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Glossary of Art & Framing Terms

The following definitions were written by us but gleaned from a number of sources as to content and, in some cases, copy. They are not an encyclopedic definition, nor are they intended to be. We hope they are clear to you, and comprehensive enough to provide you with useful understandings of the terms.

They are applicable principally to the creation, production and framing of two dimensional art.



Abrasion Resistance. Ability of a paper, board or surface such as glazing or finished wood to resist scratching or wearing away through contact with another surface or object.

Abrasion. Wear damage caused by one surface rubbing against another or by the cutting action of hard particles trapped between two rubbing surfaces.

Abrasiveness. The property of a substance which enables it to abrade surfaces, almost the exact opposite of smoothness.

Absorbent. Term applied to papers that absorb water solutions or other liquids. Examples of absorbent papers are blotting and toweling products. Many mat boards tend to have absorbent properties.

Acid Burn. Is often identified by the small yellowish-brown line found on the artwork in many older matted pieces. This is a classic case of what happens when employing lower-quality materials in the framing of artwork. Many older pieces were backed with cardboard, which tends to yellow artworks from the rear of the piece, and if severe enough, to burn through to the front.

Acid Etched. In glazing and decorative work, acid etching alters one or both sides of the glass sheet to change its reflective qualities. When the etching is completed, all acids are neutralized and the surfaces cleaned.

Acid Free. Generally used as a reference to higher quality materials use in the origination and production of art images and the framing processes. Most woods, papers tapes and other materials contain at least some degree of acid that will negatively impact art over a long term. The best quality materials are made of components that either lack acids or from which the acidic qualities have been removed. Lesser quality products have had the acids neutralized by buffering, which will last some number of years. We recommend use of non-acidic products for all of our fine art framing. Technically, it is a product that has a pH of 7.0 or greater.

Acid. A substance capable of forming hydrogen ions when dissolved in water. Acids may be introduced during product manufacture, by migration from other materials, or from atmospheric pollution. Acidity is measured on a pH scale.

Acidity. State of being acid; the condition in aqueous solution, measured on a pH scale, wherein the concentration of hydrogen ions exceeds that of hydroxyl ions.

Acrylic Sheet. A solid thermoplastic sheet made from acrylic monomer. Noted for light weight, transparency, inherent weather resistance, color fastness, rigidity, high optical clarity, and impact resistance (half the weight of glass and many times more impact resistant). It is inherently stable and resistant to chemical changes that may cause yellowing or increased haziness. Clear, colorless acrylic sheet will not turn yellow as it ages like many common plastics. Thickness range from 0.060″ to 0.236″ for the picture framing and museum industries. Often used in oversized pieces due to weight and strength considerations. Usually a little more expensive than glass for products with similar characteristics.

Acrylic Surface Imperfections. Assorted small imperfections in the acrylic surface that occurred during the manufacturing process.

Activated Carbon. (Activated Charcoal)-Carbon that has been treated with high-temperature steam to produce a porous structure; it is an excellent adsorbent.

Adhesion (Bonding) Strength. Force required to cause a separation at the interface of two bonded surfaces.

Adhesive. A material that bonds two surfaces together. As used in the frame shop, for joining wood corners (usually polyvinyl acetate or PVA but sometimes animal glue or resins), temporary joining of materials such as pressure-sensitive and liquid or heat activated tapes, and the use of starch pastes such as wheat or rice.

Admixed. Added as an ingredient.

Adsorption. to gather (a gas, liquid, or dissolved substance) on a surface in a condensed layer:

Aging. A change in properties over a time span which is dependent on storage and display conditions. Aging with respect to paper and board usually implies a deterioration. (see Permanence)

Alkaline Reserve. A paper additive such as calcium carbonate that serves to counteract the deleterious effects of the paper’s own natural degradation, acidic inks, and any other acidic components in the environment that may contact the finished sheet of paper. Also commonly referred to as a “buffer.”

Alkaline. Substances are considered alkaline when they have a pH above 7. They may be added to other materials to neutralize acids or to form an alkaline reserve or buffer for the purpose of counteracting acids that may form in the future. A number of chemicals may be used as buffers but the most common are magnesium carbonate and calcium carbonate.

Alpha Cellulose. The purest form of cellulose. Cellulose is the chief constituent of all plants. Cellulose has three chemical forms or classifications: Alpha, Beta and Gamma. The Alpha form of cellulose has the longest, and therefore the most stable chemical chain, in turn creating the longest and strongest paper making fibers. (see Cellulose)

Animal Glue. A hard, impure, protein gelatin, obtained by boiling skins, hoofs, and other animal substances in water, that when melted or diluted is a strong adhesive.

