What are Picture Frame Spacers & Why Do You Need Them?

Written by Mark Rogers

Picture framing is both art and science, and unless you go with pre-made framing kits or other ready-made frames, tackling this skill requires an understanding of the framing components and a fair amount of experience.

You’ll soon find there are many different components that go into a frame, and you’ve likely heard of the more talked-about ones, like mat board and glazing. These big elements aren’t the only parts and pieces you need to pay attention to though. Often the smaller components, such as frame spacers, are less discussed. These small elements can play a big role in your DIY framing project.

What is a Picture Frame Spacer?

Picture frame spacers are small pieces of plastic that are placed around the edge of the glazing and sit between the glazing and the art. They come in a variety of sizes to allow for different levels of air cushion. They’re also available in different colors, mainly clear and black, so they blend in with your art and frame for an unobtrusive effect.

Why are Picture Frame Spacers Important?

Picture frame spacers do just as their name suggests – add space within the frame. Spacers prevent the frame glazing from coming in contact with your painting, photo, or other visual artifact, protecting it from potential damage.

Without framing spacers, the image can buckle or get stuck to the glazing, causing damage and making it difficult to reframe your art in the future. If, heaven forbid, moisture should sneak its way under the glazing, frame spacers allow air circulation, thus preventing the formation of destructive mold and mildew.

Another reason to use picture frame spacers is that they provide a smooth surface between the edge of the glass and the framing material itself. This not only protects you by preventing possible injury when installing the glazing into the frame rabbet, it also keeps those otherwise rough edges from digging into the frame materials, shedding particles of paint or other substances into the artwork.

FrameTek Frame Spacers

At Frame Destination, we are pleased to offer FS-1 frame spacer (providing a 1/8” air gap) and FS-6 frame spacers (providing a 3/16” air gap) from FrameTek Inc., a well-known company specializing in innovative framing solutions. This company's FrameSpace product is extremely easy to use, allowing you to prepare a piece of glazing in under two minutes. You simply slip the “S” shaped spacer over the edge of the glazing, no messy adhesives are required

It is made from a pH neutral material, so there is no worry about acids or alkaline substances leaching into your artwork. They’re available in clear and black and can be used with both metal and traditional wood frame. You can order your spacers to size, or order a larger length and easily cut the spacer yourself. This feature gives you the flexibility to easily add spacers to your custom framing projects.

Frame spacers may not be the final frontier when it comes to framing; however, this small but mighty framing component will keep your art safe over time and has simplified the framing process, making it much easier to achieve professional-looking framing results in a very short amount of time.

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8 thoughts on “What are Picture Frame Spacers & Why Do You Need Them?”

  • Bill R

    Do you need to adjust the glass measurements when you use FrameTek spacers? For example, if I have a 16 x 20 frame and use spacers, what are the measurements of the glass?

    Reply
  • Mark Rogers

    This type of spacer will add about 2/32 - 3/32 inches to glass. Normally frames should be cut to about 1/8 inch larger than the contents going into and that is what we do with our frames, however if you buy an inexpensive ready-made frame it may not have the extra room. In that case you will want to use the spacers that have adhesive on them to attach to the glass.

    Reply
  • Harriet Runkle

    Whats the easiest way to cut solid plastic spacers?

    Reply
  • PETER LEE

    I see the frame spacers come in multiple sizes, how much of an airspace is required between the artwork / photograph and the glass to prevent buckling, moisture, mold problems?

    Reply
    • Laura W

      Hi Peter - The separate sizes are really for aesthetics. As long as your artwork isn't against the glass, the spacers are doing their job at any size. The buckling, moisture and mold really comes from how tightly the frame is sealed. You can use an aluminum sealing tape and dust cover on the back of the frame to keep as much air out as possible. Also, frames should be made about 1/16" bigger in dimension from your artwork and contents to prevent the buckling.

      Reply
  • rick

    Are the spacers resting directly on the art, such as vintage concert poster and will they cause any markings from rubbing over time?

    Reply
    • Laura W

      If there's not a mat on the art, the spacer will touch it. The spacers that we sell have a neutral PH so they shouldn't cause damage.

      Reply
  • aleksandra tomaszewska
    aleksandra tomaszewska July 9, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    Hello-
    I got 7 pieces back from my framer, and they did not use spacers. THey said that when using plexi, spacers are not needed. I had 7 vintage Polish posters framed. They are printed on very fragile paper, not very thick. The frame is metal, and spring clamps are used, with foamcore in the back. No mattboard, and the frame comes right up into the image- so the board is not showing. They look really great, but one of the posters is buckling. What would be the proper way to frame a 27x38 poster printed on thin paper, using metal frames, and not using a mattboard (the only frame around the image is the frame itself).? I really appreciate your expert advice. I'd like to make sure my other valuable posters don't get damaged, and would like to be aware to help the framer problem solve.

    Reply
    • Laura W

      Hi Aleksandra - We always recommend the advice from a professional framer. Have you checked with them on the buckling? It might just be a mounting issue. We recommend spacers to our clients and that artwork doesn't come in contact with the glazing, but again, this might be a different product or method that your framer has information on.

      Reply
  • Linda

    Where can I purchase a small amount (for just 2 11x14 frames) spacers with adhesive?

    Reply
    • Laura W

      Hi Linda - We sell the spacers and adhesive separately, they don't come with adhesive on them. I'm not sure where you could buy them together.

      Reply
  • michelle

    I have also seen small round plastic rolls that have a cut in one side where you can insert the glass. Works well on photos i have mounted for more than 40 years. Do you know who carries that? Doesn't add as much width to the picture.

    Reply
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