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Home  >  About  >  Care

Caring for your Fine Art Prints

Unpacking  |  Handling  |  Mounting & Matting  |  Glazing  |  Framing  |  Hanging  |  Lighting

Your fine art photographic print is an investment and a work of art. By properly caring for your print, you will protect your investment and be able to enjoy it for many more years. Following are some recommendations for how to properly care for fine art photographic prints.

Unpacking

Your print has been packaged to prevent damage during shipment. Because of their added weight, framed prints have extra packaging to protect the frame and the glazing.

  • Take care not to damage the packaging when opening.
  • Cut (do not rip) the packing tape and carefully remove the print from the packaging.
  • Save all of the packaging until you have fully inspected the print and you are sure that no damage has occurred during shipping.
  • If you discover any shipping damage, contact us immediately.

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Handling

Treat your fine art print as if you were a museum curator. With careful handling, your fine art print will reward you with long life.

  • Always use white cotton gloves to avoid any finger prints on the print, the mount board or the mat. Fingerprints can contain oils and other contaminants that will attack the paper over time, eventually causing discoloration and/or fading.
  • Unmounted prints and posters are especially vulnerable to crescent moon-shaped creases. Always lift the print by opposite corners (for example, top left and bottom right), letting the print gently bow or sag in the middle.

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Mounting and Matting

We recommend against purchasing unmounted fine art prints. However, if you have such a print, have it professionally dry mounted and matted with archival quality materials.

  • Use only 100% acid free mounting and matting materials
  • Do NOT use buffered materials with color photographic prints. Buffered materials are useful with black & white images only
  • Larger prints need more stiffness support to keep them from bowing in the middle over time and touching the glazing. Use an extra layer of 100% acid free foam core attached to the back of the mount board on prints larger than 16" x 20"
  • Be sure the mat adequately separates the print from the glazing. The print should never touch the glazing. Use an 4-ply mat for prints up to 16" x 20" prints. Consider using an 8-ply or double mat for larger prints.

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Glazing

Glazing is important to protect the print from various types of damage resulting from sources such as smoke, ozone, cooking fumes and human touch or abrasion.

  • Glass is best. It is inexpensive, easy to cut, chemically inert, and resistant to scratches.
  • Museum style glass has a transparent, anti-reflective coating that makes it nearly invisible. This is not the old-style frosted glass that was used to reduce glare. Museum glass has a coating similar to what is used on modern camera lenses. The coating minimizes reflections, making the glass very difficult to see. If you've ever seen a print under glass where the glass was almost invisible, you've seen museum glass.
  • If you live in an area prone to earthquakes or you have a larger size print you may prefer Plexiglas glazing. Be sure to use a UV-blocking Plexiglas.

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Framing

Selection of the right frame is important for both print longevity and aesthetic appeal.

  • Metal frames are best. Wood frames can contain glue and other chemicals left over from finishing and these chemicals can leach out over time in the form of a gas and discolor the mat or mount board or the photograph itself.
  • The color of the frame can be important. The eye is naturally drawn to high contrast areas. So if you use a white or light mat and a black frame, you may distract the eye from the print itself. For light colored mats, I prefer a brushed silver or platinum color frame. For dark mats, I prefer a black frame.
  • Select a frame that has sufficient strength to support the size of the image and the type of glazing selected. If glass glazing is used, the frame needs to be more substantial.
  • Select a frame that is aesthetically pleasing and matches both the style of the image and your own decor. Be careful not to select too large a frame. Photographs typically appear better with smaller frames while paintings usually have larger frames.

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Hanging

Where you hang your print can have a major impact on its longevity.

  • All color prints fade over time. It doesn't matter what process was used to make the print.
  • Some printing processes have better archival properties than others.
  • Our prints are made with the most state-of-the-art archival printing process and materials to insure that your prints will last as long as possible. Still, some basic precautions are in order.
  • Never hang your print in direct sunlight, regardless of the type of glazing used
  • Insure that the location is not subjected to excessive heat or humidity or to dramatic shifts in heat or humidity. For example, it's best not to hang prints directly next to a heating duct.

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Lighting

Proper lighting can add drama to your fine art print. Some suggestions for the best possible lighting are below. Follow those that are practical for your particular situation:

  • The first and most important rule of lighting your prints is that the amount of light should be pleasing to your eye and it should create the drama and effect you desire.
  • Make every attempt to keep the amount of light even across the entire image. But, if that's not possible, make sure the center of the image is well lit.
  • Direct lighting
    • Direct lighting is most often used in homes and galleries and it is what I prefer
    • Direct lighting should be mounted high above the print so that it does not create glare at the viewing angle
    • A track lighting configuration is simple, elegant and easy to change should you deside to re-arrange your prints.
    • I suggest low voltage MR-16 Halogen spot (not flood) bulbs which are available everywhere.
      • A 50 Watt is sufficient if the fixture is 8 feet or less from the print.
      • Use 75 Watt bulbs if the print is further away.
    • Be sure to get fixtures which have a glass UV filter in front of the Halogen bulb. The UV filter reduces the high UV emission of the light to acceptable levels. The front glass also protexts people from glass splinters in the unlikely event that the bulb were to fail.
    • Use a sufficient number of lights on each print to achieve your own desired effect. Some recommendations for a starting point:
      • One fixture is sufficent for 8"x10" to 16"x20" prints.
      • Two fixtures are good for 16"x20" to 24"x30".
      • Use 3 fixtures for prints 24"x30" to 40"x50".
    • Dimmers can be very helpful in creating just the right effect. Note that most low voltage lighting systems require a special electronic dimmer. Electronic dimmers are widely available from major manufacturers to match your existing wall switches.
  • Indirect lighting
    • Indirect lighting is used by many museums because it reduces the exposure of the print to direct light and thereby prolongs the life of the print.
    • Indirect lighting should only be used with white or neutral ceilings/walls since the bounced light will pick up the color of the wall.
    • Because there are so many factors involved with indirect lighting, such as ceiling hight, ceiling angle, fixture type, etc., it's nearly impossible to give meaningful recommendations here. Go with what creates the desired effect for you. I recommend consulting a lighting specialist who can review the many variables with you.
  • If you have the ability to measure and control the amount of light on the print, the following lighting standards may be of interest to you:
    • In his book The Permanence and Care of Color Photographs, Henry Wilhelm, well known in the industry for conducting accelerated aging tests on various media, recommends 450 lux of incandescent tungsten, glass-filtered quartz halogen, or glass filtered fluorescent illumination for home and commercial applications; 300 lux for museums, galleries and archives.
    • The Professional Photographers of America specifies an incident exposure reading of EV8 or f/16 at 1 second at ISO 100 for print viewing during official print competitions. EV8 is approximately equal to 60 footcandles or 640 lux. This provides very bright light for critical evaluation of a print but does not consider the long term effects of the light on the image.
  • Finally, enjoy your prints, but turn the lights off at night or when you are not in the room. Your print will last longer and you'll be saving energy too!

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