Picture Framing Glass: Plain or Non-Reflective?

Picture Framing glass is a funny old thing.  Most of us just think, glass is glass, but what about when you are faced with a choice?  How do you know what glass is right for your picture?  For example, a lot of people insist on having non-reflective glass (NRG), but for what reason?

I’ve found that quite a lot of people have heard of it and as such want to demonstrate their knowledge on the subject.  But when delving a bit deeper into the reasons why, often I find that they don’t really know.  It might have been that their last framer insisted that everything had to be NRG (this would make me slightly suspicious as NRG is more expensive and is much easier and quicker to work with than “standard” glass).

The customer might have had other work done in NRG and subsequently thinks that all their pictures have be done in the same way, regardless.  Or perhaps they’ve given information from a professional artist, a friend or online that gives them cause to think that it’s the only way to go.

Some people believe that NRG will conserve their piece because it diffuses the light.  Whilst, it does diffuse light, it is normally the much higher grades of NRG that carry these qualities.  The standard NRG that most pictures would be framed with, does not have any special conservation qualities apart from obviously protecting your work from dust, bugs etc. (but then plain glass would do the same job).

In my opinion, each picture should be treated individually and recommendations given according to the picture, the environment it will hang in and the customer’s budget.

There are many different types of glass, they all do different jobs and require different budgets.  I will cover as many types as possible in my blogs but for now I’m going to concentrate on the two most popular types that you might have heard of.  Hopefully it will give you enough basic knowledge to be able to consider which is best for your work.

Plain Glass

Sometimes referred to as standard, float glass or basic.  This is usually picture glass that is between 2mm and 3mm in thickness and is the cheapest glass option.  Picture glass is not the same as window glass.

This glass is suitable for a lot of the pictures brought into framers.  In most cases, glass would not usually sit directly onto your print, photograph or otherwise (ask for advice on this).

Advantages:

  • It provides basic protection from the environment including dust etc.
  • It is the cheapest of the glass options
  • Ability to see the print clearly
  • Colours and detail retain their clarity

Disadvantages:

  • You will be able to see reflections in the glass.  This might obscure your view of the picture if you have a lot of light pollution (e.g. overhead lights or the picture is in a sunny room)

Non-Reflective Glass (NRG)

Sometimes known as anti-glare, non-glare or diffused glass.  This is not to be confused with the more expensive anti-glare glass grades available (and will be covered elsewhere at some point in the blog).  It is acid etched to give it a non glare*.  Some types will be NR both sides and others only one side.

A picture framer would normally have the basic grade as a stock item as this would cover the majority of pieces brought in for framing.  Again, as with plain glass it would not usually sit directly onto your print but it does depend on the value of the print and how much you want to spend on the framing job.

Sometimes a picture will lend itself to having NRG and can actually enhance the overall aesthetics of the piece.  The standard NRG, in my opinion, should not be used when framing 3D objects or multiple layered mounts.  This is because the glass surface is treated in order to make it NRG and will appear slightly fuzzy from certain angles, making it hard to view the piece properly.  More expensive grades will overcome this problem.

Advantages:

  • If you have a particularly sunny room or a room that has light pollution from electric lights, this can be a good option.  There is nothing more annoying than having your lovely work framed, only to get it home, hang it up and for most of the day all you can see is your own reflection or the reflection of your furniture rather than the piece itself.
  • In some cases it can enhance the way a piece looks
  • Higher grades could be used to protect valuable oil paintings that would not normally have glass (this again will be covered at some point in my blogs)

Disadvantages:

  • Can dull the colours of a piece
  • Some clarity can be lost, especially on intricate works
  • A bit more expensive than plain glass

Now for the science bit ….

Below is an explanation and diagram for those of you who are more technical minded!

“When light passes from air into glass and then back into air, the transitions cause part of it to be reflected. Artglass AR coating alters the light transmission qualities of glass surfaces, virtually eliminating reflections and maximizing light transmission.”*

*Sourced from wessexpictures.com – Framing material supplier

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6 responses to “Picture Framing Glass: Plain or Non-Reflective?

  • Picture framing pastels and charcoals - Country Studio Framing

    [...] in my opinion, should not be used because it can hinder the view of the piece (see earlier blog on glass options).  However, to ensure a good level of protection, we would be recommending a higher grade [...]

  • Picture framing bristolpastels and charcoals - Country Studio Framing

    [...] in my opinion, should not be used because it can hinder the view of the piece (see earlier blog on glass options).  However, to ensure a good level of protection, we would be recommending a higher grade [...]

  • sal

    Hello, I recently purchased a framed print and it hangs in a bright room which causes a lot of glare. I would like to replace the glass to reduce the glare. Where and how can I do this inexpensively. I live in orange city fl. Thank you

    • Framing Fairy

      Hi there, thank you for your comment.

      In terms of price, I have no idea what inexpensive would be over there. It will depend on what you choose, the size of the print etc., plus the Framer will have to take it apart and re-fit, which should be added to the cost.

      Guidelines would recommend that your print should not hang in direct sunlight. But if it’s just a bright room, again it does depend on the type of print and even the subject matter. You could choose non-reflective glass as per my guide you have just commented on, but do consider if that will dull or not be appropriate for your piece.

      For example, if you have the piece framed in a deep box type frame, then non reflective glass would obstruct your view. Having said that, non reflective is the cheaper non glare option and in some circumstances is the only logical way to go. I can’t possibly decide that without seeing the piece in person and these are just suggestions to consider.

      I would strongly suggest going to a local Framer in person, with your piece and talk through the options.

      Elsewhere on this blog you will find another guide to the different types of glass. I would recommend that you read this through, so as to at least be aware that there a many different options and will help you to understand the options when you talk them through with an experienced Framer. For example, he may recommend one of the premium, true vue type glass. This would be more expensive, but may be worth it in the long run.

      I hope this helps you to explore the possible options and price ranges. Good luck!

      Thanks

  • sarath Wijesinghe

    Is that same non reflective glass and Matt glass?

    • Framing Fairy

      Hi there, some people might call non-reflective glass, matt glass I guess. People use many different terminologies, so it’s difficult. If someone used the term matt glass, personally, I would take that to mean non-reflective but would check with the customer first by showing them a sample. Hope that helps.

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