespace.htm.
These spacers are also available here in less-than-bundle quantities along with
useful tools to facilitate their use. This is the best product of its
type available on the market.
Because these spacers are only 3/16” wide, any dust that falls from the
painting’s surface will fall a bit below the edge of the frame’s rabbet out
When installing these (or any) spacers, it is best to also seal the entire
artwork package together using “artist’s tape”. This is a paper tape which
is also used for masking on artists’ canvasses as it is neutral pH and
doesn’t leave a residue when removed. Once the package is assembled, apply the
tape to its side edges and wrap it around to the backing board. When the entire
artwork package of the glazing, spacers, artwork and backing board (for works on
paper) is thus sealed together, it can easily be popped in and out of frames at
importantly, changes in the temperature and humidity of the artwork’s
environment are transferred more slowly to the artwork’s support (such as
pastel paper). With this protection, changes which would otherwise damage the
artwork by causing buckling, mold and other problems are minimized. Also, air
flow in and out of the artwork package is minimized. Over time, such airflow
would otherwise do two things: 1—draw foreign dust into contact with the
artwork’s surface, and 2—erode the surface of a soft pastel painting. While
this may seem trivial, consider the following concept:
As the artwork’s backing board expands and contracts when a frame is moved or
with changes in temperature, humidity and barometric pressure, it acts as the
diaphragm of a pump. Such action draws air in and out of the artwork package
which can disturb delicate surfaces such as those of soft pastel paintings, or
introduce foreign particles and contaminants. Another advantage of this
technique is that any loose particles from the edges of the backing board, mat
board, etc. of an artwork package will most likely be trapped by the tape’s
When using any type of framing spacer, artwork on paper larger than 11 x 14
inches or so should be “hinged” to its backing board. Otherwise, the artwork
can sag in its frame over time, coming into contact with the glass at the bottom
of the frame. Paper artwork can be hinged to a backing board with a variety of
materials including artist’s tape,
linen hinging tape, or Japanese rice-paper with
wheat-starch paste. For conservation framing of valuable original
artwork, Nori® wheat starch paste
(discontinued) or other combinations of wheat-starch paste and hinging paper
offer the safest form of hinging. While this paste is of course of neutral pH, it's
greatest advantage is that it can be thoroughly removed in the years to come
without leaving a residue on the piece of artwork. The rice-paper hinging
material is preferred by conservators because it will tear before the artwork
under duress. Many framers use a
water-gummed linen tape that is also removable with water, however this tape is
very strong and will never tear before the artwork does.
Also, however paper artwork is framed, it should never be squeezed too tightly
into the frame. When this is done, the paper is not allowed to expand and
contract freely. During changes in temperature and humidity, such confinement
leads to buckling just as would contact with the frame’s glass.
Just as when framing paintings on canvas, you will probably more often than not
find that the frame’s rabbet isn’t deep enough to accommodate the artwork
package. When this occurs, “offset clips”
(also called "z-clips") should be used to mount the
artwork to the frame. These are now available in 7 sizes: 1/8”, 1/4", 3/16”,
1/2", 3/4", 1", and 1-1/4", and usually solve the problem. Incidentally, this leads to
another reason for sealing the artwork package with tape. If offset clips are
required and the package is not sealed thusly, light can show through from the
back of the framed painting which may appear a bit irregular and unsightly,
often revealing the framing hardware from the frame's front side. Another way to avoid this problem is by using an opaque spacer rather than a
clear one. These spacers are available in clear, black and white. For this
reason, black spacers are generally the most invisible in a frame under any
If framed and displayed properly, a soft pastel painting can outlast any
executed with oil on canvas or other media. Framespace® clip-on spacers offer
the best permanent, easy and cost-effective solution to ensure the preservation of any framed
artwork on paper.