Custom Matting and Framing
at Tri Dee
Guide to Preservation Matting and Framing
To increase the life and enjoyment of your print or photograph and to save
money in the future on conservation treatments, you should invest in appropriate
preservation matting and framing. Reviewing the following information and then
interviewing the framer regarding the procedures and materials will help you
What is preservation matting and framing?
It is the appropriate housing to display the intrinsic beauty and interest of an
object, while prolonging its life by securing the object in a mechanically and
chemically stable environment. It minimizes the problems caused by deterioration
of the components of the object itself and other problems introduced by
environmental factors such as air pollution, heat, light, and humidity.
What should I look for in a frame shop?
There is a growing awareness of preservation issues in the field of matting and
framing. Indiscriminate use of terms such as "preservation quality"
and "archival quality" can be misleading. However, there are
established specifications for materials, and standards for procedures. Make
sure the frame shop you select follows them. The field of Preservation is
constantly evolving. Be an educated consumer by keeping abreast of new
developments in the preservation techniques and materials used in this field.
What materials and techniques should be used for mats?
A mat is made of a series of components, as shown in this diagram. The mat must
be constructed to fit the object. Objects should not be folded or cut to fit a
The most basic guidelines are the following:
- Mat /mounting board should be made of cotton rag or chemically purified
wood pulp and must test negative for lignin. It should be pH neutral (pH 7)
or slightly alkaline (pH 8.5). The addition of buffering agents to
unpurified wood pulp papers does not render them fit for preservation use.
Colored board must not bleed and the color must not rub off or fade. Board
used for photographic materials must have passed the photographic activity
test (PAT). Yellowing board suggests acid degradation and must be replaced
to prevent damage to the object.
- Board should usually be a minimum of 4-ply. Six and 8-ply boards provide
greater support and deeper windows where needed.
- The object must be kept from contact with glazing materials. This is
particularly important for photographs, otherwise they may adhere to the
glazing. This may be accomplished with the use of a window mat. Sometimes
the planar dimension of an object will necessitate incorporating spacers in
the mat. If a window mat is not used, spacers must be added along the edges
of the back mat board.
- The window mat should be secured to the back mat board with water
activated linen tape adhered along one side only. This hinge must prevent
the window mat from sliding around over the object. The object should not
come in contact with the linen tape.
- The object should be secured in a way which accommodates some expansion
and contraction. In most instances, the object can be hinged with
long-fibered Japanese tissue adhered with wheat or rice starch paste. There
is no known pressure-sensitive adhesive suitable for hinging an object. Dry
mount and lamination processes and glues are damaging also. Non-adhesive
attachments -- such as acid-free paper or polyester film corners and strips
-- may be used.
What materials should be used for glazing?
- Glazing should only be glass or acrylic sheets (e.g. Plexiglas ® , Lucite
® , Perspex® , and Lexan® ). Acrylic sheets are lighter and shatterproof,
but develop a static charge, and should not be used with dry, unfixed
pastels, charcoals, soft pencil or any other powdery media. The static
charge may displace the powdery media.
- Sunlight and fluorescent lights emit high amounts of ultraviolet (UV)
radiation. Glass and acrylic can both be bought with an added UV filtering
component to reduce the damaging effects from UV. Include UV filtration in
the glazing to protect the object from UV radiation. It should be noted that
UV filtration does not eliminate the damage caused by visible light.
- Avoid non-glare etched glass; it may have been etched with acid which may
not have been completely neutralized.
What materials should be used for frames?
- Frames can either be wood or metal; if you choose wood, ask that the
rabbet be lined with a barrier of some type, e.g., aluminum or polyester
tapes with acrylic adhesives. This prevents acid in the wood from
transferring to the mat package.
- Frames should be strong enough and have a deep enough rabbet to hold the
mat package securely inside the frame.
- The mat package should be held in place with pins or brads, never with
pressure sensitive tape.
- A moisture barrier such as polyester film or polypropylene should be
placed between the back board and the dust cover if the object will hang on
an outside wall.
What are safe places to hang or store my framed object?
- Avoid hanging or storing anything in the basement, attic, or any other
place with extremes in temperature and humidity. A stable, cool, dry
environment is best.
- Avoid hanging pieces on outside walls, but if you must, request that a
moisture barrier be placed in the mat package.
- Avoid hanging objects in direct sunlight or any other intense light
source. Control exposure to ultra violet light through glazing or placement
away from a UV source. Occasionally rotate framed objects to cut down on the
duration of light exposure.
- Avoid hanging framed objects directly above working fire places or