Questions about framing (are you listening, Audrey Levins?)

Audrey Levins made great comments about framing in this post and I was hoping to ask another question that she (or anyone) might be able to answer for me.

I have a couple of photographs of me and my new squeeze, and, per your advice, am avoiding like the plague the idea of placing the picture directly against the glass in the picture frame, instead looking at matting options.

However, while shopping, I notice that none of the mainstream picture frames (i.e., ones you can buy anywhere, as opposed to a frame store) include matting - even in the frame stores, the majority of the ones in the front are just a frame and glass. Granted it cuts the cost of the frame down, and they sell matting in the back fairly inexpensively, but if it’s so heinous to put the picture against the glass, why do they sell this stuff? I guess my question here is, is there ever a case when it is ok to put a picture in a frame and let it touch the glass?

Also, is there something that can be used to separate the picture from the glass other than matting? One frame store employee talked to me about “spacers” to keep artwork off the glass, but said it probably wasn’t practical for smaller frames (such as 8x10" or such).

At the moment I have a small computer-printed digital picture from our trip to an amusement park, and I went ahead and put it in a small frame right up against the glass. (Take that, framing experts! :smiley: ) But I have a larger 5x7" that I want to last, so I’m going to get a mat and a nice frame for it. Any other advice to those of us who want to preserve our nice pictures?

I realize this is kind of a general “how to frame” thread, but we are the embodiment of knowledge, so… :wink:


This doesn’t qualify as “can buy anywhere,” but home furnishings stores such as Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, and Restoration Hardware should carry frames with pre-installed mats, with several sizes available.

As an example, I got some frames from PB, dry-mounted my photos (this is not an archival procedure, but I didn’t care), and slipped them under the mat. This is the result. In this particular instance, it’s a 4"x6" photo inserted into a 5"x7" opening just so that I can see a border around it. I doubt the included mat is acid-free, so if you want to be careful, you might want to replace it with one from a framing store. And to be extra-cautious, you should get anti-UV glass, too – but by then, you may as well just get a custom job. For my purposes, it looks better than a cheapo frame but costs much less than custom.

You can put a spacer in any size frame, it doesn’t matter how small it is. If you want to do it yourself just cut some 1/4" strips of matboard and doublestick them to the board or glass where it will be hidden by the edge of the frame. (Or see if a frame shop will sell you enough spacer, it’s not that expensive and very easy to install).
If it’s a digital image keep a copy of it for reprinting. Most digital photos will fade relatively quickly depending on the inks and paper used.

One reason not to sell the frame with a matte is that you have a choice of colors in both items. Also you can put various combos of photos in any given frame, and each combo requires a unique matte. An 11x14 frame can probably handle a double 4x6 matte as well as an 8x10 matte. No good reason to sell them together; just increases their required inventory.

You can put a spacer in any size frame, it doesn’t matter how small it is. If you want to do it yourself just cut some 1/4" strips of matboard and doublestick between the board the photo is on and glass where it will be hidden by the edge of the frame. (Or see if a frame shop will sell you enough spacer, it’s not that expensive and very easy to install).
If it’s a digital image keep a copy of it for reprinting. Most digital photos will fade relatively quickly depending on the inks and paper used.

Okay, this thread isn’t about anything like what I thought it would be about…

:drops his Estwing and wanders out:

What, thought I was going to set someone up to take the fall like a patsy and do time in the joint on my nickel?



No, not at all. I was expecting dimensions like 2x6, not 5x7. :slight_smile: ‘Estwing’ was the clue.

Esprix, I hate to drag up a ten-day-old thread, but I was searching for a thread that had dropped off the list from yesterday and I noticed your thread with my name on it…and of course I hate to have you think that I don’t come when you call. :wink:

As for whether or not it’s ever OK to have a picture touch the glass…well, I’ll be honest. I do it from time to time myself, in small “throwaway” frames with pictures for which I have the negatives. Chances are about 50-50 that they won’t stick, but there are no guarantees; humidity is an evil, evil thing, but maybe you don’t have to worry so much in sunny dry Cali. :smiley:

And of course even the negatives may not save you; a color negative has a very brief shelf life in comparison to black and white negatives…about six years, if I recall correctly, before noticeable fading occur and the negative is no longer in prime condition. (Black and white negatives have an uncertain shelf life; photography hasn’t been around long enough to know for sure, I’ll put it that way. Damn things last a century if properly stored.)

