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The premier picture framers for south London, Bromley and north Kent. 2 & 6 Ranmore Path, Orpington, Kent BR5 2HP

Our Standards

Inspirations Bespoke Framing are members of the Fine Art Trade Guild and frame to the standards set out by the Guild.

We would normally frame to Commended or Conservation levels unless a specific job cannot be handled with the available materials/techniques or if a valuable piece of work may warrant better protection, at which time we would always discuss the options with, and gain the approval of the customer before proceeding.

The Guild set out 5 levels for for their standards as follows;

Minimum Level
Budget Level
Commended Level
Conservation Level
Museum Level

There are also standards for mountboards used;

Mountboard Standards

I have also posted some information at the bottom of the page on the following topics

When/if we would trim artwork
The use of adhesives
The use of tapes

MINIMUM LEVEL (lowest of the five specifications)

Objective To provide a basic frame at minimum cost; price overrides visual appearance and quality. (It should be noted that many of the frames available on the market fall well below the standard of the Guild’s Minimum level).

Suitable for Temporary display. An inexpensive ‘cash & carry’ product into which customers can insert their own artwork.

Moulding No significant blemishes.

Mitres Accurately cut, glued and pinned tightly.

Windowmount It is not necessary to use a windowmount, but if one is used the corners must be cleanly cut and the mountboard must be free from blemishes.

Undermount A barrier layer between the artwork and the back board is not necessary.

Attaching artwork It is acceptable for artwork to be ‘slotted’ into the frame without fixing or to be stuck down. Artwork must be properly centred and free from distortion caused by framing.

Glazing Free from obvious blemishes. Must be cut to give sufficient clearance inside the rebate of the frame. It is acceptable for the glazing to touch the artwork.

Back board Pulpboard and cardboard are acceptable.

Securing the frame Flexible tabs or better.

Hanging Hanging fittings must be sufficiently strong to support the frame. Cord and screw-eyes can be supplied for the customer to attach.

Finish Dust and dirt should be removed. It is not necessary to seal the back with tape.

Notes on framing fabric, canvas and objects

Fabric should be squared if necessary. It is acceptable for fabric to be stuck-down or stapled at this level.

Canvas must not sag/bow or tear/distort. Stretchers must be square.

Objects can be held in place with adhesive.

BUDGET LEVEL (second lowest of the five specifications)

Objective To provide a visually acceptable frame at a budget price. No pretence is made to protect the artwork or its long-term visual appearance.

Suitable for Replaceable artwork of no commercial or sentimental value.

Moulding No significant blemishes.

Mitres Accurately cut, glued and pinned tightly. Corners to be touched-up so no unfinished moulding is visible.

Windowmount A windowmount or slip may be used to visually enhance the artwork. The corners of the windowmount must be cleanly cut; the mountboard must be free from blemishes; standard-quality mountboard is acceptable; there must be clearance of 1mm inside the rebate. Slip moulding must be accurately cut and joined.

Undermount A barrier layer between the artwork and the back board is not necessary.

Attaching artwork It is acceptable for artwork to be ‘slotted’ into the frame without fixing or to be stuck down. Artwork must be properly centred and free from distortion caused by framing.

Glazing Float glass or better, free from obvious blemishes. Must be cut to allow sufficient clearance inside the rebate of the frame. It is acceptable for the glazing to touch the artwork.

Back board Pulpboard and cardboard are acceptable.

Securing the frame Flexible tabs are acceptable but framers’ points or tacks are preferred.

Hanging Hanging fittings must be sufficiently strong to support the frame.

Finish Dust and dirt should be removed and the glass should be cleaned and polished without smears. It is acceptable to seal the back with self-adhesive tape.

Notes on framing fabric, canvas and objects

Fabric should be squared if necessary. It is acceptable for fabric to be stuck-down or stapled. Some attempt should be made to conceal unsightly problems, such as knots or traveling stitches.

Canvas must not sag/bow or tear/distort. Stretchers must be square.

Objects can be held in place with adhesive.

COMMENDED LEVEL (middle of the five specifications)

Objective To visally enhance artwork and offer a moderate level of protection from airborne pollution and handling for around five years in normal conditions.

