The Art of Preservation: The Importance of UV Protection in Preserving Your Art

UV light can damage artwork, causing fading and discolouration. So, let's discuss the importance of UV protection in preserving your art and offer tips for finding the right UV protective measures. By taking the necessary precautions, you can help ensure that your artwork stays vibrant and beautiful.

UV protection in custom picture framing refers to using materials or techniques that help protect artwork from damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) light. UV light can cause fading, discolouration, and other types of damage to artwork, which can significantly decrease its value and aesthetic appeal. Using UV-protective glazing, such as acrylic or glass, can help block harmful UV rays and preserve the artwork’s colour, vibrancy, and overall quality.

The importance of UV protection in preserving artwork cannot be overstated. Artwork is often a significant financial and emotional investment, and preserving it can help protect that investment and ensure that it retains its value over time. UV protection is particularly important for valuable or sentimental artwork that you want to preserve its original condition for a long time and for artwork displayed in areas with strong UV light, such as near windows or in outdoor spaces.

Glass and acrylic

There are typically two types of UV glazing:

  • Museum glass: For professional-grade UV protection, you might consider conservation or museum glass. Both options offer 97% protection but are usually too expensive and fragile for use in a family home. We offer these options to our trade customers only.
  • Acrylic (Clarity+): More affordable than conservation or museum glass, and is also safer as it does not shatter. In addition, it provides a high level of UV protection at 99%. It’s our preferred choice almost every time. It comes as standard in all our custom frames and picture frames.

We have a handy glazing guide that tells you all about the advantages and disadvantages of both, helping you to choose the right material for your frame and picture.

UV light’s effect on artwork over time

The rate of fading depends on various factors such as the intensity of UV light, the type of artwork, and the materials used to create it. Artwork on paper and oil paintings may fade and change colour more easily than acrylic paintings or pigment-based prints.

So why should I choose UV-resistant glazing?

  • Prolongs the lifespan of the artwork: By protecting the artwork from UV light damage, UV protective glazing can help extend the lifespan of the artwork. This can be particularly important for valuable or sentimental artwork that you want to preserve for a long time and pass down generations.
  • Protects your investment: Artwork can be a significant financial and emotional investment. By using UV-protective glazing, you can help protect your investment and ensure that your artwork retains its value over time. Artwork that differs from its original condition will significantly decrease in value and aesthetic appeal.
  • Maintains the integrity of the artwork: UV light can cause physical changes to the artwork itself, such as cracking or fading. By using UV protective glazing, you can help maintain the integrity of the artwork and ensure that it remains in its original condition.
  • Enhances the appearance of the artwork: UV protective glazing can help preserve the colour and vibrancy of the artwork, which can enhance its overall appearance. This can be especially important for artwork that is displayed in a prominent location or is meant to be a focal point in the room.

Choosing the right glazing

There are several types of UV-protective glazing materials available, such as acrylic and glass, that can be used to protect artwork from UV light damage. When choosing UV protection for your artwork, there are several factors to consider:

  • Type of artwork: The type of artwork you are framing will influence the type of UV protective glazing you choose. For example, if you are framing an original photograph or limited edition print, UV glazing is probably worth the investment. However, if the artwork is cheap or not valuable, the cost of UV-protective glazing may not be worth it. In this case, it may be more economical to replace the artwork if it becomes damaged rather than invest in high-end framing materials.
  • Intended display location: The intended display location of the artwork will also influence the type of UV protective glazing you choose. For example, if the artwork will be displayed in a location with strong UV light, such as near a window or skylight, you may want to choose glazing with a higher level of UV blocking. On the other hand, if the artwork is displayed in a location with low levels of UV light, a less expensive glazing material that lacks UV protection will most likely be okay.
  • Desired level of clarity: The level of clarity you desire for the glazing will also influence your choice. Acrylic glazing tends to be clearer than regular float glass, but unless you order an anti-reflective version, you may suffer from distracting reflections.
  • Additional features and properties: In addition to UV blocking and reflection reduction, there are other features to look for when choosing a glazing material, such as abrasion and shatter resistance. These additional features can help protect people and the artwork from other types of damage and improve the overall viewing experience.

Need help choosing the right glazing? Get in touch and our expert frames can help you.

When not to choose UV glazing

While the use of UV glazing is generally recommended for preserving artwork, there are some artists and collectors who may prefer not to use any glazing. Some of the reasons for this include:

  • Alteration of the artwork’s appearance: Some people may feel that the glare or reflection caused by glazing can distract from the artwork itself or that the added layer of glazing can affect the texture or overall look of the piece. While these concerns are understandable, it is important to consider the potential benefits of using UV protective measures and weigh them against any potential drawbacks.
  • The artwork doesn’t warrant it: If the artwork is not particularly valuable or sentimental and is relatively cheap and easy to replace, you may decide that the added cost and effort of using UV glazing is not worth it. In this case, you may prefer to simply replace the artwork if it becomes damaged or faded over time.
  • It’s not exposed to UV light: If the artwork is intended to be displayed in a location with very low levels of UV light, such as a room with no windows or minimal natural light, you may decide that the added protection of UV glazing is not necessary.
  • There are other protections already in place: If the artwork is already protected by other means, such as being displayed behind UV-blocking window film or it’s got a UV-protective lacquer already applied, you may not require UV glazing.