The mats they do sell in ready-made frames are not much better than cardboard; they’ll protect it from sticking but they’ll also eventually have the same effect. (Plus the bevels–that edge on the inner corner of the mat–turn brown on cheap mats, and I dunno, but it always reminds me of cigarette butts. I can’t handle brown bevels that used to be white. Pet peeve.)

You didn’t mention whether or not the 5X7 is a digital or a regular print…but I’m going to assume that it’s regular b/c if it’s digital I assume you could always make copies. (Digital prints, as Crescent noted, fade very quickly by comparison.)

If you luv it, ask the frame store to please cut you a rag mat for it; it’ll set you back about $15 for an 8X10, but it’s better than losing the print. (Spacers, as also noted, are another option, but I never liked jacking with 'em. Feel free to try them if you’re feeling froggy, though, and you’re dead-set against a mat.)

As for the UV-glass…normal glass, if I recall correctly, inhibits over half of UV rays all by itself. If you’re not going to display the picture near windows, or under fluorescents, I’d say you’re probably okay. (Unless you’re anal like me, and you want ALL of those evil rays gone for maximum protection.)

IOW, the mat is more important–IMHO!–than the UV glass. (And to give you an idea anyway, a lite of UV glass for an 8X10 will cost less than $20.)

So for an outlay of about $35, plus the price of the frame, you can rest in peace concerning your beloved 5X7.

But my best advice concerning beloved photographs is to run to Kinko’s and have ‘em make a copy. You won’t be able to tell the difference once it’s framed, and you can put it any ol’ cheap frame you want, no mat, no UV, no nothing…and store the original for safekeeping. I think a color copy costs like a buck?

Definitely your cheapest and safest option. :smiley:

Now that’s a good suggestion. Always keep your originals safe, eh? :slight_smile:

I bought the mat and frame from a professional art framing store, but they were pre-packaged mats so I’m not sure if they would be of the right quality. I do know I had to go looking for the proper acid-free ph balanced tape to attach the picture to the mat, so your previous advice paid off there.

Any other advice? When will you be starting “Ask the Framing Gal?” :smiley:


I’m so proud that I sent you hunting for archival tape! I luv it! :wink:

Most people use masking tape to adhere their photos; it’s petroleum-based, so within a few years, the tape paper dissolves and all you’re left with is this oily brown goo where it used to be.

There are a number of alternatives, some more archival than others–real archival “tape” involves making a rice paste and all kinds of PITA procedures–but tape that’s sold as archival is still a vast improvement on masking or Scotch.

Ditto for the mats you bought; nobody that I know of sells pre-packaged rag mats. But they’re still an improvement over no mat at all. The mats you bought are paper based, made from wood pulp…vs rag mats, which are made from cotton.

The best thing about a rag mat, vs a paper mat, is that a cotton-based mat functions as a filter and purifier; it absorbs first what might otherwise affect the artwork. A paper mat doesn’t function this way, and it has its own chemical outgassing that may be absorbed into the artwork as well.

So I always recommend rag mats for anything really important; leave the paper mats on your photograph if you like, but eventually I’d suggest upgrading.

Or making that copy. :smiley:

And as for the “Ask the Framing Gal” thread…maybe when I’m feeling froggy. :wink:

What about slipping a piece of the cotton paper you talked about between the mat and the edges of the picture where they make contact?


My dear Esprix, that would be just as much trouble as just getting a new mat, methinks. The cotton I mentioned is a mat as well; it’s just one made of cotton vs. wood pulp. So it would be the same price either way, whether you kept the old mat or not.

It’s not like your paper mat will eat your photo for breakfast, or anything. :smiley: If you’d like to wait a little while to have it rematted with rag mats, I don’t foresee any massive problems.

Just keep it in mind.

Well you’ve got me all paranoid now! :smiley:

Really, I appreciate the news. I will likely go get a color duplicate as I already have the perfect mat and frame (and have spent the money already). In the future, I’m going to be looking closely for what kind of mats I buy.

You rule!


Aww gee. Thanks! Glad to help.

Just call me Audrey The Super Picture Saver Gal. :wink: