Framing Pastel Artwork

Putting your art behind glass

One of the dilemmas facing pastellists is the framing of their pastel artwork. As one of the many attractions of soft pastels as a medium is that they age very well. They don’t crack or fade, and so if they’re treated well, they can look just as vibrant after decades or even centuries as they do when they’re fresh off the stick. There is a caveat though: pastels are highly susceptible to shedding pigment if they’re bumped, and highly susceptible to smudging as well. Pastel paintings need to be handled with care.

paint with pastels

In order to get the best out of the longevity of pastels then, the only real solution is to frame them. Framing your pastel artwork behind glass will protect the surface, and hanging it up will prevent it from taking knocks and bumps. Spraying the surface with fixative is the only possible alternative to framing, but most pastellists don’t like doing this as it changes the appearance of the pigment.

If this has convinced you to frame your finished pastel artworks, then you may be wondering how to go about it. For most of us, the best way to go about is to take our prized artworks to a framing professional. Find a framer who’s part of the Professional Picture Framers Association (PPFA), and you can be sure that your art will be treated with the respect and care it deserves.

Of course, you’ll have to pay for the services of a professional picture framer, and they don’t exactly come cheap. If you can’t justify the expense, then by all means you can try framing your own paintings. There are plenty of books and online guides to this, so getting instructions on how to do it won’t be a problem. Just be sure to observe these rules:

For more details on how to go about framing pastel artwork grab a copy of my
book "Pastel Painting Secrets"   

1. Always use acid-free archival materials. Mount your artwork on something like Monsanto’s ‘Acid-Free Fome-Cor’, use 100% acid free rag mat museum board for matting, and use archival tape for attaching things to each other. These materials won’t damage your artwork over time, and while they are more expensive, they’re worth it.

2. Leave a space between artwork and mat. Some loose pastel dust will inevitably fall off the surface of your artwork after it’s framed. It’s much better that this loose dust falls into a gap between mat and paper, where it can’t be seen, rather than falling onto the bottom edge of the mat. This is very distracting and will make you want to pull it apart and reframe it.

  3. Be very gentle when putting the package together. The last thing you want is to finish framing your artwork only to notice that you’ve gotten pastel dust on the mat, or on the inside of the glass. So when you’re putting together your package of artwork with backing board and mat, frame and glass, be very careful not to bump or knock the artwork, especially when you have it facing down.

Also, don’t forget to hang you framed artwork where everyone can see it – hey, you deserve a few compliments!




Learn to paint with pastels