Framing Tips


Archivist framer
Don Gatanis 
at DDG Framing, 
New York City

Contact DDG Framing

About Don Gatanis

Don has been in the framing business for over 12 years. He has a background in art and art history, with an emphasis in painting and sculpture.

Don’s studio, DDG Framing, located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, has been responding to the framing needs of many prominent galleries and artists throughout the major metropolitan area. DDG's primary emphasis is photographic archival framing. The studio currently represents Howard Greenberg,, in addition to numerous prominent New York area galleries and artists.



Archival: Method of creating something that can be completely reversed. That is, can return to its original, untouched state.

Framing package: The materials needed to frame artwork from beginning to end.

Mat board: Archival quality 100% cotton rag museum board

Frame: Decorative 'casing' surrounding artwork. Made from numerous materials including wood, metal, gesso, polystyrene moldings.

Glazing: Glass or plexi-glass used to protect artwork.



Framing tips you should know before you start painting!

Interviewed from his New York studio, archivist framer Don Gatanis talks about archival framing and shares his knowledge on 'things' artists should know.

"If you are an artist and intend to have your artwork framed there are some simple concepts that should be kept in mind while first developing your work, whether it is a painting, illustration or photographic image."

General Principles:

  1. Know the size of the completed piece.
  2. Determine materials needed for your 'framing package'.
  3. Determine how the piece be mounted.
  4. Always use archival materials.

Regardless of whether you intend to use a mat board as part of your framed artwork, it is important to know the standard sizes of mat boards. Typically, the maximum size for a mat board is 32 inches x 40 inches. Any larger and the mat would be considered a 'custom size' and would likely be reflected in a higher price.

Step 1...

The Framing Package defined:

Once you have determined the overall size of the artwork, it is important to identify the basic materials needed for your 'framing package'. This package includes 5 items.

  1. Mat board (museum board)
  2. Frame: wood, metal, gesso, polystyrene moldings
  3. Glazing: glass or plexi-glass
  4. Backing material
  5. Hanging considerations. Depending on size, proper support for hanging may be needed.

The most important element of framing is using 'archival materials'.

Archival materials in the broadest sense means ‘reversible’. Essentially, an art piece can be removed from its frame and the original art remains undamaged and in its original state.

Step 2...

Mat board: 
Once you have established your framing package, determine the type of mat board and method of mounting needed for the project. One hundred percent cotton rag museum board is used most frequently. Varying thickness called ‘ply’ are available.

Colors of mat board vary, though white or off white is appropriate for most artwork.

Basic methods of matting:

  1. Over-mated: Mat board is cut in such a method that it covers a portion of the image.
  2. Float mounted: Shows the edges of the paper, painting, or photo.

Hinging your mat board:

Hinging is the process of attaching the mat board to the backboard, of which your picture is attached. While there are many ways of hinging a piece of artwork, an archival process is recommended.

For example:

  1. Rice paper and wheat paste is considered the appropriate archival method. Used as the adhesive between mat board and back board (the mount).
  2. Pressure sensitive tapes may be used but are not considered completely archival.

Do NOT use masking tape or any form of sticky tape directly on artwork.

Step 3...


Your framing choice should complement and not over power the artwork. Consideration should be foremost to the artwork and then to the environment in which it will be displayed. Key elements to consider are:

  1. Durability
  2. Environment
  3. Glazing
  4. Backing

It is important to assess the durability of materials used for your frame. For example, soft woods may only last 1-2 years and then would need to be replaced.

It is also important to assess where the piece of art will be displayed and whether there are any environmental issues that could damage the work. Check the room for excess moisture, avoid placing your work to close to a heating vent or register.

Simplicity in your framing choice is a good general rule.


All works on paper require some form of glazing. Therefore, the molding (frame) must incorporate the depth and thickness of the artwork, whether the artwork is ‘floated’ or requires spacers. The artwork should never touch the glass.

Historically, glazing choices were limited to glass, but with the advent of new technology there are now many choices of glazing available to the framer.

  1. UV filtered glazing: The worst thing to a piece of artwork is UV light. Exposure over time can damage and discolor the artwork; especially susceptible are watercolors, pastel and photographic material. Therefore, UV filtering glazing is your most archival glazing choice.  These will include plexi-glass and glass, prices varying accordingly.
  2. Plexi-glass: Generally used on large, and/or traveling pieces. Particularly in transporting, weight restrictions and breakage become primary considerations. Plexi is durable, strong and lighter than glass. On the down side, plexi-glass is susceptible to scratching, though abrasion resistant plexi has reached the market.
  3. Glass: Glass requires considerably less maintenance than plexi. It is easier to clean, and does not scratch. Also. glass must be used for all pastels. Any medium that can move (known as fugitive) like pastel, pencil and charcoal drawing should use glass as the glazing choice.

Clarity. If clarity is more important than UV protection, than non-reflective glass is the best choice.


The backing of your framed artwork should be archival, acid free foam board or acid free corrugated board (blue board). Brown corrugated cardboard should never be used.

Framing artwork on canvas:

Most modern and contemporary canvas are put in floater frames. The edges, or sides, of the canvas are still visible after framing is completed.

The canvas must be placed in the frame in a manner that it can be easily removed in the future without damage to the original artwork.

Stretching canvas is an art in itself and one should not expect a framer to know how to stretch a canvas, especially painted artwork. For canvas stretching methods click here.

Back of canvas:

Caution should be used when placing a backing on a stretched canvas. Often dust collects, or an artist signature may be covered. The canvas must breathe, therefore, if a backing is necessary add holes and filters to allow air to circulate.

Step 4...


Following are a few suggestions if a piece is to be stored before going to a framer.

  1. Keep artwork flat and moisture free. Do not roll, unless on a very temporary basis.
  2. Pay attention to humidity in your storage area. Too much humidity may lead to mold or mildew, while too little can result in the paper or canvas becoming dry and brittle.


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