ANSI. An acronym for the American National Standards Institute.

Antioxidant. A chemical substance that can be added to a plastic resin to minimize or prevent oxidizing of the plastic (e.g., yellowing or degradation). Chemical attack by oxygen may render plastic brittle or cause it to lose mechanical properties. A material may be oxidized as a result of exposure to heat, light, or other energy forms.

Anti-reflection. The phenomena of reducing light reflection on the surface of a material and increasing its transmission at the same time.

Anti-reflective Glazing (Glass or Acrylic). The highest form of optical clarity in a glazing product, whether acrylic or glass. It is usually created by an optical coating of the glass or acrylic rather than etching, as used in a non-glare product.. Exhibits the lowest optical impact of all glazing types, transmitting the highest amount of light without reflection. Will occasionally actually enhance the viewing experience.

Archival Products. In the making of art, refers to the components used for production, such as inks, pigments such as acrylic and oil paints, watercolors and pastels, that meet the highest standards of permanence. Papers, canvas, mounting and matting boards used to display resulting artwork are of the highest quality, free of acids and lignins.

Archival quality paper (board). Paper (or matboard) determined to have good archival qualities.

Archival. Refers to both products and techniques, that when used in proper combinations and sequences, will optimize preservation and historical integrity of whatever it is that is framed. In theory, an archivally framed piece of art should essentially be removable in 100 years and show little to no damage accruing from the process itself. Most often damage, if it occurs at all, is from environmental impacts such as light and humidity, which are often beyond the control of the framer.

Artist Enhanced. Usually refers to a limited edition print, either on canvas or paper, which has been modified by the artist through the addition of brushstrokes of paint or pigment. It is often considered to add value to the piece of art.

Artist Proof (A/P). These are prints in a limited edition that have traditionally been reserved or held back by the artist and or publisher for his or her use. They often consist of a few to a few percent of the production run, and are often sought after by collectors who perceive them to have a slight value premium over the rest of the run. The notation “AP” and an appropriate number are written in pencil by the artist when the piece is signed.

Artwork. With reference to framing, preservation and presentation, it is the object of the effort. It may have either extrinsic or intrinsic value. It may be attached only via sentiment to its owner. It may be an object, a memory, a graphic or painting or a representation thereof.

ASTM. Acronym for the American Society for Testing and Materials.

B’s back to A-Z

Back. In boards composed of plys, the side of finish is usually referred to as the facing or cover paper; the other side of the board is the back; the sheet applied to this back side is known as the backing.

Backer Board (Filler Board). Material such as foam board used to fill the back of the frame when the framing package is complete and ready for assembly. It is held in place by framer’s points and then sealed by either a dust cover or heavy duty moisture-activated tape.

Barrier Paper. A paper or paper board used in framing to separate materials. Often employed to obstruct or impede migration of art-degrading substances such as acids and lignins from non-archival framing materials, such as woods and fabrics, to the artwork.

Barrier Sheet. A layer of impermeable material, such as aluminum laminate or

glass, installed within the framing package; to obstruct or impede passage-such as acid migration, light, temperature, humidity, pollution and insects. Also a coating or application on one side of paper to provide increased opacity or other character.

Bevel Board. A board, usually made of foam or primed wood, that has a cut or milled edge that chamfers toward the artwork. Such boards are normally covered with decorative fabrics or papers, and often only the beveled portion shows in the completed framing package.

Bevel. The angle or inclination of a line or surface that meets another at any angle but 90°. Usually refers to the angle on which the window opening of a mat has been cut, revealing the center of the matboard. Normal cuts are in the range of 45 degrees, with a Reverse Bevel being a cut that slants away from the image so that the center of the matboard faces the artwork.

Black Core. Refers to a matboard which has a center core of black rather than the more standard white or cream cores.

Bleach(ing) – The process of whitening or lightening the color of a material by means of oxidation through the use of chemicals or exposure to sunlight. A chemical high in chlorine content used to remove dark stains from paper, cloth and wood products. In paper pulping it removes the impurities and lignin.

Bleed – as a printing term, it refers to the technique of making an illustration extend beyond the intended edge of the paper, so that when the paper is trimmed the illustration appears without a margin.

Bloom. This is a milky haze that may appear on an oil painting. It is most often caused by water vapor that has been captured in the painting varnish.

Board. In picture framing, the term may include any variety of rigid and semi-rigid sheet materials including foam board, and paper boards.