Suitable for Replaceable artwork of limited commercial and/or moderate sentimental value and where visual appearance is important. Preferably, processes should be fully reversible.

Moulding No significant blemishes. Care must be taken to match the pieces. The moulding should have a rebate that is sufficiently deep to comfortably hold the sandwich.

Mitres Accurately cut, glued and pinned tightly. Corners to be touched-up so no unfinished moulding is visible.

Windowmount A windowmount or slip should normally be used to visually enhance the artwork and distance it from the glazing. If close framing is required, there should be a spacer between the artwork and the glazing. The corners of the windowmount must be cleanly cut; the mountboard must be free from blemishes; there must be clearance of between 1-3mm (clearance varies according to frame size) inside the rebate. Standard quality mountboard (or better) of at least 1100 microns and conforming to the Guild mountboard standards should be used. Slip moulding must be accurately cut and joined. Multiple mounts or deep spacers must be used to frame works with migrant pigments, such as pastel drawings, or artwork with a cockled surface.

Undermount There should be a barrier layer between the artwork and the back board; this should be made from Standard quality mountboard (or better) at least 1100 microns thick, but at this level 500 micron thickness may be used for lightweight artwork. The undermount should be the same size as the windowmount and ideally should be hinged to it along the longer edge. Other methods of joining the two are acceptable providing no adhesive comes into contact with the artwork.

Attaching artwork Ideally the artwork should be hinged to the undermount with T-hinges along the top edge, preferably using gummed paper with a water-soluble adhesive, though self-adhesive water-reversible white tape may be used. It is not acceptable to make hinges from tape with a high acid content. Hinges should be weaker than, or the same paper weight as, the artwork – never heavier. Hinges should be attached to the back of the artwork, no the front, and should overlap onto the artwork the minimum amount necessary to give proper support. Note: for the majority of art on paper 5mm should be sufficient. At this level dry mounting is acceptable, providing customers understand that the process is irreversible. Artwork must be properly centred and free from blemishes caused by framing.

Glazing Float glass or better, free from obvious blemishes and of appropriate thickness for the frame size. Must be cut to allow sufficient clearance inside the rebate of the frame. It is not acceptable for the glazing to touch the artwork. For large pieces and for items to be hung in areas accessible to the public, safety should be considered eg. laminated or acrylic sheet may be advisable.

Back board Needs to be strong, rigid and flat, and to protect the artwork from damage. Must be cut to allow sufficient clearance inside the rebate.

Securing the frame The frame must be secured with framers’ points or tacks; flexible tabs are not acceptable.

Hanging Hanging fittings must be sufficiently strong to support the frame. D-rings riveted into the back board should only be used on lightweight items.

Finish Dust and dirt should be removed and the glass should be cleaned and polished without smears. The back should be sealed, preferably with gummed tape. At this level good quality self-adhesive framing tape may be used, but it is important to ensure good adhesion and longevity. Masking tape, cellophane tape and parcel tapes are not acceptable. Note: self-adhesive tapes dry out and can fail. Pads or bumpers should be applied to the two lower corners. A label giving the date and the framer’s name should be adhered to the back. Old labels should be retained if possible and attached to the back.

Notes on framing fabric, canvas and objects

Fabric should be squared if necessary. It is not acceptable for fabric to be stapled or to use any other process that may damage the fabric. Preferably it should be laced or similarly reversible methods should be used. Washable fabric art may be stuck at the edges, preferably with a water-reversible adhesive. Dry-mounting may be used on fabric but is not considered satisfactory for stitching that does not lie completely flat at the back. Some attempt should be made to conceal unsightly problems, such as knots or traveling stitches. Use of nylon tag guns is acceptable.

Canvas must not sag/bow or tear/distort. Stretchers must be square and sufficiently strong to stand the test of time. Corner wedges must be used. The rebate should be around 3 to 6mm larger than the stretcher bars.

Objects – it is acceptable for small blobs of silicone sealer or adhesive to come into contact with non-absorbent objects.

Combination undermount / back boards are acceptable at this level provided each element meets the specifications above.

