Taking Care of Fine Art Photography Prints

So, you have done it… you purchased a beautiful fine art landscape print and the next question is… NOW WHAT? The question in your mind as you look at your new purchase is most likely…how do I take care of it?

It is critical that you take care of your fine art prints so they will remain in great condition for years to come and their beauty will never be dulled.

long exposure of an ocean wave as an abstract photo
"Smooth Move" - Click on Photo to Purchase

What Can Damage Your Fine Art Landscape Photograph?

The first step to taking care of your fine art print is to understand the dangers and reasons your photograph could be damaged or ruined. There are many factors that could affect the life of your photograph ranging from poor lighting, pollution, oil, or other contaminants. Exposure to the elements can damage your fine art print or even oil from your fingers could damage your fine art photograph.

Aspen Trees surrounding an old road in Colorado
"Fall Slant" - Click on Photo to Purchase

The Effect of Light on the Longevity of Fine Art Prints – as Well as Heat and Moisture

Where you hang your artwork will have a major impact on its longevity. You should keep your artwork out of direct sunlight…just as it is dangerous to our skin it is equally damaging to fine art photography. Prolonged periods of direct sunlight can cause fading or cracking. Even fluorescent lights can emit harmful ultraviolet rays. Old fashioned tungsten light carries very little ultraviolet energy and is the least damaging.

Another side effect of lighting is heat which can cause fading, yellowing or cracking. Do not place lamps too close to your artwork. Surely you have tried to touch a light bulb after you turn it off and it is hot. Imagine that heat radiating for hours a day towards your artwork.

You want to avoid extreme fluctuations in room temperature as well as room moisture—these two components go together. It is easy to want to have the heat turned up in the winter but you also need to make certain you do not overheat the room. Avoid hanging your artwork right next to a heating vent or radiator. You also need to be careful if you hang artwork over a fireplace. If the room humidity is high, you are creating a situation where mold could destroy your fine art print or where it could bond to another surface.

storm clouds over snow capped mountains in alaska brooks range
"Storm On The Range" - Click on Photo to Purchase

Pollution – an Enemy of Fine Art Prints

We are all aware of the effects of pollution on our world and live with increased concerns for the earth’s environment as well as illness from fumes from polluting gases and chemicals. Fine art is also affected by pollution – from external sources such as outside gasses as well as indoor pollutants such as household cleaners; paints, and other sprays we may use inside. There are acids and polluting agents found in carpet, dust, dirt, and papers.

view of the many layers of colors in the sand in Death Valley
"Twenty Mule Team Canyon" - Click on Photo to Purchase

The Importance of Good Framing

It is ironic to say that sometimes you may create a danger for your fine art print while trying to protect it with a frame but poor-quality framing materials can damage a print. They can create oxidation reactions which will cause your image to fade.

view of the beach at sunrise at Lido Key florida
"Gulf Coast Sunrise" - Click on Photo to Purchase

How Can I Protect my Wall Art? What You Need to Know about Handling Fine Art.

Natural skin oils or other contaminants can easily transfer to the print. At a minimum, you should wash your hands before touching a photograph. But even better, you should wear gloves as this will prevent you from transferring contaminants to the photograph. Also, if your photograph is an acrylic or metal print, wearing gloves will help you protect your skin. As much as possible, touch the print from the sides or back.

The recommendation is to pretend you are a fine art museum curator… how would you expect them to hold and handle the art print? With great respect and caution, of course, you need to do the same.

fall color cypress trees in the swamp
"Cypress Maze " - Click on Photo to Purchase

What is the Best Framing for a Fine Art Print to Protect It?

An unframed art print is more at risk for damage than a framed print and thus, framing a print is the best way to preservice its beauty and natural life. When framing your print use a good quality glass specifically designed for protecting fine art and photographic images. The print is sandwiched between the glass, mat board, filler board, and backing paper.

I have an entire section on my website devoted to Custom Framing, including information about the Roma Tabacchino Italian Wood Frames. Note to Joe: what can you say about the glass and the matting here?

