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Written by Lorraine P. Dietrich
On the cover: Stars from the North (c) Lorraine P. Dietrich, IAF NEWS
Put your watercolor paintings under a frame as soon as possible. If you have to wait, store them flat between sheets of acid-free paper or good quality drawing paper to protect them from dirt and dust. Handle the paintings with care, do not touch the painting’s surface. Pick them up by the sides with clean hands.  

Select a good framer. The kind of frame described in this text is also suitable for etchings, engravings, drawings, art photos, giclée or photo-litho prints. A quality frame will protect the work for many years, it is a system in which parts are put together in a sort of «sandwich» : 

- The surrounding frame (moulding)
- The glass
- The mat boards
- The artwork fixed with acid-free tape
- The backing and protection paper.
Mats allow air to circulate around the work as well as giving your artwork a nice inner frame. Acidic materials used in mats can lead to big problems such as the mat itself becoming yellowish in colour and deteriorating the colours within the painting that is in contact with the mat over a long period of time. Every material in contact with the painting should be acid-free or Ph neutral to prevent oxidation and aging. Good choices would be the Alpharag ™ or Alphamat ™ series from Bainbridge® or the Accent series from Peterboro Cardboard Limited Company (Canada), which is a  good conservation mat board, acid free and lignin free.

Two mat boards are usually recommended.
The framer has special equipment to cut openings with beveled edges. The mat covers the margins of the watercolor paper and a very narrow part of the painting’s borders, creating a wide border with a window effect. Usually, the first mat is white or off-white. The second one (adjusted under the first one) is laid over the work, with only a narrow part (1/8 to ¼ in.) of it visible.  
The blue part of the illustration shows a second colored mat under the first (white). Catalogues showing mats samples offer a wide choice, some mats’ surfaces have a subtle texture that could be used to enhance a painting. A 3" wide mat will go well with a 9x12" or 11x15" painting. A 4" wide mat is suitable for a 18"x24" painting. A 22" x 30" painting will look good with a 4½" to 5" wide mat. Mats should not exceed 6", even for a very large painting. There is also a matter of taste involved. Sometimes, a very small painting is enhanced by a wide mat. A good framer will guide you.
The watercolor painting should be fixed on the acid free foam core with acid free tape, not on the back of the mat. Framer’s Tape Two # s2000 from Specialty Tapes® or PH7-70™ conservation tape from Industrial Tapes© are often used. Some woven linen tape is also available for larger and heavier works. The illustration  shows where to put the tape, this way the work will get flat again after temperature or humidity changes. This type of mounting is secure for thick and heavy watercolor paper. Do not put tape all around the work. Do not glue all the back of the work on the foamcore, this is terrible and will lessen the value of the painting. A slightly cushioned, acid free foam core is very good as backing, acid free mat board may also be used.

When the mounting is completed, the mat boards are adjusted over it. A frame is fixed around it, usually with framer’s nails.

Avoid bulky frames with watercolor paintings. Metallic frames are possible. You will see natural finish solid wood frames or golden finish on solid wood frames in many art galleries. They look very nice and they are very popular. Golden finish on solid wood is chic and will match many decors. A wider solid moulding is recommanded to hold a larger painting. It has to be deep enough for the mounting. The moulding’s design can be traditional, contemporary or baroque. Simplicity is the best because it will adapt to many painting styles and many different types of decor.


A protection paper is glued only on the wooden parts on the back of a wooden frame. This protection paper doesn’t need to be acid free because it doesn’t touch the work. Wrapping paper or brown paper will do, but the paper must be thick enough to protect the frame from dirt, humidity and unwanted visitors like insects. For more durable protection and nice finishing, a gummed brown tape can be glued over the brown paper’s edges.

Metallic fixations ( triangular or D-ring type ) are screwed into the wood approx. 3 or 4 inches from the top. They hold metallic or plastic covered metallic wire to hang the frame on the wall. The wire should not be too tight. On the wall, for a larger frame, two nails will be more secure, a 3 or 4 inches distance between the nails is suggested.

Choose a wall in your home that is not exposed to bright sunlight for many hours during the day, this is recommended for all kinds of artworks.  

Now that your quality frame is on the wall, you will enjoy it for many years. Check the wire from time to time. If you find tears on the brown paper, ask your framer to change it. When you clean the glass, put some window cleaner on your cloth. Do not spray cleaner on the picture glass, some drops could get inside the frame.

May I put the frame on a wall covered with wallpaper?
Yes if the pattern is not too invading or busy. The mat boards help to see the painting better.  

May I put a watercolor painting in the bathroom or over the fireplace?
It is better to avoid bathrooms which are often very humid, condensation might occur. Powder rooms would be better. Some modern large bathrooms have excellent air circulation, in that case, choose a wall far away from shower or bath and ask your framer to seal the back of the work very well. The fireplace is hot, the wood of the frame will shortly become very dry so metallic frame would be more suitable. You will have to clean the glass more often because of this dusty location. Maybe your fireplace’s wall is very hot if you use it often, then it might be better to put atworks somewhere else.

From time to time, change your paintings from one room to another, to give them a new atmosphere. Don’t forget that a nice artwork is always like gourmet food for the pleasure of your eyes and your soul.

Constellation (c) Lorraine P. Dietrich, IAF NEWS

Fragrant Delight (c) Lorraine P. Dietrich, IAF NEWS

Light is Magic (c) Lorraine P. Dietrich, IAF NEWS