Unless otherwise credited, all photographs are © David Ritchie and may not be used without my permission.
Custom framing is just that: custom. It does not include cardboard backing, masking or celluloid tape. Photographs should not touch the glass. Mats should be archival quality, not pulp. If the item being framed is subject to fading, it should be protected with UV filtered conservation glass.
I see a lot of damaged artwork caused by unscrupulous, so-called custom framers. Artists selling badly framed work. The dust cover on the reverse side of wood frames can hide the poor materials listed above. Even pulp mats look respectable for a few years. Then you notice that the bevelled (angled cut) edge is no longer white. Too late: the damage is already started.
The main culprit is acid. I will show you what the damage caused by acidic materials looks like. Take a few minutes and look at the back of frames that you have. If it is a wood frame, peel back the paper cover on the reverse and have a look inside. Inspect the mat(s) for yellow/ browning bevels cuts. If you see any nasty materials and the item is important to you, take it to your framer for repair. Ask to see the backing material used and the mat corner samples- quality mats will have a description of intended use. I use Bainbridge foamboards. Depending on the material being attached, I use archival Framers tape and Filmoplast P-90.
I use these two types of Bainbridge conservation mats.
Sample mats after five years. Notice the yellow bevel on the top pulp paper mat. The green mat is Bainbridge Artcare, the white bevel still fresh.
The reverse of two sample mats with interior material revealed. Left is a pulp mat, right is Bainbridge Artcare mat. Extreme browning of the pulp mat.
Damaged watercolour paper. Note the acid burn on left- it had a double mat. Paper is yellowed by cardboard backing.
These are the culprit pulp mats.
Reverse side. Extreme staining due to a cardboard backing and masking tape residue on the left side. There is no cure for the damage already done- it can only be re-framed using proper materials to arrest the damage.
A reverse of pen and ink sketch by a well-known artist. The backing damage is so severe that the image is bleeding into the back of the paper. It was attached with celluloid tape visible on the bottom corners, plus cardboard backing.
Another extremely damaged watercolour painting. Pulp mat, cardboard and celluloid tape.
Back of a frame with the paper dust cover removed. Notice the corrugations in the cardboard are showing. It wasn’t even cut to fit the frame properly and glazier points instead of framer’s points barely hold the work in place.
Coarse, frayed wire and a cheap hanger.
I use Super Softstrand stainless steel wire with a soft protective plastic coating. D-ring hanger and a proper knot. I stock the wire in four different weight strengths.