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.
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
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
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!