Making sense of the many glass options for framing

Hi! I’m Jon Haidet. Along with my wife, I am the other half of Hazel Tree Interiors. I am responsible for the custom picture framing side of our fun little business. I will be writing the occasional blog post now and again. I will mostly be discussing framing matters, but I may venture into other territory from time to time. As anyone who knows me will tell you; I am not shy about expressing my opinion (much to Karen’s consternation at times). But I promise that I will do my best to reserve my natural cynicism and snarkiness for the cocktail circuit. Does Akron have a cocktail circuit?

On to the informative section of the blog!

When I started my framing career in 1987 there were only two different kinds of glass. Clear, which is pretty self-explanatory, and “non-glare”. I’m guessing you noticed the quotation marks around non-glare. That’s because it is acid etched on one side (sometimes both) to supposedly reduce glare. Well, all that really does is take a shiny spot on the glass and turn it into a fuzzy, shiny spot on the glass. It also gives the customer the benefit of making their art look fuzzy as well; all of this at twice the price of clear glass. (Quite a bargain, no?)

Glass technology has improved greatly since those halcyon days of glam metal bands and big hair. There are probably seven or eight more different kinds of glass to choose from now. But, much like the toothpaste aisle of the grocery store, which one is right for you? While there may be many different kinds of glass, most people only need to concern themselves with three.

Conservation Clear – This product looks just like clear glass, as the name implies. The difference is that it filters 99% of UV rays. This is a very good thing. Light does very bad things to art. Most people never realize this because it happens relatively slowly. Many times a customer will come in with a print they want to get reframed because it looks drab and lifeless. When I take it apart and remove the mats on the piece they discover it looks drab and lifeless because the light has sapped about half of the color out of the print. The area of the print covered by the mat still has vibrant color; as for the rest? not so much. Conservation Clear costs about twice as much as clear glass, but when you are talking about an extra $10-$30 to protect your art and matting from losing color and having to be replaced; it is a small price to pay.

Anti-Reflective Glass – This glass is what the old acid etched non-glare glass was supposed to be. It is chemically coated, not etched. In a normal lighting situation it is virtually invisible. It is not perfect, but it is pretty close. The down side is that it offers only 78% UV protection and you will pay a premium for it. It is about four times the price of clear glass. On a small piece that is not an appreciable difference. But on a really large piece of art it could add as much as $200 to the price of your framing. But if glare is a problem for you, this glass choice is the solution.

Museum Glass – If you are thinking that sounds expensive; you are quite correct. Museum Glass combines the best of Anti-Reflective Glass and Conservation Clear. It filters 99% of UV rays and has an anti-reflective coating. This is top of the line glass and costs about six times what clear glass would cost. It is not for everybody, but it is the best glass available.

I did not mention acrylic because it is a bit of a different animal. Well, I guess I am mentioning it. Acrylic offers about 90% UV protection and is a bit lighter than glass. But it scratches very easily. Even with just regular cleaning it will eventually get small scratches. I usually only recommend acrylic when weight is an issue, the frame is going to be shipped, or for hospital settings or children's rooms (safety first, you know).

I hope that gives you enough information to make an informed decision the next time a framer asks what kind of glass you want. The choices can be daunting at times, but it is this custom framer’s pleasure to shed light on the different options and guide you to the best and most cost effective decisions. If you ever have any questions about framing please call, write or just stop in and I will do my best to answer them.