9 Sure Ways To Care for Your Artworks

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Whether you’re a first time buyer or a collector, the original art you create or collect deserves a long life. It should look vibrant and new for as long as possible.

Here are 9 ways to properly handle your artwork, show it off and keep it clean so you – and future generations – can keep on enjoying it.

  1. Keep your painting out of direct sunlight and heat.

When lighting paintings, always use indirect lighting. Lights that attach to the top of the frame and hang over the picture could be dangerous. Also, do not hang your painting over a direct heat source like a radiator, hot water pipes, fire, or in direct sunlight, as this can damage your painting.

  1. Give your art a very stable environment

Paintings should be stored at room temperature. Aside from temperature, other serious threats are humidity and exposure to airborne dust and dirt. Avoid areas with high moisture or humidity like a damp basement, attic, bathroom, or kitchen. Be sure to select a safe place away from high traffic areas, moveable seating, or other hazards.

  1. Hang your art securely

You can use a stud finder to find wooden studs, then use painting hooks to secure your painting to the wall. Make sure that it is secure and does not tilt or move to one side. The painting hooks will prevent the art from falling, which could damage your art and your wall. An added precaution you can take when displaying valuable paintings is to use a glass or plexiglass encasement.  

TIP! Aim to have the center of the painting at eye level.

  1. Moving with artwork

Be sure to remove all jewelry, belt buckles, etc. prior to moving a painting, so that the painting is not accidentally torn or scratched while being moved. When moving a painting, always be sure to grasp the painting from both vertical sides. Never hold a painting at the top of the frame or by its hanging wire. Also, be careful and insure that the picture wire does not puncture the back of the painting during the move. It is very important to avoid bumping canvas paintings as even the slightest bump can cause future cracking of the paint surface.

The artwork can be bubble wrapped first, then placed in a cardboard box. The cardboard box edges should be sturdy and provide structural support. External frames are fragile, so don’t carry them by the top only. Make sure you support the base with your hand. It’s very easy to pop the glass or crack the frame.

  1. Know your medium

Painting care varies significantly according to the medium used.

Oil Paintings – Here are a few points to consider when it comes to its care and maintenance:

    • Oil paintings yellow over time. This is unavoidable and perhaps even an attractive trait.
    • Oil paintings are more likely to crack compared to other kinds of paint.
    • Oil paintings can also flake due to the hardness of the material.
    • Oil paintings can take up to a year to fully dry. Those which are not fully dried are very sensitive to light or dark.
    • A coat of varnish can be applied as a protectant by a professional but only after the painting has fully dried.

Oil paintings can last for centuries if properly cared for. Like all paintings your artworks in oil should be kept clean and free of dust. Deep cleaning and other interventions should always be left to a professional.

Acrylic Paintings – Here are a few points to consider when it comes to its care and maintenance:

    • Additives (like stabilizers, preservatives etc.) present in the acrylic emulsion can make a painting very light-sensitive.
    • Paper backings are also light sensitive. They can become brittle easily.
    • To display paintings, raking or ambient light should be used. These light sources should have UV filters and bulbs (ideally xenon and not halogen) which are a brightness of 200 lux.
    • Avoid touching it, if you do not frame your acrylic painting or use a glass protectant. Because of the softness of acrylic polymer films, even a fingerprint can cause permanent damage to the surface of the work. It will be especially visible on monochromatic abstract paintings.
  1. Storing your artwork

The time may come when you need to remove art pieces from your wall and put them in storage. Be sure to stay away from attics, basements, garages, or anyplace else where excessive dryness or moisture may be present. Once you’ve found an acceptable environment with a consistent temperature. It could be a closet in your home or a climate controlled storage facility. Please use acid free paper to keep the paintings separate. Another good idea is to place a stiff board between the paintings to protect the image from coming into contact with any surface that can scratch it. Also, keep all artworks at least three inches from the floor.

Exposed canvas or linen or paper backs, should be kept away from any protrusions. You can stack the artworks upright with rigid dividers (thick cardboard for example) to separate the paintings. Unless you have a set of shelves whose back is larger than that of the back of the painting, stack the paintings against a wall face to face.

If the artworks are not on display: keep them stored in a room with a temperature that you would be comfortable living in (~20 degrees Celsius, although acrylics should be stored at slightly less than room temperature so that the paint film is less likely to soften) and a climate (40-60% RH) that is not susceptible to sudden drastic environmental changes.

  1. Cleaning your art

From time to time, you will want to clean your painting. A soft cotton cloth or brush is suitable for dusting the frame, and a soft bristled brush should be used to dust off the painting itself.

Never wash a painting with a moist cloth as the moisture can eventually leave a white film. Also, never use cleaning fluids or water on the varnished surface of oils paintings.

If cleaning fluids have to be used on the glass, be sure to apply to a duster rather than directly onto the glass. Keep the fluid away from the frame.

Avoid dusting any areas of the painting that are flaking from the canvas. Although cracking can be treated with special solvents, we do not recommend that you apply any liquids to your painting as even the proper cleaning solvents can cause major damage that cannot repaired if applied incorrectly.

The back of the painting should be kept clean through brushing or vacuuming. Also, excessive dirt should be vacuumed using a small low suction nozzle with a brush attachment. If your painting is in a particularly dusty area, make sure it has a dust cover on the back. This will prevent dirt from accumulating behind the painting.

  1. Over the years

There are several measures that can be placed to limit the damage of natural aging, like using varnishes and storing the work properly. However, as the years go by, some natural damage will naturally occur.

Here are the symptoms of an aging artwork:

    • Flaking paint
    • Discoloration
    • Cracks
    • Warping

If you notice some of these signs of damage on your artwork, it is a good idea to bring it to a professional restorer.

  1. Insuring your investment

As an art collector, it is important that you obtain the proper kind of insurance to safeguard your investment. While many homeowners policies cover artwork, certain artworks of high value may have to be listed separately. Regardless of the type of insurance policy you choose, document the condition of your artwork by taking photographs and notes on its condition and appearance. You can add as many details as possible to your documentation – examples are: the dimensions of the artwork, the method of framing used, the name of the artist, the title of the piece, and the original bill of sale. Be sure to keep all documentation in a fireproof safe or a safety deposit box away from your home in the event of fire or natural disaster. Ultimately, art is an investment, which deserves protection.

With good artwork costing as much, or more, than fine jewelry, wise artwork owners should take pains to ensure that the art they are lucky enough to possess, will be enjoyed for generations to come.