How to Extend the Life of Your Print

One of the most commonly asked questions from our buyers is ‘what is the best way to take care of my print?’ For the new collector, who wants to protect and preserve their new purchase, its an important question. Prints Specialist, Lucy Foster has compiled a few handy tips to help:


I always recommend using a professional framer, and one who uses acid free, archival materials. If however, you decide to frame or repair a frame yourself, ensure you use a high quality framing tape, backing board, mounting board and glue so that you do not risk the wellbeing of your print. Acid will slowly eat away at your print and can give a yellow/brown or ‘burnt’ look, and over time can cause the paper to become brittle and easily torn. Prints should always be mounted onto a backing board, which is used as a flat support and positions the work in a frame. The print should never be completely glued down to this board, only attached at each corner with acid free tape or material hinges.


Hang your print in a space away from direct sunlight and with good quality air flow. Direct light will significantly speed up the ageing process, causing the paper to fade and loose colour. Air pollution and humidity can also alter the condition of works on paper. If the paper is exposed to extreme heat or cold, it will expand and contract, causing he paper to ripple and curve. Having an airtight frame can help avoid this. Air flow is essential and will prevent the paper from moulding which often happens if a print is hung in a humid environment, such as near a steamy bathroom. The heat or humidity can cause small dark spots on the paper, known as ‘foxing’.


Knowing a thing or two about the artist and the period when the work was produced will help you to understand what your print requires to remain in good condition. Leonard Joel regularly sells works by artists such as John Coburn and Sydney Ball. Both artists are known to produce colour rich, vibrant prints on high quality paper. So, assuming the print was purchased in good condition, the only maintenance required would be looking after the colour by positioning it in non-direct light. Artists in the 80s often experimented with cheaper new paper, such as poster paper. This kind of paper was used by Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Martin Sharp, and is known to be thin and brittle, so it is important to handle with extra care, particularly if the work has been stored in a tube. Once rolled up tightly it is at risk of breaking if rolled out quickly, so take extra care! Finally, if you purchase an older work, such as an etching by Lionel Lindsay, you may see some foxing in the paper, especially if the print has been glued down onto the backing board. But don’t let this put you off! To prevent further deterioration you can simply take the work to a framer and have the mount and seal replaced, or even refer the work to a restorer. By following these steps and taking appropriate precautions when storing, hanging and framing your print, you can dramatically slow down the ageing process, and enjoy your print for many years to come.

Lucy Foster
Art Specialist