View Full Version : what do you use for dust covers?

02-18-2006, 10:15 PM
I am just starting to frame my watercolors. What type of paper do you use for dustcovers?

02-20-2006, 07:06 AM
Hi Selena, and welcome to WC

I'm not sure where you are from.
Here in the UK we very rarely use dust covers just sealing the backs of the frames with special tape.
In the US and I think Australia, from what I have seen, dust covers are made from brown or black craft paper.It is normally dampened after it is on to tighten it. It is advisable to use a water soluble adhesive in case the frame needs to be opened at some time in the future.
Hope this helps.

02-25-2006, 03:12 PM
Thanks for your response. Yes, I am in the US. What type of special tape do you use in the UK? Does it work the same way as a dust cover (ie, does it cover the whole back of the frame), or do you just seal the edge of the foam board and the frame? Is the tape easy to remove? I hope this isn't being too ignorant.


02-25-2006, 03:56 PM
Hi Selena,

Backing paper has not been widely used here since the 1960s probably because it has a tendency to dry out and crumble, or get eaten by bugs.

The tape just seals the backing to the frame. Yes the tape removes easily, but does not dry out like other tapes and fall off. I am not sure of the availability of it in the US. It is called framers backing tape here. I will try and find a source for you if you want to go that route.

Here is a pic. of how our frames look when finished.

02-26-2006, 12:59 PM
Hi Mick,
Thanks for the picture - I was having a hard time picturing what it looked like with the tape and that really helped. Are there any disadvantages to using the tape? Do you attach the tape directly to the backing or do you put cardboard or something else behind the backing and attach the tape to that? Also I've seen suggestions for using a moisture barrier inside the dustcover. Do you still use something like that with the tape?

I definitely would be interested in finding a source for the tape in the US.


02-26-2006, 01:51 PM
Hi Selina

No there are no disadvantages to using tape. It is there to seal against the ingress of pollutants,bugs etc. and it fulfils this function very well. We use special MDF for backing that is sealed on both sides. I think it is something like your masonite.

On your side of the pond, people seem to think the frame is unfinished if it doesn't have a dust cover. I don't think they have been widely used here since the 1960s. How often does someone take a painting off the wall and look at the back.:rolleyes:

No we do not use moisture barriers. Think I will have to do an article called myths of framing :)

I have some more pics that will show you how we do it. The tape is very flexible so goes into the rebate, on to the backing board.

Another difference in our framing is that we don't seal the backs of art on canvas normally,and the reasons I have seen why it is done over there are not convincing. Just adds to the cost.

I have visited the US a number of times and to be quite honest I prefer our style of framing. :)

The last time I was there I saw some really awful framing in some very upmarket galleries. More attention had been paid to quantity rather than quality. In some cases the frame totally overpowered the art, and one of the reasons we frame is to enhance the art. I also saw some super framing at a small co-operative run by artists, and had quite a chat with the artist that did the mounting and framing. In fact I was so impressed I bought one of the prints she had mounted bought it home and framed it.

I will see if I can find a source online for the tape we use.

David Harkness
07-04-2006, 01:57 PM
I am a rookie at framing, but my impression is that a nicely done dust cover gives the piece a more "professional" look. This would only be important if you are selling or giving the piece to someone else. If you are framing the piece to hang on your own wall, then taping the edges to block dust is just as good, and a lot easier.

For dust covers, I use "contractor's paper" from Home Depot. (brown kraft paper.)

1) Cut pieces a little larger than the frame.
2) Spread a thin layer of Elmer's glue (or similar glue) to the back of the frame.
3) Dampen the paper with a sponge.
4) Press the paper onto the back of the frame making sure it contacts the glue all the way around.
5) Set aside to dry. (Dampening the paper causes it to swell. As it dries, it will shrink and become drum tight.)
6) Trim off the edges with a staight-edge and utility knife.

I'm not sure why you would want a moisture barrier unless you plan to hang the piece in a very humid area. (bathroom? shower?) Most of the references I've seen suggest that ventilation is desired. Some even suggest mounting a piece of screen in the dust cover. That seems silly to me as gas molecules diffuse very easily through paper--You never hear about someone suffacating by crawling inside a paper bag.

There was a suggestion that you should use a water soluable glue in case you want to remove it later. I wouldn't worry too much about that. If you want to open it, just cut off the dust cover and glue another one on.

07-04-2006, 02:39 PM
Hi David and welcome to WC.

Dust covers went out of general use here in the UK in the 60s. Most framers here use a special tape to seal the back of the frame. This has probably come about by the dust covers drying out and crumbling, they are also very prone to insect attack and fingers and other objects being poked through them.

