Choosing the Right Framing Glass for Clarity and Protection

Written by Mark Rogers

When you’re framing a piece of art or a photo and it comes time to choose which type of glass you’d like, how do you decide? Glazing, or frame glass, is an often overlooked step in the framing process because most people focus on the mat and frame. Choosing the right glazing can make a dramatic impact on how your art is displayed and preserved.

Glass, as opposed to plastic or acrylic, has the benefit of being scratch-resistant although it’s heavier and more fragile. There are different finishes on framing glass that result in different clarity and visibility levels. The purpose of glazing is to protect the art from humidity, heat, and damage. Glazing materials also prevent abrasion from dust and protect art from both artificial and UV light.

The least visible glazing best displays the artwork, with the goal to achieve “invisibility” with the glass. Glazing with additional protective coatings help preserve the art but result in a less clear view. In this post, we’ll cover some of the options available for framing glass and their pros and cons.

Plain glass

Plain glass, which is the least expensive option for framing, is usually between 2mm and 3mm in thickness. It’s sometimes called standard, float glass, or basic glass and you can find it in ready-made frames. This is the lowest grade offered and suitable for many types of framing work. Frame Destination’s clear glass is high-quality, 2mm thick clear glass.

Pros: Inexpensive, protects against dust, can see the art clearly
Cons: Slight green tint, reflects overhead lights and sunlight, which can obscure your view of the picture

Non-Glare Glass

Non-glare glass has an etched surface that helps to disperse the light and reduce reflections. The etched sureface has the drawback of slightly reducing the sharpness. For instance, it imight be more difficult to make out individual hairs on a portrait of a person for example. For this type of glass to work properly it has to be close to the artwork so it can’t be used in picture frames with large spacers or in a shadow box frame. 

Pros: Least expensive reflection control glass
Cons: Slight loss of sharpness, cant be used in a shadow box frame

Anti-Reflective Glass

This type of glass has a special type of coating to greatly reduce reflections very similar to that used on glasses and sun-glasses you wear. 

Pros: Virtually eliminates reflections
Cons: Most expensive type of refection control glass

Water White Glass

Standard glass is composed of iron which gives the glass a slight green tint. Normally it is not real noticable, however if you take a piece of framing glass and lay it over half of a blank sheet of white printer paper you will notice the section under the glass has a slight green tint and is not as bright as the paper not covered by the glass. 

Pros: Increased visibility of the artwork, virtually no color distortion of the artwork
Cons: Increased cost

Ultraviolet (UV)-protected glass

UV can damage your art as it’s transmitted through the glass, to guard against this some glass coating reflects or absorbs the UV spectrum. Some use organic UV absorbers, which are added to a silica-based coating to create an absorbing layer on one side of the glass.This coating can will block anywhere from 92% to 99% of the UV radiation. The drawback to these filters is they create a slight warming effect on the color of artwork. This will be especially true with coatings that block 98% or more UV radiation. . 

Pros: Protects against fading
Cons: Increased cost, slight warming effect of the artwork’s color

If you primary goal is protection then you want to ensure you go with a glass that includes 98% or 99% UV-filter such as Frame Destination’s UV-Filter ArtGlass 99. 

When your primary goal is clarity you will want to go with a glass that is both water white and includes an anti-reflective coating such as as Frame Destination’s Anti-Reflective Water White ArtGlass AR70. 

When you want the best of both clarity and protection, then you can look for a water white glass with both the UV filter and anti-refleciotn coating such as our UV Anti-Reflective Water-White ArtGlass AR92.

Preservation framing is an important process to maintain the life of your photos and artwork. Choosing the right glazing is a critical step and framing professionals can advise you on which type to choose. Ultimately, though, it is up to you to protect your art and make sure it doesn’t become discolored or faded over time. At Frame Destination, we have the perfect options for all of your framing needs with a range of glazing options for all projects. Educate yourself on quality framing materials, obtain advice and help from a professional framer, and keep your art away from heat and sunlight so you can maintain it for as long as possible.

For quick primers on picture frame glazing see our infographics on Glass vs. Acrylic and How Does Light Affect Artwork.

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9 thoughts on “Choosing the Right Framing Glass for Clarity and Protection”

  • Peter

    Choosing the right glass for your frames is as important as displaying your art. Great post Mark. Never thought of Ultra Violet protected picture frames before for my picture frames and artwork. Looking forward to it.

  • Cloe Martin

    Choosing the right glass for your frames is as important as displaying your art. Great post Mark. Never thought of Ultra Violet protected picture frames before for my picture frames and artwork. Looking forward to it.

  • Maggie

    Wow, I didn't even know that there are different types of glass available for frames in the first place! Right now, I'm really intrigued by the non-reflective glass. That's such a great way to ensure that everyone can see the picture, no matter what. Plus, I don't mind paying extra money to ensure that my pictures can be properly appreciated. I'll be sure to look into them as soon as I have a chance.

  • Catherine

    What is the proper method of cleaning glass before framing watercolors and pastel paintings? What glass cleaner do you recommend using?

    • Mark Rogers

      Catherine, the most important thing is to use ammonia free glass cleaner. We like Sprayway and you can get it at Walmart:

  • Catherine

    What glass cleaners do you recommend using to clean the glass before framing pastel and watercolor paintings? If specific where do you buy the glass cleaners?

  • Shelley

    Hi. Can you comment on the non reflective glass ...made using acid. Does that acid have any impact on the matting or print being framed any concern like we would see with using non-acid free paper? Thanks.

    • Laura W

      Hi Shelley - Acid is just one method used to create etching, similar to frosting glass, but most of the time is not a component left on the glass that would harm the contents. Each picture framing glass should have its own specifications, so that you're able to learn the process used. For example, our Anti-Reflective, Water White glass is actually created using a specific coating, rather than the etching method.

  • Jay Keany

    When using etched anti glare glass, which side faces out of the frame? I'm assuming it's the etched side out and smooth side to the picture.

    • Laura W

      Hi Jay - we only have etching on our acrylic, but the smooth side does face the art on that one. I would make sure to read the specs on the specific brand though to make sure that's also what they suggest. Thank you!

  • Elliot Puritz
    Elliot Puritz June 15, 2020 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks for the information Mark.

    As you correctly reported, the major problems with Art Glass are the added weight and the considerable increase in price. Moreover, the cost of shipping the glass with any frames purchased will increase significantly when Art Glass is enclosed.

    If the art is valuable or rare the chance of destruction from broken glass should be considered.

    Please realize that if you print your images on paper with optical brightening agents the UVL resistant glass will effect both the added luminosity and somewhat different colors that the OBAs are providing.

    • Mark Rogers

      Hi Elliot, for us the extra shipping cost of ArtGlass over acrylic is about $3 for a 20x24 frame shipped from our facility in Texas to California. Our Artglass 92 does not have a very noticeable impact on the OBA paper since it is 92% UV filter. However, our Preservation glass with the 99% UV filter has a significant effect.

  • juliet mowry

    I still do not know the difference of anti-reflective and non glare glass>

    • Heather

      Good afternoon Juliet!
      Anti-reflective glass has a coating that reduces the effect of the reflected light.
      Non-glare glass is made by etching one side of the surface to reduce glare.

      Have a great day!

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