Bon-A-Tirer (BAT). Historically has been the final proof approved by the artist against which all subsequent prints are compared for consistency and image accuracy.

Border or Plate. The white, colored or decorative edge surrounding an image.

Brightness – Reflectivity of a paper sample using light of specified wavelength (457 nm), commonly used as an index of whiteness.

Bristol Board. A stiff, durable cardboard made in thicknesses of one to four .006 inch plys, and in several finishes, especially a high or plate finish.

Buffer. Chemical solutions that resist change in pH when acids or alkalis are added.

Buffering Agent. Chemical added to regulate the pH. The most common buffering agent is calcium carbonate (CaCo3.)

C’s back to A-Z

Conservation (Preservation) – The use of methods and materials designed to maintain the condition and longevity of the item.

Crazing – Tiny, hair-like cracks on the surface of an acrylic sheet resulting from high internal stress. This effect results from chemical exposure in combination with mechanical forces or impact.

Calcium Carbonate – A chemical compound (CaCO3), occurring in nature as oyster shells, calcite, chalk, limestone, etc. or obtained commercially by chemical precipitation. Chalk as it occurs naturally has a limited use in paper making because of impurities present. Precipitated carbonate is preferred because of its high purity, high brightness and controlled particle size and shape. Calcium carbonate is used as a filler in alkaline paper making, as coating pigment and as a buffering agent.

Casein – a protein precipitated from milk, as by rennet, and forming the basis of cheese and certain plastics.

Cellulose – A complex carbohydrate, (C6H10O5) found in all plants t forms the solid framework or cell walls. It exists as thousands of atoms of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen joined together to form long chain molecules called polymers. The molecular structure of cellulose makes it ideal for paper making, since a mass of long, intertwining fibers composed of an orderly parallel arrangement of cellulose polymers has great strength and flexibility. The long, wavy polymers are hygroscopic, hence they attract and absorb moisture.

Chalk – A soft, compact calcite, CaCO3 , native chalk (Calcium Carbonate) is a fine, soft structure consisting of fragments of tiny marine organisms, containing varying amounts of silica, quartz, feldspar, or other mineral impurities, generally gray-white or yellow-white. A fine grained limestone, or soft, earthy form of calcium carbonate; used in putty, crayons, and paints. Chalk in pigment form is called whiting; artificial calcium carbonate is known as precipitated chalk.

Chemical degradation – the breakdown of an organic compound.

Chemical Properties – (of paper) Grouping of properties that includes certain characteristics of the fiber such as alpha-cellulose content, as well as properties related to the nonfibrous constituents such as pH, acidity, rosin content, ash content, starch content, and moisture content.

Chemical Pulp – Any pulp obtained from wood (or other plant raw material) principally by chemical means. The two major types of chemical pulp are kraft pulp and sulfite pulp.

Chemically Pure (c.p.)—Of the highest grade, but not necessarily 100 percent pure; sometimes applied to commercial pigments to describe a grade free from extender or added inert pigment.

Chemigroundwood—a mechanical pulping process in which pulpwood blocks are cooked with chemicals and steam prior to grinding. Also refers to the product.

Clay—In papermaking, clays are used for paper coatings and fillers. A number of grades are available depending on particle size and shape, as well as brightness. Kaolin, China Clay, Paper Clay, Bentonite, Attapulgite Clay, Laminated Clay. In clay-coated paper it produces a glossy surface that allows for sharper printing and a better rendition of colors.

Coated Art Paper—A paper used for high-grade printing work, especially in halftone printing, where definition and detail in the handling of shading and highlights are important. It is usually a high-grade coated paper having a high brightness and a glossy, highly uniform printing surface.

(a) Clay-Filled Paper—Paper containing an appreciable amount of clay as a filler, especially as distinguished from paper filled with other inorganic white pigments.

Coating Pigments—Very finely divided mineral materials which constitute 60 to 90% of the coating layer. Fine grades of clay are most commonly used. Other pigments used are titanium dioxide, calcium carbonate, talc, zinc oxide, and satin white.

Color Circle, Color Wheel—Conventional means of arranging the primary colors (blue, red and yellow) and their principal mixtures or secondary colors (orange, green and violet) and other principal mixtures or hues, so as to demonstrate their sequential relationship.

Color Fastness—Property of a dyed paper to retain its color in normal storage or to resist changes in color when exposed to deleterious influences, such as heat and light.

