View Full Version : Storing completed pictures for easy access

06-05-2005, 02:56 PM
I'm pretty much a newbie pastel artist (if I can presume to call myself such). Most of my stuff is not good enough to show in public, let alone dream of selling, or even giving away. But it will never get any better unless I keep at it, and doing a lot of it. I'm trying to do several pictures a week at least, which means I'm starting to accumulate a lot of them, and I'm trying to figure out what to do with them. I don't want to throw them away. I want to keep them as a record of my progress, but obviously they are not things I can frame, and I would surely have nowhere to keep them if I did. I live in a tiny house where I have to use my dining room table as my studio, and I don't have a lot of place to store pictures.

I need a solution where they can lie flat, but I don't want them smeared or smudged either. I use a fixitive on them (I know this is controversial with some, but I want to use it and try to protect them somewhat), but even with fixitive they seem to smear and smudge just about as much as when unprotected. The fixitive doesn't seem to do much at all, if anything.

I've read about putting tracing paper in front of the picture, but this seems like a pain too. How do I attach the tracing paper? How do I keep it from flipping around? How do I see the picture clearly when I just want to quickly flip through them all?

The ideal solution would be some sort of clear sleeve to slip the picture into. Does anyone know of something like this I could use for pastels?

At Jerry's they sell something of the sort I'm looking for. They say they are "Art Solutions - Guaranteed Archival Printguard, art work and poster display protector" and they are "Made of .010" heavy Polypropylene, guaranteed archival, black paper inserted is acid free, plastic bound with nylon stitches". You can see them at:

Do you know if something like this would work for pastels? If not do you know of anything similar that would?

Debbie C.

06-05-2005, 04:20 PM
Hi, Debbie C., it's good that you're already thinking about proper storage. I've seen your work in the sketch thread, and trust me, it's worth preserving. You're very talented, and at the rate you're going, you will soon have very saleable work.

About the plastic sleeves - NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! They carry a static electrical charge that will pull the pastel right off the paper, even if you have used lots of fixative. It's a pity, but there it is.

You don't tape tissue to the picture, but over it. In other words, the picture gets taped to an acid free backing, and the tissue also gets taped to the backing.

The key to safe storage is to keep the pictures from rubbing or moving. You can tape one to the wall of your portfolio, and tape another on top of it, preferably with glasseine or tissue in between. Keep taping one on top of another, and you can then store the package under your bed or behind a piece of furniture. They won't budge, so they won't smudge.

Of course, that does not give you access to look through the pictures quickly. Here's one solution to that. Get a lot of pieces of acid-free foam core that are a few inches bigger all around than your biggest picture. Center a picture on a piece of foam core, using just one piece of acid-free tape, carefully placed. Then take a matching piece of foam core, cut a window out of it like a picture frame, and place it on top of the picture. Secure it with the acid-free tape to make sure nothing is going to shift or slide. You have created a mat out of foam core, which will give good protection to the picture while allowing you to view it. You can top this with a third piece of foam core and make a sort of sandwich, which is a very secure and safe way to store the painting or to take it to the framer's.

For home storage, you can leave off that third piece and just stack one matted picture on top of another, preferably with glasseine or tissue in between. The foam core mat will keep the pictures from touching each other.

You could also just use proper mats made from acid free mat board, but the foam core is less expensive and can take more kicking around, until you're ready to invest in a proper frame.

For smaller pieces, and as a temporary measure, I've had success with plexiglass clip frames from the dollar store. Plexiglass is supposed to have a static charge, too, but I've used it on several pictures for a couple of months and I haven't seen any pastel come off. These are good for items you're no longer actively working on but want to keep around to look at. You can stack them in a drawer or box to get them out of the way.

You seem to have been doing lots of research and you probably already know that you keep the artwork away from anything with acid content, so it's good to replace the cardboard backing with an acid free one before you put the picture in. You can also get an anti-static spray from a computer store and treat the inside of the plexiglass, but I have heard that it eventually wears off, so please understand I'm talking about short term storage here, and your less valuable pieces. For your best, use nothing but the best. It's worth it.

