Picture Framing Glossary of Terms
The following definitions were written and borrowed from a number of sources. They are not encyclopedic definitions but we hope they are clear to you, and comprehensive enough to provide you with useful understandings of the terms. They are applicable to the creation, production and framing of art.
Picture Framing Glossary of Terms
term applied to papers that absorb water solutions or other liquids. Examples of absorbent papers are blotting and toweling products. Many mat boards tend to have absorbent properties.
a chemical substance with a pH less than 7.0. Acids can react with paper products such as photographs causing discoloration and shortening their lifespan.
a permanent yellow or brown stain on paper art. Acid Burn occurs when artwork is framed with paper materials that are not acid-free.
in glazing and decorative work, acid etching alters one or both sides of the glass sheet to change its reflective qualities. When the etching is completed, all acids are neutralized and the surfaces are cleaned.
a term that describes paper materials with a pH of around 7.0. These materials are considered acid-free and are less likely to harm artwork. Paper materials with a pH below 6.5 or above 8.5 are not considered acid-free for the purposes of picture framing.
paper manufactured such that active acids are not included or are eliminated. A paper that has a neutral pH factor of 6.5 to 7.5 at the time of manufacture. Acid-free paper can be produced from virtually any cellulose fiber source (cotton, wood or others) if measures are taken during manufacturing to eliminate active acid from the pulp. No matter how acid-free a paper may be immediately after manufacture, over time chemicals from processing or pollutants from the air may lead to the formation of acid in the paper. The presence of an alkaline buffer will reduce or eliminate damaging effects of these acids for the duration of the buffer's effectiveness. The most common buffering additive is calcium carbonate. Some acidic materials are chemically neutralized with the addition of alkaline products; other materials are processed to remove the acid.
a clear, industrial plastic used as a substitute for glass in picture framing.
a bonding agent, such as glue or paste, for joining two materials.
Adhesive Coated Boards
a board with an adhesive coating on one side that may be neat-activated or pressure sensitive.
a chemical solvent used to remove artwork from its mounting.
a substance with a pH greater than 7.0 is considered alkaline. Alkaline substances added to acidic materials will help neutralize the acid.
paper manufactured with sheet alkalinity, most commonly associated with the presence of calcium carbonate filler.
the purest form of cellulose. Cellulose is the chief consitituent of all plants. Cellulose has three chemical forms or classifications: Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. The Alpha form of cellulose has the longest, and therefore the most stable chemical chain, in turn creating the longest and strongest paper-making fibers.
a metallic surface (such as a picture frame) that has been electrolytically coated with a protective or decorative oxide. Anodizing protects the aluminum parts by making the surface much harder than natural aluminum.
an acronym for the American National Standards Institute.
are framing materials such as mat board, mount board and acrylic that are designed to help preserve and protect the artwork from the damage and degradation caused by acids, light and pollution. This includes components made pH neutral or slightly alkaline to help with acidity, those with UV protection to help with light, and those with zeolites to help with pollution.
the stack of components, ex. mat board, backer board and glazing.
the measured size of the actual image, not including borders or paper size. For example: you can have an image with an 8”x 10” artwork size printed on an 8.5”x 11” sheet of paper.
an acronym for the American Society for Testing and Materials.
also known as a dust cover, is a liner paper adhered to the back of a frame. The back paper keeps dust and insects out of the frame package. It also helps reduce fluctuations in humidity, limits the infiltration of environmental gases, and gives your framed artwork a professional look.
when the inside edge of the mat board window is cut to a 45 degree angle. All of Frame Destination's mat board windows are have a beveled edge.
