Tips for Art on Paper

Art prints pose special challenges for their owners as sometimes the very act of displaying them can affect their long-term survival and/or value. Works of art on paper are by their nature are fragile and the aging of a print is a natural process. Colors can fade and paper can degrade. Today’s modern environment poses some additional concerns: pollution and even modern conveniences like central heat, can impact works much more quickly than was the case a century ago. If you own an art print collection – or have your eye on even a few “paper works” collectibles, POBA offers easy tips to preserve and store them to maintain their beauty and value.

  • Try to keep temperatures and humidity as constant as possible. Extreme temperature fluctuations cause expansion and contractions of paper and make it uneven. High humidity can result in mold on the paper works or their backing, and can cause ugly brownish spots sprinkled across the paper known to appear in a process known as “foxing.” So, storage in a basement with high humidity or without air circulation will inevitably cause damage. On the other hand, modern heating can often create too dry an environment:  humidity consistently below 40 percent will make the paper brittle. So keep these fragile works in a consistent and appropriate environment.
  • Avoid exposure to bright, direct light. In addition to avoiding extended direct exposure to sunlight, artificial light from bulbs can also damage prints, though to a lesser extent and less quickly.
  • Aim for an acid-free environment. Acids in papers, dust, dirt or even the sweating from your hands can cause harm to your prints. Although you have no control over the type of paper on your prints were created, you should always use acid-free paper in the matte or in protective folders you may use to avoid the bleaching out of colors and the discoloration of paper. Remember, wash and fully dry your hands – and better still, use gloves – before handling art prints and you will prevent any unnecessary marks!
  • The best way to preserve your collection. is to store your original art print in cabinets, folders or collector boxes, and display high quality reproductions instead of the originals. Metal cabinets are preferred over wooden ones because metal has no chemical emissions. Store your prints so that no two prints are in direct contact with each other. Put each art print into a separate folder of acid-free paper and store them in horizontal (flat) position.
  • Can’t find the heart to store them away? If you decide to frame and display your art prints, instead of storing them, follow these guidelines:
  • Keep prints away from direct contact with glass overlays.. Use a raised window matte with an acid-free matte of archival quality.
  • Acrylic plastic is better than glass. Though sometimes more expensive, acrylic plastic causes no condensation and is offered with ultraviolet light absorbers, protecting the print and its colors.
  • Avoid tape, if possible when fixing the print to the matte since tape can often quickly dry, fall off and even take portions of the work with it.


Find more Tips from estate lawyers, gallerists, archivists, and other POBA experts. Check back often for updates, too!

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