View Full Version : Is there any hope for easy framing?

01-12-2019, 08:21 PM

I've been dabbling in watercolor, acrylics and soft pastels. I really enjoy pastels, and even purchased a lot of pan pastels to go with my sticks.

But I haven't touched them for nearly a year now because despite having done multiple pieces, I just stick them in a box with glassine paper and never see them again. I like to frame my stuff, my walls or my parents walls have a lot of my watercolor/acrylics... but no pastels.

I'm not worried about professional framing, I typically just get cheap ready-made frames. I make sure to gesso whatever the support is to have a barrier against acid. I haven't found any that can work with pastels. I bought Frametek spacers, but have yet to try it, because all of the frames I've come across are just too shallow to allow a spacer, foam back and glass/plexi. I have a lovely white washed frame I would love to put something in... but it was cheap, and it's too shallow, as they all have been.

Any advice? Do ALL of you professionally frame, or have specialty framing equipment?

I'm really tempted to just gesso the back of the support provided (it's usually cardboard), mount my painting to it and then place the pastel against the glass. The problem I have there is, some of it is plexi glass and I'm not sure if I can frame against that? I know some people frame against the glass and it's worked out just fine. I am willing to try that for the ease of use. Just not sure I can frame against plexi.

01-12-2019, 09:10 PM
Indeed there is hope! Today most professionals, but not all and not always, frame right up against the glass without mats. This process is centuries old in Europe. On paintings less than 12 x 16 inches it is quite easy. Richard McKinley, president of the International Association of Pastel Societies among other accolades, has written a blog on this process, but here it is in a nutshell.

Using an archival backing is strictly up to you. If your frame is very shallow, you can use a stiff backing of your choosing. Most of my small work is on 1/8 inch archival foam board, but some I've used pieces of old archival mat board. If you use Grafix Double Tac mounting sheets (available at Jerry's ArtArama and elesewhere) - you can even mount your paper before painting on it, and save some hassle in this next step.

Place your artwork on the backing, and then carefully put the glass on top of that.
Next you will make a sealed "package" by carefully taping all four edges together with Artists Tape (also available at Jerry's and elsewhere). It is a bit tricky when all three pieces are separate; which is why I pre-mount my paper. I place the edge that I'm working on slightly off the edge of the table. First put the tape on the glass side so you know if it has a narrow enough edge of tape on the glass that won't show when the frame is on it. Many times that means less than an eighth inch of tape on the glass. Once that edge is taped on top I start in the middle of the package, and ease the tape onto the backside to secure at least a small area before VERY carefully turning it over to finish taping it to the back of the package. The next edge will be easier. Complete all four sides, and place it into your frame.You can use whatever comes with the frame to secure it into the frame. I recommend doing this method the first time on the smallest painting you want to frame because small is easier to handle until you have some experience. The tape is meant to provide a seal so no "critters", dirt, or moisture gets into the frame. If you paint larger, you can do this too if you pre-mount the paper onto the backing. That prevents the painting from slipping around under the glass. Using a tape barrier is much more difficult, and not "easy" as that's what you have asked for.
Ideally, for paintings larger than 16 x 20 you would use the Frametek Channel Spacers (the kind that fit over the edge of the glass) as recommended by Frametek in their video. The other spacer that has adhesive isn't guaranteed to stay affixed to the glass on large work even though they use the best adhesive on the market. Over time, all glues will dry out. Obviously, this means you'll have to look harder for inexpensive frames with a deep enough depth to accommodate all of this. Mounting on matboard or gatorboard provides more room.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Well now after having written all of this, I found someone else had already written about "Framing Directly Under Glass" below. If you scroll down you will find it. Click on his blog, and you will see how he does it. You will also find a link to the piece that Richard McKinley wrote about his method; which is pretty much like mine. You'll also see the link on Richard's page that takes you to the second IAPS president, Maggie Price, and her even older article on how she did it.

01-13-2019, 10:09 AM
I have bought numerous frames online from places such as pictureframes.com. While not as inexpensive as frames you can get in discount stores, they will have frames with enough space for all of the items (this is known as the rabbet distance). Plus you can often get custom made sizes.

Here is a link to the site with a filter for "deep" rabbet size.


While not necessarily inexpensive, you can also buy individual pieces from a professional framing shop and still do the framing yourself. I have had glass (and plexi) cut at the framers - and if you don't want to buy frames online, then you could buy the frame from the frame shop too.

Hope this helps,


01-14-2019, 12:12 AM
I frame almost all my pastels using the method PeggyB uses. Framed like you would an oil painting, inset in the frame rabbet with no mat or spacers, they look better than any other framing methods, plus they hold up better by far when transported or shipped. If you can afford it, use coated anti reflective glass - I prefer the Groglass brand ArtGlass AR over TrueVue Museum glass. It is more resistant to scratches and is easier to clean. Nothing else can match the color saturation and clarity of a pastel presentation in this way. The glass almost disappears.

Regular Plexiglass is not going to work for this method. Polycarbonate that is optically coated and anti static treated might, but it is significantly more expensive than then Artglass AR.