IMHO a properly taped frame using the "correct" tape, looks every bit as professional as a well done dust cover The "fine arts trade guild", whose standards most framers work to make no mention of dust covers even at museum level framing.

However they are very much in use in the US, ( I saw some dreadfull examples in galleries on a recent visit ) and I believe the latest fashion is some kind of black paper.:rolleyes:

For art hung in a very humid room like a bathroom, the glass, mounts and backing should be taped at the edges prior to it being put in the frame.

David Harkness
07-06-2006, 09:54 PM
Hi Again,

And thanks for the welcomes! :wave:

I am an engineer by profession; and, like most engineers, I have a bias towards function over form. So, I must agree that taping is the superior solution.

In fact, a taped backing surely offers more clues about the quality of the framer's workmanship--which is probably why average framers and rookies (like me) tend to favor dust covers. :)


07-13-2006, 09:54 PM
HI everyone!
I hate to say it but we still use dust covers here in the U.S.
I have to agree that there is most likely a better way to do this but when customers here see something unfamiliar they go "What the heck"
and don't buy because even if its better, they think it's being cheap, even though it's not.
Also I'd like to say that I have a lot of customers that live near or on water
and after trial and error the way that David explained it is exactly how I do it.
Because the paper is thick it seems to absorb a lot of moisture.
My prints are 100% cotton, is very succeptible to moisture and will wrinkle very badly in even the lowest of moisture conditions.
From what I've heard we do a lot of things that would be considered not good
But we have to make some decisions based on what our clients want.
Not to say that I"m not interested in a new way for my own personal framed pieces.
Mick-Is this tape like a thin foam with an adhesive on both sides?
Or is it like a clear packing tape with adhesive on both sides?
Please explain and maybe together we can find all the materials here for everyone to use. Maybe we can start a trend.(sometimes trends can change things here)

07-14-2006, 05:51 AM
Hi John

There is nothing wrong with using a dust cover that is done properly, until someone makes a hole in it. It then might just as well not be there.:) I have also seen them peeling off the frame in some of your galleries in the US :crying:

I take it you are talking about the tape for sealing the sandwich in high moisture conditions.
You can use the same tape as used to seal the back of the frame. There are also tapes with either a silicon or aluminium backing that can also be used for both applications. the tape overlaps on the glass just enough to hide in the rebate of the frame.
You are certainly correct that a lot of things are done incorrectly by artists/photographers/needlecrafters (and some frame shops) etc. when it comes to mounting and framing art.
Framing is a very complex subject due to all the different types of mediums used, and the different levels of framing.

I saw a classic example recently at a sale. An artist had taped his art all round to the back of a window mount using masking tape just prior to the sale. After just 4 hours his art had visible ripples and looked cheap and nasty.A shame really as his art was extremely good.

07-14-2006, 09:15 PM
Hi Mick!
From what you are explaining,you wrap tape all the way around to the front of the glass to seal it to the backing, but not enough to see up front.
I've never seen that done here.
Most frame shops just drop it all in the frame then install frame clips.
Then they use doublesided SCOTCH tape to put on dust cover paper.
The tape they use usually comes loose in high moisture areas.
Thats why I use glue. They also use a thin dust cover paper where I use very thick.
The closest Thing I know to aluminum backed tape here is an all aluminum
tape we use for A/C duct work in homes.
I have used hot glue for this application before, it seemed to work also,
although I'm not sure how long.
I can definantly see where taping it into a sandwich would work also.
I will check on the masonite to possibly get a better clue to what your using.
The tape that you showed looks like the wax paper tape we have here used in packaging for shipping.

Hi Selena!
Hope your getting something from this.
Any questions?
Feel free to ask.

07-14-2006, 10:30 PM
Hi John

All the tapes we use here are designed to do a specific framing job, and we buy them from specialist shops.

Unfortunately many artist are not aware of this, and use inapropriate tape that either dries out and comes unstuck, or in the case of hinging bleeds through to the front of the art or causes acid burns.

These tapes are availiable here. http://www.frameco-online.com/shopusa/
there are also a number of "How to" pages on this site.

07-15-2006, 09:33 PM
Thanks for the link Mick!
I'll have to order some to do some comparisons.
Fortunantly, I'm pretty good at finding materials that I'll make sure are the same.
Can I get the backing material on this site too?

07-16-2006, 04:47 AM
Hi John,

If you mean the final board that goes in the frame, we either use 2mm MDF which I think is known there as Masonite, or foamcore.

I would not recommend the grayboard that is on that site.

07-16-2006, 02:37 PM
Hi Mick!
Yes thats it.
Thanks for the tip.