Biaxially Oriented Polypropylene (BOPP)
polypropylene that has been biaxially oriented, which causes it to become crystal clear making it an excellent packaging material for artistic and retail products.
to give up color when in contact with water or a solvent. Undesired movement of materials to the surface or into an adjacent material.
when the bottom border of the mat board is wider than the other borders. The concept of bottom-weighting is based on the fact that the optical center (the place where a viewer's eye spends most of its time) is slightly above the true geometric center in a rectangular region.
a process where calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate is added to mat board to make it more alkaline and therefore more likely to absorb acids and other environmental pollutants.
chemical added to regulate the pH of paper. The most common buffering agent is calcium carbonate (CaCO3).
a chemical (CaCO3), occuring in nature as oyster shells, calcite, chalk, limestone, etc. or obtained commercially by chemical precipitation. Calcium carbonate is used as a filler in alkaline paper-making, as coating pigment and as a buffering agent.
Canvas Floater Frame
a type of frame used to display a gallery wrap canvas. This frame allows the entire front surface of the canvas to be visible. Any color applied to the canvas wrapping the sides of the stretcher bars will be somewhat visible in the ‘float’ space.
a term used to describe the contents of a picture frame and includes mat board, glazing and/or mount board.
a type of framing that keeps the artwork as unaltered as possible while using materials which minimize the artwork’s deterioration by environmental factors.
Conservation Grade Framing Materials
materials such as mat board, mount board, glass and acrylic that are designed to minimize the artwork’s deterioration by environmental factors. An example of a conservation grade framing material is Bainbridge’s Artcare™ 4-Ply Alphamat.
a professional who specializes in the restoration and conservation of artifacts such as photographs, artwork, and documents. Conservators examine artifacts, determine their condition, suggest methods for treating them and recommend preventive conservation techniques to their owners.
in matboard, the central or innermost part; the material between the face paper and the backing paper.
Cotton Rag Paper
a high-quality paper made from cotton fibers. It is primarily used for art, important documents, and money. Cotton rag paper holds pigments and inks better than wood-based papers.
tiny, hair-like cracks on the surface of an acrylic sheet resulting from high internal stress. The effect results from chemical exposure in combination with mechanical forces or impact.
consists of two (2) mat boards (top and bottom). The window (opening) of the bottom mat surrounds the image. The top mat covers the bottom mat. It has a larger window, which allows a small border of the bottom mat, called the reveal to be shown.
the application of artwork to a substrate, such as foam core, using heat-activated adhesives in a heat press.
a liner paper adhered to the back of a frame. The dust cover keeps dust and insects out of the frame package. It also helps reduce fluctuations in humidity, limits the infiltration of environmental gases, and gives your framed artwork a professional look.
in matting the ability of a surface to withstand the removal of light pencil lines with a rubber or gum eraser.
a device for hanging pictures. Two hangers are needed to hang a picture - one on each side. The hangers are normally positioned 1/3 of the way down the from the top of the frame. A screw driver is used to tighten the set screw. The hanging wire is threaded through the eyelet.
a gradual change in the color of a paper. It is usually applied to the change produced by light.
also called enhancers or slips, fillets are thin, decorative pieces of picture frame moulding. Fillets are often placed inside a larger frame or in between mat boards.
many picture frame mouldings are made with finger-jointed wood. Finger-jointing is a process where short lengths of timber are bonded together to produce longer lengths. Finger-jointing reduces wood waste by utilizing shorts to create a dimensionally stable and environmentally friendly product.
Flat Head Screwdriver
a screwdriver that is designed to fit into slotted screws.
a mounting technique where the edges of the artwork are left uncovered by a mat board. With this application the artwork appears to be floating within the frame or mat board window. Artwork can also be float-mounted on a piece of black or white foam core without a mat.
see Canvas Floater Frame
the board on which artwork is mounted upon inside of a picture frame. Foamcore mount board is a light, but stiff material that is commonly available in white and black. Acid-free varieties are available for conservation framing. See also Mount Board.