I hope this helps. There are lots of knowledgeable people on the forum who may have better advice than this. I mainly wanted to answer you quickly so that you'll know right away not to buy those plastic sleeves. I once had a beautiful painting ruined that way. The problem is that it doesn't happen immediately when you put it in the picture. A few days could go by, then you might notice a few grains of pastel on the plastic, not enough to alarm you. But if you let it go, whole sections of the picture will come off. You're right, by the way, fixative only does so much. Framers love it, but artists are using it less and less.

A few months back, Carly did a nice write-up on that foam core frame thing, I think it's her idea originally. It's somewhere in the library, but I didn't have time to search for it. It might be worth your while to find it, in case I missed anything I should have told you.

Happy painting. :)

06-06-2005, 11:26 AM
Thanks for the wonderful detailed reply. Still hazy on some issues. What sort of tape do you use to take the picture to an acid-free backing? What would an acid-free backing be anyway? I wonder if I covered the picture with tissue if I could then insert it into the plastic sleeve? The picture would not be touching the surface that way. The foam core solution sounds like it would be too thick. I need something as skinny and flat as possible. Right now everything is just stacked on top of one another in an artist's portfolio.

Thanks again for a great post and lots of stuff to think about.

Debbie C.

06-06-2005, 12:29 PM
I have taped my artwork into a sketch book with a sheet of glassine over each piece. next page or two - taped another piece of work down and then taped the glasseine over it again. It seems to work for easier storage but it can get heavy after it's filled.


06-06-2005, 12:41 PM
I buy glassine by the yard(s) and simply cover and fold it over a piece, then stack that piece in a V-shaped magazine-type rack. Of course, I use Wallis exclusively, so pastel drop is much less an issue than with pretty much any other ground- if pastel drops off Wallis by jarring or static, it wasn't thumped well enough in the first place.

I've also used the clear plastic archival bags for shows- using a damp paper towel, I run that up inside the bag to open and clear any built-up static, then slide the work in, and fix it into place. If the piece was well-thumped before bagging, and the bag taped securely to dimension, there's been no problems. Kitty Wallis does the same thing- I've seen her paintings in plastic bags and placed in a rack for folks to flip through as they wish. Seems to work.

06-06-2005, 02:09 PM
So, Debbie C., you can see it's well worth asking questions here, because we can all learn something. :)

I didn't know it was possible to use plastic bags without getting static trouble. The damp towel trick probably works better with Wallis than with Canson, but I'm not buying any more Canson after the current lot is gone, so I'll be itching to try that.

You get acid free tape in art supply stores, framing shops, photography places, possibly any place that sells scrapbooking supplies.

Acid free foam core or mat board is sold in art supply stores. Just make sure that you don't get the stuff that looks identical but is not acid free. Usually the store will indicate if it's acid free, and usually it will cost more, but not so much more that it's worth the risk of using the cheap stuff.

The main thing is, don't just use some piece of ordinary cardboard you find around the house. In the short term that's all right, but over the long term it will damage the work.

06-06-2005, 06:45 PM
It's easy to store pastels!

All the above methods are great -- here is my method:

All you need is foam core -- a large piece if your pastels are large.

Score the foam core -- or corrugated cardboard -- on four sides to create a kind of folding envelope. This 'envelope' will be rigid. The flaps created by the scored board will completely enfold and protect the pastels.

This board envelope will be stored on its edge. One edge will always be 'down'. The other edge will always be 'up'. (The reason for this is so that the pastels do not slide around as they are always stored on edge against the bottom end.)

Lay the envelope flat with its flaps open. Place a pastel flat, face up, with its bottom edge on the bottom hinge of the scored cardboard or foam core envelope. Place a sheet of glassine over the pastel. Close the flaps. Turn on its 'down' edge.

The flaps will hold the pastel on its edge, and the glassine will protect its surface, and the board will not flex. You should be able to store many pastels on top of the first one. You cannot, however, go flipping through them all!