CONSERVATION LEVEL (second highest specification)

Objective To visually enhance artwork and offer a high level of protection from physical and mechanical damage, airborne pollution and acids generated by framing materials, for approximately 20 years, under normal conditions. Customers should be advised that lifetimes given assume that artwork is not inherently unstable. Consumers should be advised that frames should be examined every five years and this advice should be added onto a back-of-frame label.

Suitable for Collectable artwork that is to be kept for the future, e.g. original paintings and limited edition prints of moderate to high value, as well as items of sentimental value. Processes must be reversible.

Moulding No significant blemishes. Care must be taken to match the pieces. The moulding should have a rebate that is sufficiently deep to comfortably hold the sandwich. If artwork is likely to touch the moulding, this should be sealed with strips of conservation-quality mountboard or aluminium foil frame sealing tape or similar. Note: good original frames should be retained wherever possible as these can enhance the value of an artwork.

Mitres Accurately cut, glued and pinned tightly. Corners to be touched-up so no unfinished moulding is visible.

Windowmount A windowmount or slip should normally be used to visually enhance the artwork and distance it from the glazing. Pencil marks should be rubbed out where in contact with the artwork. If close framing is required, there should be a spacer between the artwork and the glazing and this should be made from Conservation or Cotton Museum quality mountboard or plastic. The corners of the windowmount must be cleanly cut; the mountboard must be free from blemishes; there must be clearance of 1-3mm inside the rebate (clearance varies depending upon mount size). Conservation-quality or Cotton Museum mountboard at least 1100 microns thick and conforming to Guild standards should be used. Slip moulding must be accurately cut and should not touch the artwork. Multiple mounts or deep spacers must be used to frame works with migrant or delicate pigments, such as pastel drawings, or artwork with a cockled surface. It is not acceptable for the framer to use fixative on such pigments. The windowmount should, where possible, project at least 5mm over the edge of the artwork, thus holding it firmly in place. For old or valuable photographs, unbuffered mountboard should be used (this is only available in Cotton Museum quality). Note: sometimes it is advantageous to retain an original windowmount (possibly gilded or decorated). In this case preferably 1100 micron, but at least 500 micron,

Conservation or Cotton Museum quality mountboard barrier should be cut to fit the underside of the windowmount to within a few mm of the aperture or a few mm beyond the opening.

Undermount There should be a barrier layer between the artwork and the back board; this should be made from Conservation or Cotton Museum quality mountboard at least 1100 microns thick. For old or valuable photographs unbuffered mountboard should be used. The undermount should be the same size as the windowmount and hinged to it with a gummed conservation tape with water-soluble adhesive. Note: artwork stuck down onto acid board should be referred to a conservator for possible removal of the board.

Attaching artwork The artwork should be hinged to the undermount with T-hinges, along the top edge, or a similarly reversible process should be used, such as corner pockets made from conservation or museum quality materials. It is not acceptable to make hinges from self-adhesive tape; hinges should be made from conservation or museum quality tape and water-soluble adhesive. Hinges should be attached to the back of the artwork, not the front, and should overlap onto the artwork the minimum amount necessary to give proper support. Note: for the majority of art on paper 5mm should be sufficient. Artwork should be hinged to the undermount, not the back of the windowmount. Artwork must be properly centred and free from blemishes caused by framing.

Glazing Float glass or better, free from obvious blemishes. Glass with high UV protection should be considered. Must be cut to allow sufficient clearance inside the rebate of the frame. It is not acceptable for the glazing to touch the artwork. For large items and for items to be hung in areas accessible to the public, safety should be considered eg. laminated or acrylic sheet may be advisable. No cream or abrasive cleaners should be used. For best results, use an evaporative spirit-based glass cleaner and clean, lint-free cloth for final cleaning.

Back board Needs to be strong, rigid and flat and to protect the artwork from damage. pH neutral boards are preferred. Must be cut to allow sufficient clearance inside the rebate.

Securing the frame The frame must be secured firmly with framers’ points or tacks; flexible tabs are not acceptable.

Hanging Hanging fittings must be sufficiently strong to support the frame. Riveted D-rings are only acceptable for lightweight works if the customer has chosen a thin moulding, in which case an additional 500 micron barrier should be used.

