Frequently Asked Questions

The following are a selection of questions that are often raised by customers when enquiring about how an item will be framed, and why certain techniques and materials are used. Whilst not exhaustive, we welcome the opportunity to discuss these or other framing questions with you at any time.

What is Custom Framing?

Custom Framing involves the art of creating a unique frame design for your artwork, photos, and personal keepsakes, to best suit your own individual style and decor.

Is Custom Framing expensive?

The framing materials that you choose can significantly influence the final cost of your project. We handle a wide variety of material, from inexpensive wooden frames and regular matboards, to highly ornate gilded frames and conservation material or special textured matboards. Similarly, the type of glazing chosen also can impact on the final price. Our goal is to always find products that match both your taste AND your budget.

What is a matboard?

A matboard (or a "mat") is a coloured cardboard surround, border or edge often seen around an image inside a picture frame. Typically, picture framers cut mats from matboard sheets which they stock in many colours; the more popular colours being off-whites, dark greens and black. "Mat" is the typical American name for this material but it's also called a "mountboard" in England and "passepartout" in Europe. Putting mats in a frame is called matting, a term also interchangeable with mat.

What is the function of a Matboard?

A matboard is nearly always, rectangular, with an inside square, rectangular, oval or circular hole, or window. The top section of the mat is where most artwork, such as prints and photos are hinged. The paper hinges or tapes support and hold up the artwork, preventing the inevitable buckling caused by the artworks own weight when in a vertical position. However, a matboard's most important function is that its thickness (about 1.2 millimetres or 1/16th of an inch) serves to separate the glass away from the artwork being framed. This separation is highly necessary to prevent any condensation that may develop on the inside of the glass from transferring to the artwork itself. Moisture from condensation frequently stains, causes water damage and promotes destructive mould and mildew.

When should a mat or mats be used?

Primarily, but not solely, due to the above reasons, when framing any items of sentimental, financial, commercial or historical value, it is strongly recommended that at least one mat (single mat), and preferably two mats (double mat) be used to protect the artwork from possible damage.

Are there different types of mats?

As set by the standards of the Fine Art Trade Guild, Matboards have three different classifications; these are Regular, Conservation, and Museum. Some Regular matboards are made out of unbleached wood pulp containing harmful lignin, have a core that may progressively yellow, are not fade-proof , become more acidic with time and may damage your artwork. Conservation boards (manufactured using alpha-cellulose) have the lignin removed, have a bright white core, are totally acid-free, fade-resistant and will not damage your artwork. Museum boards also share these same characteristics but additionally, are made out of higher-quality cotton rag instead of wood pulp.

What matboards do you use?

For all custom picture framing we only use quality, acid-free, matboards. For longer term preservation framing of items of value (whether monetary or sentimental) we would recommend the use of alph-cellulose matboards as described previously.

The final selection of the type of matboard to be used is at the customer's choice. We will always discuss the choice of matboard, explaining why in some cases, either Conservation or Museum Quality matboards may be preferable, depending on the individual item to be framed. Where considered necessary, conservation level framing will be undertaken, using only Conservation or Museum matboards, along with full archival mounting methods and materials. This ensures that the mounting and framing of your artwork can be totally reversed if required, without any damage whatsoever to your artwork.

What sort of glass do you use?

We offer framing in a wide variety of types of glass. After clearly showing and explaining the differences between these types, the final choice is left to the customer to decide which type they prefer for the artwork to be framed.

Clear glass is the commonest and most inexpensive type of glass used in picture framing. It is made from molten glass floats on molten tin to achieve a flat, uniform finish. This glass type is the staple of the custom framing industry and is used in a wide range of applications.

An alternative is non-glare, or non-reflective glass. This is the second most common type of glass used in picture framing. It is glass that has been etched to diffuse reflected light. The etching process also gives the glass surface a matte finish. It should be noted that no more than three mats are recommended when using this type of  glass. Because of the way light is transmitted and scattered through non-glare glass, there is a tendency for this glass to visually soften or blur the work in direct proportion to its distance from it.

Both of these types of glass are then also available in a form which will block 98% of damaging UV light rays, thus better preserving your artwork. In many cases, we recommend that this type of glazing is utilised, to help protect your framed artwork, keeping it fresh and attractive for years longer than regular glass.

Should I frame my picture to match the room?

