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Choosing a Frame

The two main materials used for frames are wood and metal. Hardwoods are better than soft woods for framing, as they contain fewer acids that are harmful to paper. 

With preservation matting, no part of the frame will touch the art. However, wood frames are not recommended for long-term storage or display of valuable art or photographs. 

All types of metal are acceptable for framing. Remember that any backing or precut mat sold with a frame will not be suitable for preservation matting. 

Choose the right size frame, at least two inches larger on each side of the item to accommodate the matting. For example, the frame for an 8x10 photograph would be 12x14. 

Frames that are made to order at art supply stores are one option, but premade frames available at art supply and department stores are also useful for archival framing.  

Do not buy frames with a fixed back where you must slide your item in from the top. 

You will need a frame that has a deep rabbet – the area where the glass, matting and artwork are placed (see below) that allows you to access the entire opening of the frame.


Because there are at least 5 layers to accommodate, the rabbet must be deep. There are frame stores where you may choose the depth of your rabbet in each frame style. 

Look for a frame that permits the backing to come away completely, allowing access to the glass.  

There should be some method of holding the mat packet in place on the back of the frame, such as U-shaped brads, large staples that lift up with the help of a flat screwdriver, or curved metal strips that tuck into the corners of the frame back.

The mat packet should be well supported around the inside edges of the frame back. If the frame doesn’t do this, then you will need to use framer's points to keep the mat packet from falling out. Framers points are flat, diamond-shaped pieces of metal that are shot into the rabbet with a point driver.

imls180.for.panel.jpgMany of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Florida's LSTA program is administered by the Department of State's Division of Library and Information Services.