The Care of Art On Paper

Table of Contents


The following are the important considerations in the preservation of art on paper.

Nothing acidic in contact with the artwork. The most common agent that causes the destruction of art on paper is acid. This can come from the use of either wood backing in a frame or wood-pulp mat board for the art piece. If the artwork has been in contact with such material in the past, it should be deacidified, as acid will likely have migrated from this material and currently be present in the artwork itself.

Matting material should be 100% cotton rag. Of the many types of mat board available, we recommend 100% cotton rag mat board for housing art on paper. Cotton fiber is 99% acid-free; it is then buffered to pH 8.2 with an alkaline reserve of 2-3% to counteract environmental acids and air pollution which may come in contact with the art. The most deceptively named boards are some “acid-free” mat boards made from wood pulp. While the acid wp-content of these boards has been reduced from that found in the raw pulp, it has not been eliminated. The buffering agents used on the surfaces are only effective against airborne compounds, and do not protect against heat and light activation of acidic elements remaining in the board.

Hinges should be archival If hinges are used to attach the art work to mat board, it is important that these not have any acidic wp-content and that the hinges be easily removable without damage to the art work.

Any storage container should either be acid-free or separated by a buffer from the artwork If the artwork is to be framed, nothing with acidic wp-content should be in contact with the paper. [ Click here for recommendations on framing ] If the artwork is to be kept in a portfolio or box, the print should be separated by a buffer from anything with acidic wp-content.

The artwork should be kept away from other destructive factors The artwork should be protected from insects, spills of liquids, and sunlight. All these things can cause serious harm to the artwork.

Try to maintain a stable environment for your art work. Consistent 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% humidity are optimal. Some slow variation in these factors is acceptable over a period of months or years, but any sudden change can be harmful. It is advisable not to hang or store art work on a damp wall, a wall that has been recently plastered, over a working fireplace, or in any area subject to excessive sunlight, heat or dampness.

Handle with care! It is obvious, but important that care should be taken in handling art on paper. Paper is easily torn, but dirty or oily hands can also damage a print. With careful and not too frequent handling, gloves are not necessary (in fact, gloves can cause damage by being less sensitive than bare hands), but hands should be clean before touching the paper. Housing the print in a mylar envelope can allow art to be examined while providing protection of the fragile paper.

Restoration & Conservation

The Philadelphia Print Shop West offers expert paper restoration and conservation services. Our reasonable pricing, timely turn-around and professional expertise make our restoration services as good as any in the country. Some condition problems with which we can be of assistance are: repair of tears and punctures, removal of backing, treatment of mildew, deacidification, removal of stains and foxing, in-painting and replacement of paper loss. Please feel free to contact us concerning any restoration or conservation questions you may have.


The following companies can supply conservation material. We are supplying these names as a service to those seeking such material. We are not recommending any of these companies.

7 Caesar Place
Moonachie, NJ 07074
Archival storage, framing and conservation supplies

Hollinger Corporation
9401 Northeast Drive
Fredericksburg, VA 22408
(800) 634-0491
Archival storage supplies

Art Preservation Services
315 East 89th Street New York, NY 10128
Products for environmental control

Light Impressions
P.O. Box 22708
Rochester, NY 14692
Archival storage and presentation supplies

6701B Lafayette Ave.
Riverdale, MD 20737
Supplies for conservation

Metal Edge
6340 Bandini Blvd.
Commerce, CA 90040
Archival products

Conservation Resources
8000 H Forbes Place
Springfield, VA 22151
Archival storage and conservation supplies

568 Broadway
New York, NY 10012
Archival storage and conservation supplies

Crescent Cardboard Company, L.L.C.
100 West Willow Road
Wheeling, IL 60090
Toll Free: (800) 323-1055
Museum mounting board

University Products
517 Main Street
Holyoke, MA 01040
Archival storage and conservation supplies

Hiromi Paper International
2525 Michigan Avenue, G-9
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Japanese conservation papers and supplies

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