Finish Dust and dirt should be removed and the glass should be cleaned and polished without smears. It is not acceptable to seal the back with self-adhesive tape; gummed-paper tape must be used and this must be carefully applied. Pads or bumpers at least 3mm thick should be applied to the lower corners. A label giving the date and the framer’s name should be adhered to the back. Note: any existing labels should be preserved as they can provide provenance for the artwork.

Note: For art on paper stuck down on acidic board or requiring cleaning or restoration a list of qualified paper conservators can be obtained from ICON (The Institute of Conservation), 3rd floor, Downstream, 1 London Bridge, London SE1, tel 020 7785 3805.

For oil paintings requiring cleaning or restoration a list of qualified conservators may be obtained from: ICON, as above, or The British Association of Paintings Restorers-Conservators, PO Box 258, Hayling Island, Hampshire PO11 9WE, tel 01603 516237.

Notes on framing fabric, canvas and objects – at Conservation level

Fabric should be squared if necessary. It is not acceptable for fabric to be stuck-down or stapled or to use any other process which may damage the fabric. It should be laced over a conservation-quality support or similarly reversible methods should be used. Unsightly

problems, such as knots or traveling stitches, must be concealed where possible. If fabric touches the stretcher bars, these must be sealed. The use of nylon tag guns is not acceptable.

Canvas must not sag/bow or tear/distort. Stretchers must be square and sufficiently strong to stand the test of time. Two wedges must be used at each corner and held in place with thread. The rebate must be around 3 to 6mm larger than the stretcher bars.

Objects must not be held in place with adhesive or silicon sealer. Loops of thread must be used, or objects must be held in place between Conservation boards.

MUSEUM (purist) LEVEL (highest specification)

Objective To visually enhance the artwork and offer the ultimate level of protection from physical and mechanical damage, airborne pollution and acids from framing materials for up to 35 years in normal conditions. Customers should be advised that lifetimes given assume that artwork is not inherently unstable. Ideally, the framer or conservator should professionally examine frames every five years and there should be a label advising this on the back of the frame.

Suitable for Museum-quality works and artwork that is to be preserved for future generations, including high value items and artwork of potential or historical value. Processes must be fully reversible.

Moulding No significant blemishes. Care must be taken to match the pieces. The moulding should have a rebate that is sufficiently deep to comfortably hold the sandwich. If artwork is likely to touch the moulding, this should be sealed with strips of Cotton Museum quality mountboard or aluminium foil frame sealing tape. Note: good original frames should be retained wherever possible as these can enhance the value of the artwork.

Mitres Accurately cut, glued and pinned tightly. Corners to be touched-up so no unfinished moulding is visible.

Windowmount A windowmount or slip should normally be used to visually enhance the artwork and distance it from the glazing. If close framing is required, there should be a spacer between the artwork and the glazing and this should be made from Cotton Museum mountboard. The corners of the windowmount must be cleanly cut; the mountboard must be free from blemishes and there must be clearance of 1-3mm inside the rebate (clearance varies depending upon frame size). Only Cotton Museum mountboard at least 1100 microns thick and conforming to Guild standards should be used. Slip moulding must be accurately cut and should not touch the artwork. Multiple mounts or deep spacers must be used to frame works with migrant or delicate pigments, such as pastel drawings or artwork with cockled surfaces. Using a fixative on pigments is not acceptable. The windowmount should, where possible, project at least 5mm over the edge of the artwork, thus holding it firmly in place. Any pencil marks on the underside of the windowmount should be rubbed out as they may come into contact with the artwork. For photographs, unbuffered Cotton Museum mountboard should be used. Double windowmounts should be joined together with starch paste or EVA adhesive, not double-sided tape. Note: sometimes it is advantageous to retain an original windowmount (possibly gilded or decorated). In this case preferably 1100 micron, but at least 500 micron, Cotton Museum quality mountboard barrier should be cut to fit the underside of the windowmount to within a few mm of the aperture or a few mm beyond the opening.

Undermount There should be a barrier layer between the artwork and the back board; this should be made from Cotton Museum board of an appropriate thickness, at least 1100 microns thick. For photographs unbuffered Cotton Museum mountboard should be used. The undermount should be the same size as the windowmount and hinged to it along the longer side using museum quality paper or fabric with either starch paste, MC (methyl cellulose) or SCMC (sodium carboxyl methylcellulose). Note: artwork stuck down onto acidic board should be referred to a conservator for possible removal of the board.

