How to look after your art & pictures -
hanging, cleaning, carrying, what to watch out for
From treasured artwork to items of sentimental value, pictures are easily damaged, especially if they are not well cared for. Here is Handmade Framing and Gallery's guide to displaying, protecting and looking after your pictures:
Scroll down the page or click on the heading below:
"Poor quality framing damages more artwork than any other agent"
Caring for your prints, drawings & watercolours - National Archive
Have your pictures framed by a qualified professional framer
Good framing will protect your artwork for decades, but poor framing can damage your pictures irrevocably. To protect pictures of value or sentimental importance, make sure they are framed to conservation or museum standards by a Fine Art Trade Guild ‘Guild Certified Framer’. For more information on Museum and Conservation framing
Carrying and transporting your pictures
To prevent damage always carry a frame by two sides.
Avoid leaving your picture in a vehicle overnight or when you’re not transporting it. Rapid changes in temperature cause paper to warp, soft woods to distort and canvases to tighten or sag.
For a list of qualified framers in your area visit
Hanging your pictures
Most pictures are designed to be displayed at eye level. To display at this height, position the picture hooks at 145cm/57” from the floor, plus half the picture height, minus the distance from the top reach of the cord to the top edge of the picture.
Use two hooks, a quarter of the way in from each side of the picture. If a hook fails, the picture remains on the wall and in one piece.
Displaying your pictures
Give an important picture some space where it’s not crowded by other items or images. This means a big piece might not work in a small room. It would be better to have a group of small images.
If you are hanging pictures in a cluster, first arrange them on the floor to make sure your idea works.
Aligning the top or bottom edges is a good way to hang a group of pictures of different sizes. You could also hang frames level with the tops of doors or arrange two rows with a continual central line.
If you are framing a picture for a child’s bedroom or a public space, consider safety fittings and acrylic glazing. Your framer should be able to give you advice on these products.
The right conditions for your pictures
Kept in the right conditions and framed properly, your artwork should be conserved for decades. However, the wrong conditions can very quickly cause permanent damage:
Don’t hang pictures in direct sunlight - it fades colours and discolours paper. UV damage can be caused by artificial light too.
Keep temperatures constant - the Fine Art Trade Guild recommends 10-25c but keeping the temperature fairly constant is crucial. So, avoid hanging artwork near radiators, fireplaces and wood burners. Hanging a picture where sunlight falls directly on it at a certain point of the day will also cause rapid temperature changes.
Humidity, moisture and damp can damage artwork - high humidity levels provide ideal conditions for mould and encourage insects. Therefore, avoid hanging pictures in bathrooms and against damp walls. Allow 6 months before hanging pictures on newly plastered walls.
Air circulation - a good framer will put foam, cork or felt 'bumpers' on the bottom rear corners of your frame. These increase air circulation behind the frame. Air circulation is really important inside the frame too. That’s why an item that is not easily replaceable should never be framed touching the glazing.
Air pollution & insects - exhaust fumes, smoke, pollen and dust can all damage your artwork. Framing techniques such as sealing the mount and glazing package and sealing the back of the frame help. They will also make it harder for insects to find their way into the frame. However, bear in mind the effects of pollution when deciding where to hang your picture.
Keep an eye on your pictures
The Fine Art Trade Guild recommends that you have pictures inspected by a qualified framer every 5 years. There are also checks you can make yourself:
Art on paper and photographs - If you see any discolouration, insects under the glass or brown spots, consult a qualified professional framer.
If the brown paper sealing tape on the back of the frame has come unstuck or the frame cord/wire has become corroded or loose, your framer can easily replace these.
Oil paintings - In time, the varnish on oil paintings will become dirty and discoloured. It should be removed & replaced, but only by an expert.
Pictures on canvas are normally stretched over stretcher bars. They are likely to sag over time and sometimes the stretcher bars can make an imprint on the front of the canvas. A good framer will be able to re-tighten the canvas or advise if re-stretching is needed.
Cleaning framed pictures
Dust frames with a feather duster or soft brush as cleaning fluids and water can cause damage to both frames and canvases. If you have to clean the glass, apply cleaning fluid to a soft cloth rather than directly onto the glass and do not let the cleaning fluid touch the frame.