If you’ve purchased a painting from the artist or at a sale, it’s highly possible that the mat in the frame is inexpensive and made of wood pulp. Struggling artists can’t afford the finest in matting and large sales are usually concerned with quantity, not quality, but both know that artwork appears more professional with a mat than without one. Unfortunately, an inexpensive mat can damage artwork with time so it’s important that you invest in an archival quality mat for preservation to protect whatever artwork you’re having framed. If you’re not sure what type of mat a purchased piece of artwork has, look at the bevel cut of the mat to check the color. A pure white interior means it’s probably an archival mat and a yellow or brown bevel means it’s a wood pulp mat. Wood pulp mats can leave an acid burn on the piece and discolor with time, so always bring your piece to an expert in custom framing for a quality mat that holds its color and won’t damage your artwork.
The glass or acrylic that covers framed artwork, also referred to as glazing, has a primary job of protecting the piece from environmental factors including dust, dirt, debris and most importantly, UV light. Archival quality glass used in preservation style framing prevents the damage ultraviolet light can cause including fading and discoloration. Best of all, the glass used in preservation framing like in museum framing comes in non-glare styles that won’t interfere with the visibility of your artwork.
An archival quality mat and UV resistant glass are the parts of preservation framing that you see, but the backing is just as important although you may never see it. Backing materials found in purchased artwork can range from cardboard to paper or even wood. Wood leaves marks such as imprints of grain and knots on paper artwork and other materials don’t properly insulate the piece against moisture, dryness and dust. Framing includes quality backing materials that support the roles of the UV glass and archival mat similar to museum framing.