A glaze is the protective barrier between the contents of any picture frame and the outside environment. It should be transparent and is usually made of glass or acrylic (plexiglass). When framing a photo or piece of artwork, the glaze plays an important role in protecting against dust, moisture, temperature fluctuations and any physical damage.
Ready-made frames from big box retailers like Target or Ikea typically have flimsy plastic or glass glazes. With online custom framing you have a number of superior glaze options to choose from, all of which will thoroughly protect your artwork to proper conservation standards.
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Glass vs. Acrylic/Plexi
How do you choose between glass and acrylic glazing for your picture frame? Glass is typically less expensive than acrylic and is more scratch-resistant. However, glass also has its disadvantages. The cheaper kinds tend to have a noticeable green or blue tint, while acrylic is optically pure. Glass is also much heavier in weight, harder to handle and prone to breaking.
At Level, we only use framer's grade acrylic glazes because they're shatter-resistant, much safer to transport, optically high in clarity and consistent with the museum quality materials we use in framing photos and artwork. There are various types of glazes to choose from, and below we'll introduce the four kinds you're likely to encounter on your custom framing journey.
Image source: Customer photo (Colin B.)
Our standard glaze is, as its name suggests, the most basic framing option, with a glossy and slightly reflective finish. This type of glaze is a great alternative to picture frame glass, while still being very affordable. This option will work best if you plan to hang your frame somewhere with minimal natural light or your artwork isn’t rare or particularly valuable.
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The UV-protective glaze has all the qualities of standard framer's grade plexiglass, but with the important added benefit of being designed to filter out up to 99% of ultraviolet rays. UV rays will cause paper-based artwork to fade and yellow over time, so this glaze type will ensure that the contents of the frame remain in pristine condition.
Select this type of glaze if you're framing precious artwork, or if you have plans to hang your frame somewhere with lots of natural light. We also recommend this glaze when frame spacers are installed, since it's optically clear and won't risk any loss of clarity.
Image source: Customer photo (Maria C.) - Read our customer reviews here
The Non-glare plexi has a matte coating on one side that effectively diminishes the reflection of light off of its surface. This finish is especially useful if your space is brightly-lit or if your print has a lot of dark colors so you can have unhindered viewing of your artwork or photo. Level's non-glare glaze also has the added benefit of protecting your artwork against harmful UV light so you can rest easy knowing it can be thoroughly appreciated and safe from discoloration.
When framing at home and installing this glaze into your frame, one side will be glossy and the other blurry -- this blurriness is the property that cuts down on any apparent glare. The glossy side should be touching the contents of the frame, while the cloudy side should face outwards.
The matte coating could cause a slight loss of clarity in details and colors, which will increase the further the distance between the art and the glaze. For this reason, we recommend the UV or standard glaze when spacers are used, and especially if your artwork is bevel float mounted. For any frame without spacers, though, we definitely recommend this glaze so you can appreciate your artwork, photographs and posters all-year round without worrying about glare.
Optium Museum Plexi
Artist: Josef Albers
The fanciest glaze on the market, Optium Museum Plexi gives you the best of all worlds. It provides 99% UV protection, is anti-reflective, anti-static shatter and scratch resistant, all without any visual-side effects like the ones mentioned above. If you are framing a photo or artwork that you expect to display and enjoy for many years to come, this can be an excellent investment.
You may want to splurge on this glaze if you're framing something extremely special or valuable. If you're interested in Optium plexi, just a heads up: It does require a custom order, so just reach out to us and we'd be happy to get you set up.
Pro Tip: Taking care of your finished frame is just as important as choosing the right materials and components. Avoid using glass cleaner or paper towels to clean your glaze; stick to mild soap with water or acrylic cleaner with a microfiber cloth. The reason for this is that glass cleaner could result in a cloudy glaze, and paper towels might scratch the surface.
If you have any questions about these materials, or would like some guidance on which glaze is best for your framing project, don't hesitate to reach out to us! You can get in touch by clicking the blue chat bubble at the bottom of the screen.
Learn more about custom framing online, or sign up for a Level account below!