Color Perception—Ability to discern color difference or variation based on three attributes:

  1. Pure Color—A color or hue that is unmixed with other hues. Beam-of-light or spectrum colors are pure colors, but no paint or pigment color is free from some elements or another hue.
  2. Hue—visual sensation that distinguishes one color from another.
  3. Brightnessvrelative position on a light-to-dark scale. Also called luminosity or tone value.
  4. Saturation—relative presence or absence of gray. Also called purity, intensity, or chroma.

Color Specification—The quantitative description of a color. The color of papers is often specified in terms of the trichromatic coefficients x, y, and z, most commonly by applying the Munsell system or the CIE system.

Cold Colors—Designating tones or colors in the part of the color spectrum, such as pale gray, that suggests little warmth. Bluish tones evoke a cool psychological reaction, as opposed to reddish-hue colors which produce a warm response.

Warm Colors—Designating tones or colors in the part of the color spectrum, such as yellow red, that suggests warmth. Reddish tones evoke a warm psychological reaction, as opposed to bluish colors which produce a cool response.

Color Shift—A change in a color from its original hue tint or shade.

Color Stability—Technical term for the property of resistance to change of color fading, darkening, or hue variation.

Color—A sensation aroused in the observer’s mind as a response to the stimulus of the radiant energy of certain wavelengths acting on the eye’s mechanism. Color is that property of a substance which determines the nongeometrical part of the visual sensation experienced by an observer who views the substance. The color of any specimen depends upon the spectral character of the illuminant (the type and intensity of the light), on the geometrical and other conditions of illuminating and viewing the specimen, on the spectral reflectivity of the specimen, and on the characteristics of the observer’s eyes. Hence, the only characteristic of a specimen which is the same under all conditions of observation and for all observers is its spectral reflectivity. Knowledge of the spectral reflectivity of a specimen permits calculation of its CIE color specification, i.e.-specification of dominant wavelength, purity, and luminous reflectivity.

Colored Pigments—Grouping that includes minerals (e.g., iron oxides, ultramarines, umbers, sienna and chrome yellow), lampblack, and both organic and inorganic synthetic pigments. The principal organic synthetic pigments are color lakes.

Colorfast—Having color that will not run or fade with washing or wear: e.g. a colorfast fabric.

Colorless—Lacking color. Weak in color; pallid. Lacking animation, variety, or distinction; dull.

Conservation—with artworks—it is the examination and documentation of condition, the ability to treat an object in a manor intended to arrest deterioration, to stabilize and maintain condition, to insure longevity, to restore that which has been damaged.

Conservation Board—A term used to describe a board considered to have good conservation, preservation, or archival qualities.

  • Note 1.—Both terms, Museum Board and Conservation Board, are often used interchangeably to mean the same thing. 2.-Many use the term Museum Board to designate all cotton and the term Conservation Board to designate archival quality, non-cotton boards (see Permanence, Archival).

Conservation Quality—a term used to describe products that are designed to be safe for preservation framing. (a) also a word used to describe materials a non invasive

Conservator—a professional whose primary occupation is the practice of conservation. One who has the training, knowledge, ability and experience to perform conservation activities.

Core—In matboard, the central or innermost part; the material between the face paper and the backing paper.

Corrugated Board—Structure formed from one or more paperboard facings and one or more adjoining corrugated members (fluted portion), used for making corrugated board boxes and other products. The various structures are: Single Face-formed by one corrugated member glued to one flat facing; Single Wall-formed by one corrugated member glued between two flat facings; Double Wall-formed by three flat facings and two intermediate corrugated members; Cross Laminated Double Wall-two sheets of single wall laminated together with the flutes running in opposite directions; Triple Wall-formed by four flat facings and three intermediate corrugated members. (a) “e flute” (b) “f flute”

Cotton Content—Percentage of cotton fiber in pulp or paper.

Cotton Fiber—Content Paper that contains 25% or more cellulose fibers derived from lint cotton, cotton linters.

Cotton Linters—The short fibers that adhere to the cotton seed after ginning. Linters are cut from the cottonseed by a second “saw gin” operation. If all linters are removed in the same operation, the product is called “mill run linters”. The technology for processing linters into usable pulp was developed in the 1950’s. It involves mechanically removing the fuzz left on the seed after the long fibers for textile production have been removed. This is a necessary step to optimize the recovery of cottonseed oil which is a major by-product. No cotton is grown specifically for paper making. Cotton fiber and cotton linters are almost 100% pure cellulose yielding a minimum of waste.

Cotton—Cotton is used in the manufacture of quality papers and may be introduced into the papermaking process in the form of cuttings from the textile industry or as cotton linters.

Curl—The curvature developed when one side of a paper specimen is wetted. It was formerly used as a measure of the degree of sizing