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Part 1: Mat Board


The first thing that comes to mind when most people think of mat board is: “What colour(s) should I use?” This is a very important question, but there is an even more important issue looming in the background, and that is “What KIND of mat board should I use?” With this question, we refer to the actual content and make-up of the board. Have you ever wondered what those boards are actually made of? The quick answer is, “Why, paper, of course!” This is true; many mat boards are made of wood pulp, but there is more to it than that. Wood pulp is a naturally acidic material and can cause fading and other damage to artwork. Mats made of wood pulp are coated or chemically treated to remove the acidity. This is referred to as “buffering” and it is a relatively new process in the framing world. Take a look around your house for older framed pieces. Look carefully at the bevelled edge around the image. Is it white or has it turned yellow or orange?


This image has three mat board layers. The middle bevel is still white and crisp, while the layers above and below it have both turned yellow with time. This is a quick indication that the middle mat board is Acid Free, while the other two are not. If we were to lift these boards from the image, it is likely we would discover that the paper colour underneath the mat various from that which has not been in contact with it.

Buffering wood pulp is the most common method of creating acid free board. All of these boards, however, are not created equal. The mat board of the highest conservation value, is Cotton mat board. Cotton is naturally acid free and provides the best protection over time. (The Egyptians used cotton for preservation.) Cotton mats are generally more expensive than other acid free mat boards and are limited in colour to a few shades of white, but will provide the greatest longevity for your images.

To confuse matters even more, there are many variations between the basic wood pulp mat and cotton. Many acid free mats will have a cotton core and a buffered surface paper. This allows a dyed paper to be visible and complement the image, while retaining a high conservation material as the contact layer. This kind of mat is great for posters and other “lower value” framing projects that you want to protect, but do not need the highest conservation value.

Part 2: Glass


As the old saying goes, not everything is created equal. This is especially true for glass. Most of us are familiar with clear and non-glare glass, but did you know that glass is also graded by its conservation value? From Clear to Museum, the glass covering your artwork is every bit as important as the colours you choose to put around it. Be sure you are making an informed decision by learning about the different glass options right here!


Clear – 45% UV Protection, 8% Light Reflection, Over 90% Light Transmission

  • Works well in any presentation hung in a controlled lighting environment
  • Can be used with any number of mats


Non Glare – 45% UV Protection, 8% Scattered Light Reflection, 89% Light Transmission

  • Ideal for minimizing glare and reflection when conservation grade UV protection is not a concern
  • Use on any framing project with up to two mats away from artwork without significant resolution loss


Conservation (UV) Clear – At least 97% UV Protection, 8% Light Reflection, over 89% Light Transmission,

  • For protecting artwork against damage and fading caused by UV light, especially old or fragile items
  • Ideal for any framing application, if reflection-free viewing is not important


Conservation (UV) Non Glare – At least 97% UV Protection, 8% Scattered Light Reflection, 89% Light Transmission

  • To minimize glare while protecting artwork against harmful UV light rays, especially old or fragile items
  • Use on any framing project with up to two mats away from artwork without significant resolution loss


Museum – 99% UV Protection from every angle, Less than 1% light reflection, Over 97% Light Transmission, Optical Coating, Anti-Static

  • For virtually invisible glazing that will enhance colors, brightness and contrast levels of all types of artwork, even posters
  • For protecting valued diplomas or irreplaceable artwork against damage and fading caused by UV light
  • Ideal for framing applications, including shadow boxes, multiple mat or deep framing projects
  • Optical coating gives true colour transmission and the greatest colour neutrality