Should Watercolor Paintings Be Framed With Glass?

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One of the most crucial steps in the painting process is preserving your work, so it’s important to understand just how to frame your watercolor paintings. After all, aside from sentimental value, the piece may be sold or even entered into a contest. However, there are many factors to consider regarding safety measures for your hard work. If you’re still unsure about framing your watercolor painting with glass, we have carefully researched the proper method.

If you have just completed a watercolor painting, it is best to frame the piece with glass. It’s essential to use UV-coated glass because watercolor paintings are especially vulnerable to sunlight and the elements. The paint and its colors are subject to drastic changes when needlessly exposed.

Further, watercolor paintings are typically completed on paper, unlike oil paintings. When painters work with watercolors, they will often choose to paint on paper due to its absorbent nature. Unfortunately, paper is also exceptionally sensitive and easily damaged. Glass will help preserve the delicate piece you’ve created.

After working so hard on your painting, it’s understandable to feel concerned about preserving your work correctly. And a glass frame does present some innate safety issues, as with anything made of glass. But your work is fragile too, so we’re here to explain why glass is still the best option for your latest masterpiece.

A man painting a tree using watercolor on a canvas, Should Watercolor Paintings Be Framed With Glass?

Protect your work from the environment

Two of the primary threats to a watercolor painting include light exposure and weather. Watercolor paintings can easily end up discolored, faded, and damaged without the protection of UV-coated glass.

Avoid Light Exposure

Watercolor paints are composed of colored pigments, combined with a binding agent. Unfortunately, those pigments only gain a distinct color by absorbing different wavelengths of light. Unnecessary exposure to light can alter the colors of your painting altogether. Naturally, that would radically change the overall appearance of your work.

Additionally, light exposure will cause serious fading. This fading will only increase over time. Bear in mind that such light damage isn’t exclusive to natural sunlight alone. Man-made lights can cause an equal level of damage, so avoiding the windows in your home isn’t enough.

Also, Watercolor paintings are frequently created with “washes.” These are layers of color that cover large areas of the painting, to establish backgrounds and the like. It’s achieved by using a solvent, which deliberately dilutes the binding agent in the watercolor. This entire process will make any color changes instantly recognizable, which means that light exposure is doubly threatening watercolor paintings.

It’s possible to purchase museum glass, which can filter out an extraordinary amount of light. However, it is also costly, which might make it an unappealing alternative to ordinary glass. Some protection is still superior to none at all.

Avoid the Elements

Because of the nature of watercolors, any exposure to moisture will be able to rearrange the structure of your paint considerably. Your colors may bleed down the entire face of your new painting, or merge some colors into a new and unattractive mixture. Even if this happened in one spot alone, it could easily compromise the attention of the viewer, utterly ruining the rest of your work. Keep in mind that humidity is another major cause of bleeding paint, literally causing it to run rampant.

It may seem odd to worry about, but insects can also be a serious issue. Silverfish are widely known to be attracted to paper, which is frequently mentioned by professional pest control websites. Their diet happens to consist of the very cellulose you’re likely painting on. So you might want to expect some large holes in your artwork without proper protection.

Prevent deterioration of the paper

Any damage to the paper foundation of watercolor painting is arguably the most significant threat. Paper is a natural fiber, and innately weak.

Aside from the pigments of your painting material, paper can also change your colors. Paper may become yellowed if it’s derived from wood pulp. Wood contains lignin, which turns yellow when exposed to oxygen and light. Like any color mixtures, this foundation of yellow can transform entire layers of paint. For example, a vast blue sky subjected to yellowed paper can become green.

Furthermore, the paper is especially vulnerable to the elements. Naturally, painters can’t give their paper a water-resistant coating, or it will be difficult to apply any paint. This means that your paper is vulnerable to moisture damage, which is incredibly harmful.

Water will separate the cellulose fibers from which your paper is made, resulting in a great deal of wrinkling and even tearing. Water damage can produce mold or brown spots on your painting. And the only way to repair water damage on a watercolor painting, without compromising it further, involves the careful use of bread. Yes, doughy bread, which absorbs water without harming the artwork. That arduous process could all be avoided with a glass frame, so long as you ensure that the painting does not touch the glass.

There are, after all, some drawbacks to glass, so it’s natural to ask further questions about its viability and relationship with paintings.

How do you frame a watercolor without glass?

Glass always has the risk of injury, either to yourself or the painting. Glass breaks easily, making movement difficult. Transporting your artwork to an exhibit or a customer could result in disaster. Glass may also produce a reflection, which could distract and frustrate the viewer. Likewise, fingerprints may be an issue on either side of the glass.

However, it is possible to frame your watercolor painting without glass. Sometimes, an exhibit may not even allow glass, but plastic is still an available option. The framing process is the same for plastic material.

It is possible to avoid a front altogether by protecting your watercolor painting with wax, such as “Dorland’s wax medium.”

Click here to purchase Dorland’s wax medium on Amazon.

Using this can create a barrier that would allow you to use varnish on your watercolor painting, which would otherwise alter its appearance with destructive force. It’s best to consult a professional before committing to this strategy to ensure your particular painting is not damaged.

Can you paint watercolor on glass?

As mentioned above, watercolor paintings are made with colored pigments. These must bind with paper to hold their place. As such, watercolor paints won’t adhere to the glass itself. However, some alternatives will work on glass, such as acrylic enamel. There are even certain solvent-based paints that are deliberately designed to work with a glass canvas.

Why do oil paintings not have glass?

It may seem frustrating that oil paintings don’t require glass, allowing them to retain the authentic appearance of their textures. This is because oil paintings can be openly varnished, without the fear of altering their appearance.

Oil paintings are also vulnerable to light. A glass framing would intensify any incoming sunlight, which can bleach the canvas, oil paints, or both. Oil paintings are also unlike watercolor paintings because they take a very long time to dry. If oil paintings are stored under glass, moisture can build up over time.

Not only will moisture cause mold on an oil painting, but it will also cause “blooming.” This refers to the appearance of cloudy, velvety material on your artwork, which is vastly unappealing and can even build up underneath the varnish. In that case, you would have to remove the varnish altogether to clean up the “blooming.”

Show off that painting, and start the next!

Now that you know what you’ll need to hang up your latest watercolor painting, it’s time to show it off. Whether you’re just starting or an experienced painter, your work always has value and deserves the best protection. A glass frame will do the trick, done correctly. Now you need to figure out what your next painting will be!

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