How to Protect Artwork, Prints, and Paintings

Protecting your artwork often starts with a quality frame job. Frame everything that you value and you’ll go a good way to knocking out a few of paper’s many enemies. Under a glass or clear plastic frame, art is protected from dust and tears. The frame also shields prints and artwork from two of their biggest attackers – smoke and sunlight.

Especially if you live in the countryside, gaps between the picture and the frame won’t prevent tiny paper-loving insects. Black thunderbugs and larger, lighter silverfish feed on the paper and the glues used in frames. With clipped frames, simply undo and sweep carcasses away with a soft make-up brush. From time to time, you may have to unseal professionally framed pictures.

Use microfibre cloths to dust plastic and glass frames and use glass cleaner only as a last resort. It’s difficult to clean the glass without also getting residue onto the frame. To check you’ve got all the smears from a picture, look at the frame sideways, rather than straight on.

Oil and acrylic pictures can’t be framed under glass. The texture that is so much a part of the painting would be crushed and colour tones lost under glass. Clearly, only professionals should touch paintings of value.

Home cleaning has irreparably damaged many a masterpiece worth thousands. But if yours is a modest or homespun creation, do what you can to keep dust at bay by lightly going over the picture with a soft paintbrush.

You may decide to protect your own creation with a coat of varnish. Artists’ shops also sell cleaning solutions for dirty oil paintings. But if you’re unsure, ask a picture-framer for advice.

Bread, in particular the soft, doughy filling of an uncut loaf, is an unusual but often effective paint-cleaning tool. Basically, it mops up grease (think how it soaks up butter and margarine, effortlessly adding so many calories to that sandwich). On an oil painting, spotting bread over the surface (absolutely not rubbing!) can pick up dirt and soil. Afterwards, gently shake the picture to remove crumbs.

Stop cleaning if flecks of paint stick to your brush or bread! It’s better to enjoy a duller version of a painting you love than one with a bare patch. It is near impossible for amateurs to retouch paintings. If it’s too fragile to clean, try improving the lighting on your picture instead.

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