Another important step is to make certain the wall art is mounted properly on a wall. You do not want to spend money framing your artwork to have it damaged because it came loose from the wall hanging brackets. The glass can shatter and the frame or print can be damaged. This is particularly true for larger and heavier pieces of artwork.

storm waves crashing on the shore on the california coast
"Cliff Splash" - Click on Photo to Purchase

Do All Fine Art Landscape Prints Have to be in a Frame to be Protected?

Your fine art print may have been created using a print option that makes framing not necessary as the printing process protects your fine art print. I have several options on my website in the Print Options page regarding acrylic prints. An acrylic fine art landscape print is sealed between the acrylic layers and archival adhesive and can seal the paper print in a way that glass framing cannot. (Also, as acrylic face mount print will not shatter if you drop it!)

For example, I offer the Lamachrome® HD Acrylic Print using Trulife Acrylic® which is an innovative, single-sided, anti-reflective, and abrasion-resistant acrylic. It virtually eliminates reflections, blocks up to 99% of UV rays, has a hard coat that protects against scratches, and cleans like glass. Your print will have a 1/8-inch-thick acrylic surface with an additional acrylic backing and an HD 1.375" ROMA back-mounted recessed floating frame allowing your artwork to appear to “float” on the wall.

I also offer the Exhibit Mounted Chromaluxe® Metal Fine Art Print, Ready to Hang. These prints represent a new art medium for preserving photos by infusing dyes directly into specially coated aluminum sheets. Your images will take on a magical luminescence. The colors are vibrant and the luminescence is breathtaking. Detail and resolution are unsurpassed. They are available in sizes up to 48” x 96”. These prints are made with a brilliant white high gloss surface for unsurpassed detail and vibrance. They are mounted on 2mm black Styrene and finished with a black edge and a black metal inset frame that floats the print ¾” off the wall when hung.

view of the red rock hoodoos covered in snow at sunset at bryce canyon
"Winter Sunset" - Click on Photo to Purchase

What is the Best Way to Clean Fine Art Landscape Prints?

Dust is a silent enemy of fine art prints. If you have a glass framed print or an acrylic print, then dusting it with a soft rag or fine duster to remove the surface dust is the first and most important step. Do not clean the glass surface with water. If using a glass cleaner, use a brand that is ammonia-free. Do not use cleaners that contain ammonia, abrasives, or harsh solvents. The cleaner should never be sprayed directly on the glass but onto the cloth.

Do not use any kind of abrasive soaps or a glass cleaner on your acrylic fine art print. Wipe the surface gently with a moist sponge or a soft lint-free cloth (such as cotton or microfiber). Make sure you do not rub the artwork but wipe it gently. From time to time, you should also clean the backside of your artwork.

If you are cleaning a canvas print, it is not protected by glass or acrylic. There is a thin, clear protective coating on the top of the print. As above, use a soft cloth to dush it and do not rub it. Never use any chemicals on your artwork.

blue iceberg with dark clouds in antarctica
"Majestic Antarctica" - Click on Photo to Purchase

Tips: How to Store Your Artwork

Hopefully, you will be handing your artwork with pride but there may be some situations, such as moving to a new home, when you need to store your artwork. Here are some tips:

  • Make sure the artwork is clean
  • Unframed Fine Art Prints: Store in a protective box made of acid-free materials and/or wrap in acid-free paper.
  • Framed Fine Art Prints: wrap loosely with Bubble Wrap so the artwork can still breathe. Use a crescent board (an acid-free mounting board) in-between the piece; and/or use frame corners and a box to protect the prints.
  • Store either horizontally or in a straight vertical position. Do not lean them at an angle.
  • Keep in mind the storage environment in regards to heat and moisture. (Cool is always better than hot).
view of the northern lights over mountains in norway
"Lofoten Lights" - Click on Photo to Purchase

The End Result – Storing and Protecting Your ArtWork

Many fine art prints are destroyed by a lack of knowledge about the proper care of the artwork. Following the above principles will increase your chances that you will be able to proudly display your fine art print for years to come and its beauty will not diminish. You have spent valuable time and money purchasing your artwork… it takes just a little more effort to guarantee it will be a purchase that lasts a lifetime.

white footbridge reflecting in the water at magnolia plantation
"Serenity" - Click on Photo to Purchase