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Picture Frame Glass and How It is Used


how to frame pictures

This article explains the large number of choices of glass available to picture framers. The glass that a picture framer uses for picture framing is not the same thing as common window glass. Window glass is not manufactured to the same high quality standards as fine picture framing glass.

Pictures framed with window glass usually show very wavy reflection lines all over it when the light strikes it at certain angles. Window glass has other impurities, and small faults and marks in the glass itself. These impurities show up readily on framed works of art. The minute glass is put over a fine mat you see every impurity in the glass. For this reason the best professional custom framers use only the best glass available today.

This article will discuss several different types of glass:

Regular Glass
Non Glare Glass
Premium Clear Glass
Conservation Glass
Museum Glass

Regular Glass

The next best glass after window pane glass is a product called Regular Glass. This is a thin glass used in almost all of the ready-made frames you find in department stores, and even many frame shops. This glass is probably the cheapest picture framing glass available today. Which, of course, explains its wide spread use in ready-made frames. Some frame shops also use this product in order to keep their prices down. This is not a very high quality glass but is much better than standard window glass.

Non Glare Glass

Regular glass also comes in a form called Non-Glare glass. This glass is also of a poor quality. It usually has a coating on both sides, which breaks up the light waves and minimizes reflections. Because of this coating on both sides you also do not see the true colors of the artwork which lies under the glass. This glass is also used in many department store ready-made frames that do not have regular clear glass in them. You can find this glass by holding a piece in front of you. You will find that you can hardly see thought it. For this reason this glass should never be put on shadow boxes or possibly anything else for that matter. To find this glass, examine a department store frame or ask your custom framer to show you a piece. Sometimes this glass is also called "Frosted Glass". It is a very poor quality glass. You should never use window pane glass and non-glare glasses in any of your picture framing. Do NOT confuse this glass with "Reflection Control" glass.

Premium Clear Glass

glass  cutter head for cutting picture frame glassPremium clear glass is one of the most frequently used glass by good professional custom picture framers. The quality is very, very good. Several different companies make it. One of the largest makers of this glass is a company called Tru-Vue™. Since Grignon’s Art and Frame uses Tru-Vue™ glass exclusively, the rest of this article is devoted entirely unto Tru-Vue glass products. Neither knowing or using other companies products I will not comment on them except to say that there are other very high quality glass makers out there making very high quality glass!

The clear glass we use is called Tru-Vue™ Premium Clear Glass. It is a very high quality glass free from defects and impurity that other glass contains. This glass is thicker than regular glass and piece for piece, weights considerably more. When placed over the art the glass almost disappears from view. When light strikes it from certain angles it will cause some reflections, as will all clear glass products from any company. But the reflections on this glass are not wavy like window pane glass. Most people really like this glass and choose it for their framing of open edition prints.

Conservation Glass

Tru-Vue also makes a product called Tru-Vue Conservation glass. This is looks nearly exactly like the clear glass above. The difference being that this glass has a coating on one side which blocks out 97% of the ultraviolet rays which causes works of art to fade. This glass looks almost identical to Tru-Vue Premium Clear and most people would not be able to tell the difference just by looking at it.

To be effective this glass needs to be used properly. The invisible coating is applied only on one side and the proper side has to be mounted next to the artwork. I have seen pictures mounted with the wrong side out.

Exposure to ultraviolet light causes organic materials to break down. This causes the colors in artwork and photographs to fade, sometimes in a very short period of time, depending on the inks and dyes used in the art. This damage is irreversible. If left unattended your art will become yellow and brittle. Both the sun and fluorescent lights give off ultraviolet light.

Conservation glass should always be used on any art that is important or valuable. This is the glass to use on valuable and rare works of art. It is extremely useful in framing limited editions, needle work, and maybe grandmas favorite picture of grand dad. It is more expensive then Premium Clear glass.

Refection Control Glass

Tru-Vue’s refection control glass is the same as premium clear glass, except that it again has an invisible coating on one side of it. This glass also must be mounted with the proper side facing the artwork. Again, I have seen pictures mounted with the wrong side out rendering the reflection control properties of this glass useless. As with conservation control, it must be used correctly.

This brand of glass is one of the finest glasses available today. It does a great job of reducing reflections and is very useful in rooms that have a lot of stray sunlight entering. This glass must not be confused with the non-glare glass that I wrote about earlier. Tru-Vue's refection control glass is one of the finest glasses available today to reduce reflections and glare from pictures. We at Grignon’s Art and Frame use this glass constantly and highly recommend it. It costs about the same as conservation glass.

Conservation - Reflection Control Glass

Then there is Tru-Vue’s Conservation - Reflection Control glass. This glass is used where you need to control both the reflections coming off your glass and you need to stop ultraviolet light from damaging your artwork. This is a very, very high quality glass useful in many situations.

Museum Glass

Museum glass blocks out almost all-ultraviolet light, and almost all glare. It has been so finely manufactured that this glass looks almost invisible. It is used by many museums. It is also very expensive.


Plexiglas and other plastics are not really glass at all, they are a form of hard plastic. They are much lighter than glass. They can also withstand more bending than glass. They would be almost impossible to break by dropping, as during shipping. Plexiglas and other plastics come in large sheets making them very suitable for large works of art which would be almost impossible to frame using glass. Plastics are also great where framed pictures would be exposed to the prying fingers of children, for example, at a day care center.

These plastics are suitable and have a place in the art world. They also have a number of severe disadvantages. They have the annoying habit of attracting lots of dust. Especially in houses in the northern part of the country where the homes are heated many months out of each year. Due to the fact that pictures framed with plastic attract so much dust you are continually cleaning them. Plastics scratch easily. Due to the frequent cleaning it usually is not long before the pictures look bad. Pictures framed with plastics in Maine, where wood heat is common, usually become scratched up within two or three years.

The very cheapest type of picture framing glazing is 1/16 inch plastic. Pictures framed using this material are very light. The backs of the pictures are many times just taped in and not built out, and many times the backs don’t even have paper dust covering applied over the picture. No matter what they may call it, this is NOT custom picture framing. This type of framing is done at many poster frame shops where art is sold fast and cheap.

What Glass Should I Choose?

You and your custom framer should decide upon the type of glass you need to use in framing your picture at the time of designing your framing project. You should give your framer all the facts that he needs to help you decide. First and foremost, you need to decide just how important this piece of art is to you. Then decide just how well you wish to preserve it. If you have already decided that you want to use the best matting and mounting for your art, you should probably use the best glass that is necessary to preserve your art.

Your framer will also need to know the lighting conditions in your home interior where you wish to hang your art. Is it sunny? Dark? How is the room to be lighted? After these facts are given he should be able to suggest to you what would be the best glass to use for your art. It will then be up to you to decide.

Depending on framing conditions you impose on your custom framer, there are a combination of choices of glass available for you. We are fortunate to have so many choices made available to us today.

Thank You for visiting
Sincerely, Reimond Grignon