Framing Components - Matboard and More

Framing Components

Introduction

This guide will explain the various componenets which make up a traditional picture frame set. The four most important framing components are the moulding (material of the frame), the matboard , the glaze and backing. The moulding is purely aesthetic whereas the glaze, matting and backing serve a critical function in conservation.

Moulding (Frame)

In regular jargon, frames refers to the entire compilation of moulding, glazing, matting, backing and art work. The more technical term for the frames is actually the moulding, which refers to to just to the material the frame is made of. Most moulding is made of either wood, metal or plastic and comes in hundreds of different designs.

Frames come in long sticks of moulding, usually 8-12 feet in length. The moulds are then cut to size and joined together. The moulds come with a rabbet (a thin groove of about 1/2″ wide and 1″ deep) where the matte, artwork, glaze and other components fit in. The thickness of the rabbet is important to consider if your art work is very thick (like a canvas).

The most important decision in framing is the material and the style (design and finish). Plastic is often the cheapest, lowest quality but between metal and wood it’s mostly dependent on the look you are trying to achieve.

Wood has a more traditional look, and offers many more shapes and designs. Metal provides a more modern, sharp and bold look. It’s particularly stunning in black and white art. Most of our frames are available up to 32×40″ as they are sturdy and can support a lot of weight.

With frames, as with all the art work components it’s important not to distract from the art itself. The frames are meant to complement and enhance, so a simple black or walnut wooden frame is great for most art. In galleries and art shows a white single or double picture mat with a basic wooden frame is more than sufficient. Matboard and More® sells elegant wooden black, white and walnut frames, perfect for galleries.

Glazing (Plexiglass)

The glaze is the first layer behind the moulding, it is transparent and is made of either glass or acrylic (commonly called Plexiglass). The glaze protects the art from dust or physical damage as well humidity and condensation.

High quality glazing used in conservation framing is thin (2mm or 3mm), it is highly transparent to ensure the art is not visually distorted and it has UV protection.

Acrylic, or more commonly Plexiglass is similar to glass in its functionality but it has the added benefits of much greater durability and lightness. It is almost impossible to crack or break Plexiglass. On the downside, it scratches easier than glass does and some people believe it doesn’t look as good as glass. We sell exclusively Plexiglass glazing as it’s much better for shipping.

Both forms of glazing have multiple enhancement options:

  • Non-glare treatment: ensures the art work is clear in high light without a reflection
  • UV-reducing: restricts harmful UV rays, helps protect the art work
  • Combined anti-glare and UV-reduction: combines both coatings

For the majority of framing needs, standard Plexiglass is more than sufficient and it’s not necessary to spend on the additional options which can easily double or triple the cost. Matboard and More® sells Plexiglass for framing in any size up to 32×40″.

Matboard

Matboard is a paper-type product placed between the glaze and art work, providing a border that enhances the image, while also creating space between the art and the glaze.

Matboard is the most customizable portion of the finished product, but thankfully it can also be one the least expensive with a good retailer. Customization include:

  • Sizes: both the opening and outer sizes
  • Colors: hundreds of colors to choose from.
  • Core: standard core, black core and white core for the inside edge of the mat.
  • Layers: mats can be bought in single, double or even triple layers, all of which gives a very different looks
  • Special Designs: mats can be cut in interesting shapes, though typically rectangular, ovals, irregular shapes and almost anything under the sun can be used to provide a unique look
  • Finish: the bevel cut, v-groove cuts, bottom weighting and many other configurations are possible, often for a minimal charge

See our article on matboard basics for more details. Purchase matboards online using our custom matting shop page.

Backing Board

Behind the art work, there is a layer or two which is used to protect the art from behind, it is not visible from the front, but it still serves an important purpose.

Sometimes the mounting and backing board are referred to as the same thing, but they can also be two separate layers. If the art work is attached to that layer, either by a self-adhesive mounting board or just regular tape, it is a mounting board. The backing board is just a layer that goes behind the art but isn’t attached to anything. See our guide to mounting art for more detail on how to attach your artwork to the mounting/backing board

There are many different varieties of backing board including:

  • Plain cardboard: acidic, low quality and not recommended for quality art
  • Pressboard/Chipboard: simple paper product, often 2 or 4 ply and functional. Ridged enough to work but not recommended for conservation purposes.
  • Regular Matboard: a simple mat board can be used as a backing board, these are often mildly treated so they will last longer, and they are also more ridged
  • Foamboard: thicker than regular matte, providing a more solid backing, but it can also be brittle and often breaks in transport.

The regular matting and foamboard have additional options:

  • Acid-Free: treated to ensure that they will not damage the art.
  • Self-Adhesive: comes with a sticky layer so you can stick the art directly onto the backing board, eliminating the need for tape.

Dust Cover

The dust cover is an optional layer that can be put behind the backing board to protect against any dust or particulates entering from the back of the finished product. It’s not necessary as the backing board provides a similar function but in very dusty environments it can be useful.

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