See Picture Frame Size
a modern style of displaying art in which a canvas is stretched so that it wraps around the sides of a thick wooden frame and is secured to the back of the frame. It is suitable for displaying without a picture frame, or can be mounted in a Canvas Floater Frame.
a heavy-duty, extruded polystyrene foam board bonded between two layers of Luxcell® wood-fiber veneer. Also known as Gatorboard, Gatorfoam comes in sizes ranging from 3/16" - 2" thick.
traditionally a mixture of animal glue binder, chalk, and white pigment used as primer coat on wood panels, canvas, and sculpture. Modern gesso may be acrylic or soy-based and comes in a variety of colors.
a high-quality fine art print created with an inkjet printer.
bright and dazzling reflected light.
a type of glazing used in picture framing. Glass is commonly composed of sodium carbonate, lime and silica (sand).
the generic term for the glass or acrylic used to cover and protect artwork in a picture frame.
adhesive of animal origin, composed of complex protein structures. In modern usage, the terms, "glue" and "adhesive" are used interchangeably and may also include petrochemical adhesives.
contains the components necessary to hang an assembled picture frame. A wood frame hanging kit will contain screw hole hangers with screws, hanging wire and protective wall bumpers. A metal frame hanging kit will contain omni hangers for attaching the wire to the frame, hanging wire and protective wall bumpers.
the hangers, brackets, screw eyes and other materials used to assemble a metal picture frame.
a term for adhering the components of a picture frame together including: hinging the mat board to the mount board, hinging the picture to the mat board, or hinging the picture to the mount board. See also T-Hinge and V-Hinge.
is located below the color red on the light spectrum. Infrared energy exists in sunlight and tungsten. It heats artwork, which can dry it out prematurely and accelerate decay. Keeping artwork out of direct light in cooler areas can help reduce damage from infrared energy.
saturates the art during bonding and residue will still remain after removal. Examples of invasive mounting techniques are: spray adhesives and commercial wet glues.
a high quality paper made from fibers of the mulberry tree. Japanese paper makes great hinges because is strong without being bulky and does not discolor or weaken with age.
an organic substance found in all vascular plants. Papers containing lignin give off acids as they deteriorate.
a material that covers and protects the image. Mat boards have a window (also known as the exact mat opening) cut in the center through which the image can be viewed. In addition to protecting the image, mat boards are available in many different styles and colors for the purpose of enhancing artwork.
a term that refers to synthetic fibers that measure less than one denier. (A denier is a measure of linear density used to describe the size of a fiber or filament.) Microfiber is used to make non-woven, woven and knitted textiles, such as our Microfiber Smooth Towel and Microfiber Terry Cloth. The shape, size and combinations of synthetic fibers are selected for specific characteristics, including: softness, durability, absorption, wicking abilities, water repellency, electrodynamics, and filtering capabilities.
the material (either wood or metal) of the picture frame. Moulding can be very ornate and decorative, or it can be very simple.
the board on which artwork is mounted upon inside of a picture frame. Foamcore mount board is a light, but stiff material that is commonly available in white and black. Acid-free varieties are available for conservation framing.
the act of attaching artwork to the mat board, mount board, backer or display board. One way of mounting is by using hinging. See also Dry-Mounting, Pressure-Sensitive Mounting, and Wet-Mounting.
Multi-Opening Mat Board
a mat board with more than one window opening. Multi-opening mat boards are often used for photo collage projects.
acrylic with a matte finish etched on one side to reduce glare from lighting. It is optically pure (no tint), and may cause a slight loss in sharpness. Frame Destination sells 1/10" (.098) framing grade Non-Glare Plexiglas® acrylic. When framing with non-glare acrylic remember that the matte side goes away from the artwork.
means the bonding technique remains totally reversible allowing the art to be returned to its original state without any adhesive residue remaining upon removal. Examples of non-invasive mounting techniques are: hinges, edge strips, natural starch, and corner pockets.
similar to the Euro Hanger, the Omni Hanger is a trade name for a picture hanging device. Two hangers are needed to hang a picture - one on each side. The hangers are normally positioned 1/3 of the way down the from the top of the frame. A screw driver is used to tighten the set screw. The hanging wire is threaded through the eyelet.
