How to…Frame Pastels or Charcoals

Which is the right way to frame Pastel paintings, is something we often get asked.  Framers generally agree on a right way, but some will do it differently and you should ask your Framer at the time of placing an order if you are concerned.

We’ve had many a customer who are either not happy with the way it had already been framed elsewhere, attempted it themselves or brought from an amateur artist who wasn’t aware of the framing options and requirements.

In this blog, I talk about the way we were taught but the most important thing to remember, is that however you decide to get it framed, as long as the materials or the process haven’t damaged the artwork, it can simply be re-framed and corrected.

A piece of art completed in Pastels or Charcoals, has to be treated differently from framing a regular print in other mediums.

This is because by their very nature, they produce particles of dust, which can dislodge at anytime, even if it has been “fixed”(*) (although it will be less likely).

The problem is, if not handled and framed with care, the dust can make a mess of your nice clean mount (card border) or can gather in an unsightly manner at the bottom of your frame (if un-mounted).  You also have to consider how it will affect the actual look and lustre of the picture itself.

To overcome this, it would need to be mounted with an under Mount (sometimes known as a spacer or inner Mat/Mount).

The under Mount does its job in the background and it is not meant to be visible.  It provides a gap to catch the dust and circulate the air.

It keeps the top Mount(s) and any visible areas free from dust particles.

A Pastel or Charcoal painting, in my opinion, should not be framed without a Mount.  The Mount does the job of hiding the under Mount, keeping the glass away from the picture and enhancing/complimenting the look of the artwork.

This means that you would usually consider a frame with suitable depth to house the materials and the picture.  (For example, you would need a depth of at least 5mm.  This is because the thinnest glass is 2mm thick, then you have the artwork, at least two mounts, barrier board and backing board – phew!).

In terms of materials, Mounts should be acid-free (sometimes known as archival) and acid-free barrier board should be used between the artwork and the backing to ensure suitable protection.

Dependent on budget, plain glass can be used as long as it is not touching the artwork.  Non-reflective glass, 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 of glass, for example, UV filtering glass.  These options can be discussed with your Framer and obviously is dependent on your budget.

Note: to keep your picture safe before framing, try to keep your pictures flat, avoid touching the surface and keep away from water.  Some Artists prefer not to “fix”(*) their artwork as they believe it can dull or change the pigment.  Also avoid harsh vibrations.

It is said that using “hammer-in” style bumpers should not be used as they could shake loose some of the dust.

It is also advised not to use Plexiglass or Acrylic as static electricity can pull the particles from the paintings surface.

Always get advice from a professional picture framer, artist or art organisation before going ahead.


(*) What is Fixing?

Fixing is a term usually applied to a picture, such as a pastel that has had some kind of fixative spray applied to the surface.  This would ensure the dust particles are more secure.  Many artists are against the use of fixing a picture as they believe it can change the pigment and dull the colours.

Seek help and advice on this from a Professional Artist or art organisation.



3 responses to “How to…Frame Pastels or Charcoals

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