Attaching artwork The artwork should be hinged to the undermount with T-hinges, along the top edge, or a similarly reversible process should be used, such as corner pockets made from naturally lignin-free museum quality paper. It is not acceptable to makes hinges from self-adhesive tape; hinges should be made from naturally lignin-free, pH neutral paper and the adhesive from starch paste, MC (methyl cellulose) or SCMC (sodium carboxyl methylcellulose). Hinges should be torn, not cut. Hinges should be weaker than, or the same paper weight, as the artwork; never heavier. Hinges should be attached to the back of the artwork, not the front, and should overlap onto the artwork the minimum amount necessary to give proper support. Note: for the majority of art on paper 5mm should be sufficient. Artwork should be hinged to the undermount, not the back of the windowmount. Artwork must be properly centred and free from blemishes caused by framing.

Glazing Glazing must be free from obvious blemishes and of appropriate thickness for the frame size. An appropriate conservation-quality glazing should be used, ie glazing with a high degree of UV filtration, unless the picture is to hang where there are already controlled UV levels (e.g. some museums). Must be cut to allow sufficient clearance inside the rebate of the frame. It is not acceptable for the glazing to touch the artwork. For large items and for items to be hung in areas accessible to the public, safety should be considered e.g. laminated or acrylic sheet may be advisable. No cream or abrasive cleaners should be used. For the best results, use an evaporative spirit-based glass cleaner and clean, lint-free cloth for final cleaning.

Back board Needs to be strong, rigid and flat and to protect the artwork from damage. pH neutral boards are preferred. If MDF, or other acidic board, is used a 500 micron barrier board or Melinex (or similar) barrier should be used in addition to the undermount. Must be cut to allow sufficient clearance inside the rebate.

Securing the frame It is recommended that glazing, windowmount, artwork and undermount are sealed together with gummed conservation quality paper tape with water-soluble adhesive, before being fitted into the frame to keep out dust, insects etc. The frame must be secured with framers’ points, tacks or better; flexible tabs are not acceptable.

Hanging Hanging fittings must be sufficiently strong to support the frame. Riveted D-rings are only acceptable for lightweight works if the customer has chosen a thin moulding, in which case an additional undermount should be used.

Finish Dust and dirt should be removed and the glass should be cleaned and polished without smears. It is not acceptable to seal the back with self-adhesive tape; gummed-paper tape must be used and this must be carefully applied. Pads and bumpers at least 3mm thick should be applied to the two lower corners. A label giving the date and the framer’s name should be adhered to the back. Note: any existing labels should be preserved as they can provide provenance for the artwork.

Note: For art on paper stuck down on acidic board or requiring cleaning or restoration a list of qualified paper conservators can be obtained from ICON (The Institute of Conservation), 3rd floor, Downstream, 1 London Bridge, London SE1, tel 020 7785 3805.

For oil paintings requiring cleaning or restoration a list of qualified conservators may be obtained from: ICON, as above, or The British Association of Paintings Restorers-Conservators, PO Box 258, Hayling Island, Hampshire PO11 9WE, tel 01603 516237.

Notes on framing fabric, canvas and objects – at Museum (purist) level

Fabric should be squared if necessary. It is not acceptable for fabric to be stuck-down or stapled or to use any other process which may damage the fabric. It should either be hand-sewn onto a backing cloth with the appropriate thread, or should be laced over a museum quality support, or similarly reversible methods should be used. Unsightly problems, such as knots or travelling stitches, must be concealed where possible. If fabric touches the stretcher bars, these must be sealed.

Canvas must not sag/bow or tear/distort. Stretchers must be square and sufficiently strong to stand the test of time. Two wedges must be used at each corner and held in place with thread or wire. The rebate must be around 3 to 6mm larger than the stretcher bars.

Objects must not be held in place with adhesive or silicon sealer. Loops of thread must be used, or objects must be held in place between Cotton Museum boards or with special chemically-inert supports.