More on UV-lacquers

Applying a UV-protective lacquer to the surface of artwork is another option for protecting it from fading and discolouration caused by UV light. This can be particularly useful for artwork that cannot be glazed or mounted, such as three-dimensional objects or artworks on paper that are delicate and could benefit from a protective coating.

UV-protective lacquers are applied as a thin layer over the surface of the artwork. Some lacquers are also water-resistant and can help to protect the artwork from moisture damage.

Things to consider with UV-lacquers:

  • Compatibility with the artwork: It is important to make sure that the lacquer is compatible with the material of the artwork. Some lacquers may not work well with certain materials, such as delicate or porous surfaces, and may cause discolouration or other types of damage.
  • Gloss level: UV-protective lacquers are available in different gloss levels, from matte to high gloss. It is important to choose a gloss level that is appropriate for the artwork and the intended display location. A high gloss lacquer may be more reflective and may cause glare, while a matte lacquer may be less reflective but may not provide as much protection from UV light.
  • Drying time and handling: UV-protective lacquers typically have a longer drying time than other types of finishes. It is important to allow the lacquer sufficient time to dry before handling the artwork or displaying it. In addition, be sure to handle the artwork gently while the lacquer is drying to avoid disturbing the surface.

Oil paintings are particularly sensitive to UV light, making them a common medium that can benefit from the use of UV-protective lacquers. When applying a lacquer to an oil painting, it is essential to be careful not to apply too much, as this can alter the appearance and texture of the painting. To avoid any adverse effects, it is advisable to test the lacquer on a small area of the painting before applying it to the entire surface. By following these steps, you can ensure that the lacquer is applied correctly and effectively protects the painting from the damaging effects of UV radiation.

What about UV inks?

It’s important to consider the lightfast and UV resistance properties of inks when selecting them for a printing, as the longevity and quality of the finished product may be affected.

  • UV inks are a type of lightfast ink that are resistant to fading when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. These inks are formulated to withstand the damaging effects of UV light and maintain their colour integrity over time. They are often used for printing applications where the printed materials will be exposed to UV light, such as outdoor signs, banners, and labels. It is uncommon to find fine art that’s been printed using UV inks
  • Lightfast inks, on the other hand, are inks that are resistant to fading or discolouration when exposed to light. These are the inks we use when printing photos and artwork for customer uploaded images. They are commonly used in the printing of art reproductions, books, and other materials that will be displayed for long periods of time. Like UV inks, lightfast inks are formulated to maintain their colour integrity over time, but they are not specifically designed to withstand the effects of UV light.

There are inks that are not specifically formulated to be UV resistant, and therefore may be more susceptible the effects of UV light.

Caring for artwork protected with UV acrylic glazing

To help ensure that your artwork stays in good condition and retains its value over time, it is important to properly care for it, especially if it is protected with UV acrylic glazing. Here are some tips for caring for your artwork:

  • Cleaning the glazing: To clean the UV acrylic or glass glazing, use a soft, lint-free cloth and a mild, non-abrasive cleaner. Avoid using any cleaners that contain alcohol or ammonia, as these can damage the glazing. Gently wipe the surface of the glazing in a circular motion, being careful not to scratch the surface. For hard-to-reach areas, such as the corners of the frame, use a soft-bristled brush to gently remove any dirt or debris.
  • Handling the artwork: When handling the artwork, be sure to use clean hands and avoid touching the surface of the artwork as much as possible. If you must touch the artwork, be gentle and use a light touch. Avoid handling the artwork by the edges of the frame or the glazing, as this can cause damage. If you need to move the artwork, be sure to lift it carefully and use both hands to support the weight.
  • Storing the artwork: When storing the artwork, be sure to choose a location that is dry, cool, and out of direct sunlight. Avoid keeping art in damp or humid conditions, as this can cause lasting damage in the form of mould. If possible, store the artwork horizontally rather than vertically, as this can help prevent the picture from creasing or going wavy. If you need to store the artwork for an extended period of time, consider using acid-free tissue paper or bubble wrap to help protect it.

Final words

Artwork is a valuable and often sentimental investment, so it’s important to protect it from the damaging effects of UV light. Using UV-protective glazing, such as acrylic or glass, can help preserve the quality and integrity of your artwork. When choosing UV-protective glazing, consider the type of material, location of the artwork, additional features, cost, and professional advice.

Top tips for finding the right UV-protective glazing for your artwork:

  • If the artwork is not particularly valuable or sentimental, it might not be worth the cost to use UV protective glazing
  • Research different types of materials, like acrylic and glass
  • Consider the location of the artwork, especially if it will be in direct sunlight or a location with high levels of artificial UV light
  • Look for additional features, such as anti-reflective coatings and abrasion resistance
  • Consider the cost and choose a material that fits your budget
  • Seek out professional advice from a picture framer or art conservator

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