Not necessarily. While the room's décor should be a consideration, this should not be considered ahead of what best suits the picture. Generally, images can be classed as being "cool", "warm" or "neutral". Thus, a cool picture may suit blue or grey matting and framing. A warm picture may suit tan, red-brown mats and frames, and so on.

What is provided at the back of the frame?

This can depend on a customer's choice. The back, or backing, may be of the relatively inexpensive regular quality or of a more expensive conservation quality. Regular backings include MDF, cardboards, plywoods, chipboards and masonite; however these are generally made out of unbleached wood pulp which may contain acidics, such as lignin. Conservation backs, such as foamboards, are acid-free and do not deteriorate or damage your artwork. As a general rule, all of our work utilises 3mm or 5mm acid-free foamboard backing. When conservation framing is undertaken, in accordance with international standards we always use an "undermount" of Conservation or Museum quality, as well as a rigid foamcore backing manufactured using alpha-cellulose.

If something different to foam core is to be used as the backboard, this will be fully discussed with you beforehand.

Are my prints going to "yellow"?

The "yellowing" process that damages paper art is mostly caused by two factors. The first is often the poor quality paper the artwork is made of which usually contains lignin, and other potential acid sources, that cause it to gradually discolor yellow or brown with age. The second is often improper or incorrect framing. If the artwork is properly framed, including the use of the appropriate type of glazing, then the discolouration and deterioration processes will be significantly retarded, if not entirely stopped. The best way to prevent or decelerate such discolouration is to use conservation materials, processes and techniques to prevent acid leaching or contamination to the paper-borne artwork. We will always offer you the opportunity to consider your artwork being framed to conservation standards.

Why can't I just have glass directly on top of my picture?

Just as temperature fluctuations can cause your car to fog up on the inside, so the same thing can happen inside a picture frame. This fogging, or condensation, can easily damage your artwork by bleeding inks, smudging a watercolour, softening photographic emulsions (the image part of a photograph) causing them and other paper-borne art to stick to the glass. It can also promote discolouration or cause small brown spots on any paper art. To avoid most, if not all of the above, we suggest that framing of all paper-borne artwork should be undertaken with a matboard.

How can I prevent mildew damage to my artwork?

Mildew is made up of fungi which often leaves brownish spots on paper-borne artwork. Their presence frequently results in unsightly damage to the fibres on papers, canvases and discolouration of matboards. These organisms prefer dark, damp areas where there is a moisture source. All frames should be hung with bumpons, or felt-dots, at the back where the corners of the frame touch the wall. This tends to bring both light and air behind the frame. You should also regularly dust, clean and inspect all picture frames. If you have any doubts about the condition of a picture frame, you should consult a picture framer.

Can you do repairs to an Oil Painting, before it is framed?

Repairing damaged oil paintings is work that should only be undertaken by experts (Conservators) in this field. We have the details of a number of such experts who undertake repairs to paintings, and can assist you in obtaining quotations for any such repair work. Once the painting has been restored to an acceptable condition, we would be available to undertake the framing of the item.

Do you do the picture framing on your premises?

Yes. Unlike some agencies or other framers who might send your work out to be framed someplace else, we do everything in our premises. Your artwork never gets double-handled, loaded into trucks and shipped off to strangers who haven't talked to you, and may not even be professional picture framers. It always stays in our workshop.

Should I have my artwork framed with, or without, acid-free materials?

It is an inescapable fact of commercial life that acid-free materials are dearer than standard, run-of-the-mill, acidic ones and it follows that picture framers will charge more to frame your artwork to a conservation standard. However, a substantial proportion, if not the majority, of artwork framed by picture framers nowadays consists of inexpensive, commercial reproductions, prints and posters printed with ephemeral inks on acidic paper and thus seldom warranting expensive framing. However, a professional picture framer will always give you the first option of choosing and selecting the quality, stable, non-harmful, acid-free materials used in conservation framing.

Can't I just purchase a ready-made frame from a department store?

Yes, you certainly can, however in many cases, these frames:

  • are mass-produced in plastic, not timber, and quite often the corner joins of these frames do not meet cleanly;
  • come with an mdf backing board, which (as mentioned above) can leech acids into your artwork;
  • generally come with a "matboard" of thin paper only. Again, these paper-style matboards are not acid-free, and nor do they provide the necessary separation between your artwork/photos and the glass;
  • come with clear glazing, which offers no UV protection to your artwork; and
  • generally only come in "standard" sizes, styles and colours, none of which may entirely suit what you would desire for your artwork.