Mountboard Standards (22nd July 2008)

Fine Art Trade Guild standards for mountboard (mat board) – a summary

The Fine Art Trade Guild’s standards for mountboard are directed to the composition, combination and characteristics of papers and paper boards used in the framing of artwork, keepsakes and memorabilia. They help to give material categorisation of these to fit into the Guild’s Five Levels of Framing.

Guild Member mountboard manufacturers and distributors Arqadia, Crescent, Daler-Rowney, Great Art, LION, Nielsen Design, and Slater Harrison(Colourmount) agreed in June 2004 to achieve compliance by January 2005.

Mountboard needs to meet at least the Standard Board specification in order to be deemed to be suitable for professional framing. However, Standard Mountboard is only suitable for Commended, Budget and Minimum levels of framing. The quality of boards in this category vary greatly and framers should look closely at manufacturers’ specifications as well as their product descriptions, to differentiate them. Some have ‘conservation core and backing’, but this does not raise them to Conservation level framing standard. They are not deemed suitable for collectable artwork, eg original paintings and limited edition prints of moderate to high value. It is a prerequisite that the type of surface and texture of any board purporting to meet Guild Standards be specified. If the surface is designed to accept decoration and embellishments, as in the case of most mountboard, it should be fit for the purpose. (FACTS, USA, Test No. 6-97).

For Conservation level framing, mountboard that complies fully with the detailed specifications for Guild Conservation Board should be used, as a minimum. Cotton Museum Board is also acceptable for Conservation level framing but may be expensive for some jobs. Cotton Museum Board is the only standard of mountboard suitable for Museum level framing. Only Trade suppliers that have confirmed which of their products comply with the Guild standards can be listed on the Guild directory search for mountboard. The boards should be clearly differentiated; if not, buyers are advised to check. There should no longer be ranges marketed as ‘conservation’ that contain mountboards with facing papers that bleed. There should no longer be misleading or confusing terminology. Where such things continue, please advise the Guild so that they can continue to improve compliance and clarity.

Note that some markets internationally do not make a distinction between Museum and Conservation Framing. In others, the terminology is reversed, with ‘conservation framing’ denoting a higher standard than ‘museum’. The Guild Standards were developed primarily to satisfy the needs and expectations of the UK market, both trade and consumer. Used in conjunction with the Guild’s Five Levels of Framing and with careful reference to the glossary for accurate interpretation of terminology, they can be used effectively worldwide.

The Guild identifies the following standards of mountboard:

Cotton Museum Board

Conservation Board

Standard Mountboard

When would Inspirations Framing trim a customers artwork and are prints or watercolours de-valued if you trim or fold the paper edges?

The professional framer sets out to conserve the original condition of the artwork, not to alter this in any way. Framers should only ever take intrusive action with the customer’s permission in writing, and once they have explained to their customer that this is not recommended practice. Many framers would turn down jobs that required trimming or folding. Some collectors will not touch artwork that is imperfect; it is more likely that trimmed artwork will be difficult to sell than that it will sell at a reduced price.

Is is acceptable to stick-down artwork using fully reversible water-soluble adhesive?

The Guild’s Five Levels of Framing specify that artwork can be stuck down at Minimum and Budget Level, i.e. when price overrides visual appearance and quality, or when providing a visually acceptable frame at a budget price, with no pretence made to protect the artwork. At Commended Level, artwork can only be stuck down with the customer’s agreement and full understanding of the possible long-term implications of such an irreversible process. Even the addition of water-based adhesive alters the original condition of the artwork to some extent. At Conservation and Museum levels of framing, artwork should never be stuck down but should instead be properly hinged.

It is acceptable to use self-adhesive tape when framing?

Masking tape, or other tapes intended for short-term use, have no place in the framing workshop as they will quickly fail. At the Commended Level of framing (see Five Levels of Framing) self-adhesive water-reversible white tape may be used to attach artwork (so long as the correct methods are used), and quality self-adhesive framing tape may be used to seal the back of the frame. At Conservation and Museum Levels it is not acceptable to use self-adhesive tape to attach artwork, nor to seal the back of the frame.

If you have any questions regarding the above, or any other related matter, you may find the answer on the Fine Art Trade Guild