Framing and Displaying Watercolors

If you have a collection of watercolors or are fond of making them, you can showcase your collection with carefully selected picture frames. It is important to remember, though, that watercolor paintings are fragile and need extra care when framing.

Here are some tips when framing watercolor artwork:

  • Choose the right picture frame. The picture frame must serve to highlight the artwork. It should not detract the viewer’s attention; rather, it should draw the eye to the artwork and make the resulting sight all the more alluring. Here are the following considerations:
    • Choose the right style of picture frame. Modern watercolors will suit plain picture frames or contemporary frames. On the other hand, classical landscapes and theme will better suit vintage picture frames.
    • Choose the right color. For modern themes, a silver or gold picture frame will also be ideal. A black picture frame will also provide a good foil for watercolors. If you want to use another color, it should be a color that complements the dominant color in the artwork. This is best used in combination with matting that features a neutral color such as beige or white.
    • Choose the right size. Size also matters – do not use a frame that is too elaborate or too large. This can only serve to overwhelm the image and make it look small. The picture frame’s rabbet should also be deep enough to accommodate not just the watercolor paper, but also the glazing and the matting. The width of the frame should not be too wide but too thin.
    • Use archival material only. The watercolor paper can be damaged and turn brittle over time, especially if it is exposed by acid. Use matting boards and backing boards that are acid and lignin-free to prevent acid damage.
  • Get the right glazing for the picture frame. Watercolors are very delicate and vulnerable to damage. They can be damaged by dust, grime, soot and even the paws or hands of pets and children. The watercolor can also fade if it is continuously exposed to light. Choose glass that features UV protection that minimizes the possibility of fading of the pigment and discoloration of the watercolor paper. Consider getting acrylic glazing, as this is shatter resistant and lighter. There are also non-reflective glazing options as well.
  • Mounting the watercolor. To attach the watercolor to the backing, use some acid-free cloth tape. Wipe the glazing down to get rid of smudges, then, lay down the different layers of matting. If you do not plan to use matting, use some spacers that will leave a thin space between the glass and the watercolor paper. This will prevent the watercolor paper from touching the glass directly. Secure the watercolor in the center by using archival tape or gummed linen tape to attach the watercolor paper to the matting board. You do not need to tape at the four corners, just on the top so that the watercolor paper can contract or expand, depending on the weather. At the back, fold the metal tabs just firmly enough to secure the backing board but not hard enough that it damages the backing board surface.
  • Displaying your framed artwork. The artwork should complement the overall look of the room so that it will not look out of place. Also, hang the picture frame in an area which does not have too much light exposure (such as an area that is facing a window). 
4th May 2015 Eric Morgan

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