Optical Brightening Agent (OBA)
a dye that absorbs light in the ultraviolet and violet region of the electromagnetic spectrum. OBAs are used in many papers, especially high brightness papers, resulting in their strongly fluorescent appearance under UV illumination.
the release of gases from a material.
a term that refers to how much of the artwork will be covered by the mat board. A standard mat window opening overlaps anywhere from 1/8" – 1/4" of the artwork.
a material made of cellulose pulp, derived mainly from wood, rags, and certain grasses, processed into flexible sheets or rolls by deposit from an aqueous suspension, and used chiefly for writing, printing, and drawing.
a logarithmic scale that measures how acidic or basic a substance is. The pH scale ranges from 0 (acid) to 14 (alkaline); the neutral point is 7.
a screwdriver that is designed to fit into Phillips head screws (cross-shaped screws).
Photo Activity Test (PAT)
this is an international standard test (ISO18916) developed by the Image Permanence Institute that evaluates photo storage and display products. For more information about the PAT, visit the Image Permanence Institute at https://www.imagepermanenceinstitute.org/testing/pat
provides an attractive border and functions as a structural support for the artwork.
Picture Frame Size
this refers to the size of matted/mounted artwork. Framers will cut the picture frame moulding approximately 1/16" – 1/8" larger to accommodate the matted/mounted artwork and the glazing. Occasionally, this can refer to the outside frame size, which is the exterior dimension of the frame with the moulding. Galleries will often ask for this dimension because they need to know how much wall space to allow for in an exhibition.
Plein Air Picture Frame
"en plein air" is a French term that translates to "in the open air". In the art world it is used to describe the acting of painting outdoors. Plein air painting is often associated with the Impressionist art movement. A plein air frame is usually a wide flat moulding with a raised and rounded top edge. Plein air frames are ideal for canvas art.
trade name for high quality conservation grade acrylic glazing.
a ply (plural - plies) is a layer within a mat board. High quality mat boards are manufactured in plies, dyed for color and laminated together. Mat board comes in 2-ply, 4-ply, 6-ply and 8-ply. Standard mat board is 4-ply and is 1/16" thick. Some mat board is not manufactured with separate plies, but will often be referred to as 4-ply to give a relative indication of the approximate thickness.
a hand-held device that fires points with pneumatic-like force into a picture frame. To operate, press the nose of point driver against the rabbet and squeeze the handle. For the most accuracy, make sure the bottom of the point driver is flat against the surface of your table.
a vicing tool that squeezes the point into the rabbet. Point squeezers have an adjustable magnetic anvil that holds the point in place while squeezing. The opposing jaw is fitted over the frame, then the handle is squeezed, closing the jaws and pressing the point into the rabbet. This is also known as a Frame Fitting Tool.
thin metal tabs used to hold the mat, mount board and/or glazing inside of wood picture frames. Some points are stiff while others are flexible to allow access into the frame.
a thermoplastic polymer used in a wide variety of applications including packaging, textiles, plastic parts and reusable containers of various types. We sell photo corners made of 100% safe polypropylene for mounting images on mat board or foam core and polypropylene ClearBags for protecting and storing artwork and photographs.
the Library of Congress Preservation Guidelines for Matting and Framing defines preservation framing as "the appropriate housing to display the intrinsic beauty and interest of an object while prolonging its life by securing the object in a mechanically and chemically stable environment."
the application of bonding artwork to a substrate, such as foam core, using an adhesive that activates when pressure is applied.
see Artwork Size
a term describing how picture frame moulding looks when viewed from one end. A picture frame moulding’s profile includes its height, width, contour and rabbet.
the inner lip or groove of the picture frame, which holds the frame’s components, including the glazing, mat(s), artwork and backing.
the height or depth of rabbet. This measurement tells you how much room you have inside for the frame’s components.
matboard from non-wood products such as cotton linters, or cotton which are naturally lignin-free, stable and durable.
a term used to describe the small bottom or middle mat border left visible in a double or triple mat application.
the amount of distance between the top edge of the stretcher bar and the broad flat top of the stretcher bar. The riser determines how much distance you will have between the canvas and the top face of the stretcher bar.
