A good friend of mine who is very well versed in art and has the most amazing collection of framed images in her home recently asked me for a replacement print for one that stuck to the glass of her frame and tore when she tried to switch out the frame. Wait, what? How could this be? I ordered a replacement print for her and let her know that prints should never touch glass – and this is exactly why. If she didn’t know this, I’m betting that most people don’t… so I thought I’d educate you!
No matter the media, it’s best to keep your images out of prolonged direct sunlight. Even with UV coatings and UV glass, prolonged exposure to direct sunlight will cause fading. Also, it is not a good idea to store them in an attic (gets too hot) or basement (moisture).
Prints should not touch the glass in a frame. There are a few options for this – matting, spacers (available with custom framing or you can buy them online) or no glass. If it’s a delicate piece of art it should definitely have glass to protect it from dust, moisture, etc., but professional prints are sprayed with a protective coating and are okay without glass. Just use a feather duster to clean them.
Acrylic vs. glass – window cleaner will cause acrylic to fog – I use a slightly damp microfiber cloth to clean acrylic glazing.
Do you know that cardboard backing you find in store bought frames? It’s there to help give your prints some stability. You won’t find that piece of cardboard in custom framing, rather the prints will be mounted. Mounting prints prevents the rippling that happens over time and they make it much harder to damage your prints as well. My wall prints are all mounted unless otherwise requested. If you’re putting a mounted print into a store bought frame you’ll probably need to remove the cardboard and the glass.
It strikes me every time someone says that digital images are forever. Have these people never lost a digital image? Never had a corrupt hard drive, computer crash or a disk that won’t read? First, PLEASE PRINT your images. Have physical copies of them. Second, back them up in at least two places – one being off site. If they’re just living on your hard drive, USB or a CD you WILL lose them. Cloud based services are great too, but I personally have a hard time believing that they will be around in 50 years or won’t get hacked or something. While we’re on the subject, please don’t print them at value-priced places. Most digital printing I’ve seen from consumer labs is atrocious both in color and quality. I cannot imagine that that flimsy paper is archival.
Whether it’s a photo album, matted print or a box of prints, please be sure that if you care about those images you are storing them with archival materials… from the mat to the photo box to the adhesive you use to secure them – everything should say archival. Wood boxes are gorgeous but over time gasses from the wood will cause the images to discolor and should not be used for long-term storage.
If the photos mean something to you, if you’d be sad to never see them again, please take good care of them.