small metal bars with a serrated (sawtooth) edge that are used in place of hanging wire. Sawtoothed hangers are best for lighter weight picture frames.
screws with a loop at the end. They are used to attach hanging wire to the back of a wooden picture frame.
one (1) mat whose window (opening) surrounds the image.
a wood used to make picture frame moulding. The name refers to those species whose major range is in the United States south of the Mason-Dixon line and east of the Great Plains. There are four principle species that make up 90% of the Southern Pine timber – Loblolly (P. taeda), Shortleaf (P. echninata), Longleaf (P. palustris), and Slash (P. elliotii).
holds the artwork away from the surface of the glazing. Spacers can be made of plastic, wood, mat board or foam core.
the application of artwork to a substrate using glues applied with aerosol sprays.
acrylic with no coatings, finish, or tint. It is translucent and optically pure. Frame Destination sells 1/10" (.098) framing grade acrylic.
Stretcher Bar Frame
a type of heavy wooden frame designed for a canvas to be wrapped and secured around it.
the four (4) pieces of wood material that make up a stretcher bar frame.
a method for attaching artwork to the mount board. The top of the artwork is adhered while the bottom hangs free. Used when the mat board will be covering the edge of the artwork.
a characteristic of the grain in the surface of various paper, especially drawing papers, handmade papers, and other papers of low finish. A patterned roughness in the form of minute depressions between fibers or groups of fibers on the surface. Tooth can be produced on the paper machine during forming or pressing.
consists of three (3) mat boards (top, middle and bottom). The window (opening) of the bottom mat surrounds the image. The middle mat covers the bottom mat and it has a larger window which allows a small border of the bottom mat, called the reveal, to be shown. The top mat covers the middle and bottom mats and it has an even larger window which allows a small border, also called the reveal, of both lower mats to be shown.
Ultraviolet (UV) Energy
an invisible portion of the light spectrum. Ultraviolet energy fades artwork and causes paper to become yellow and/or brittle. Using ultraviolet-filtering glazing helps minimize potential UV damage to artwork. ISO 18902, the ISO standard for framing display photos, recommends using glazing that blocks at least 97% of UV energy. Frame Destination sells UV-filter acrylic and UV/Non-glare acrylic with 99% UV protection.
acrylic with a UV-filter that will block most ultraviolet radiation. It has a slight yellow tint, which may create a warming effect on the artwork. Frame Destination sells 1/10" (.098) conservation grade UV-Filter Plexiglas® with 99% UV protection.
acrylic that blocks ultraviolet radiation and has a matte finish etched on one side to reduce glare from lighting. Frame Destination sells 1/10" (.098) conservation grade UV/Non-Glare Plexiglas® with 99% UV protection and non-glare matte surface. When framing with non-glare acrylic remember that the matte side goes away from the artwork.
a method for attaching artwork to the mount board. Similar to the T-hinge except it is used when the mat board will not be covering the edge of the artwork.
a term that refers to a mat board with a smooth, texture-free surface. Frame Destination sells several colors of mat board with a vellum surface in Bainbridge's 4-ply Alphamat.
small, felt-covered or soft rubbery plastic adhesive-backed disks that provide a cushion between the frame and the wall. Bumpers also help the frame hang flat against the wall.
the application of bonding artwork to a substrate, such as foam core, using wet glues and pastes with a press or weight.
Wheat Starch Paste
a special type of glue made from wheat starch powder and water that is used for adhering paper.
also known as the exact mat opening, the window is the opening cut in a mat board through which the image can be viewed. The average ready-made, retail store frame for an 8" x 10" image will have a window of 7-1/2" x 9-1/2", which allows the mat to overlap the image by 1/4" on all 4 sides. Custom frame shops will typically cut a window for an 8" x 10" image at 7-3/4" x 9-3/4" so that less of the image is covered.
aluminosilicate substances added to mat board that help it absorb harmful environmental pollutants.