Types of Picture Frame Spacers and How to Space Framed Pictures

What are picture frame spacers?

When framing pictures under glass it is recommended that the picture you are framing doesn’t touch the glazing material. With works on paper, fabrics or other flat substrates it is common to space the artwork by using a colored mat board. The mat board is made from either wood-pulp based boards or cotton based boards. These boards are made and purified to different levels depending on the application. The simplest paper-based boards can contain lining or woody fibers that can cause quite rapid deterioration.

But what happens if you don’t want to use a mat board as your spacer material?

In some circumstances the artwork or picture may look better without a border surrounding it. The artwork when framed will still require spacing from the glazing but will have to be spaced with something other than mat board.

What else can you space artwork from the glass with?

The spacing between glazing and artwork can be achieved by using several readily available products.

Some of the most common spacers used include timber slip frames, fillets and synthetic extruded sections that often have double-sided adhesive coated to one surface.

To determine which spacer is most suitable to use for your picture framing project you should consider the following factors.

1. The material the spacer is made from.

2. The depth of spacer required.

3. The color of the spacer

4. The ease of use.

The material used to make the spacer is important if you require something archival and acid-free. Many of the commercially available spacers are either a solid plastic strip or an extruded rectangular hollow tube. These plastic spacers often have a double-sided adhesive applied to one surface. The adhesive is used to adhere the spacer in position to the surface of the glazing material. You can make a spacer from timber, metal, cardboard and foam boards. Timber spacers can either be visible from the front of the frame adding a decorative edge called a fillet or they can be a simple square edged profile that is just functional.

The plastic spacers are usually available in several thicknesses. For deeper applications where a colored liner is required you can glue mat board to foam board and then cut it into the widths required. The strips are then glued to the frame molding between the glass and the art work. This is a useful technique to employ when you want the spacer and backing material to match as in the case of an artwork floating on a mat backing.

Common pre-fabricated spacers are colored black, white and clear. You could color the spacer to match the frame when you are using a timber variety. You can easily see what spacer is least noticeable by cutting a small piece and holding it temporarily in position between the item and the frame. Generally the white and clear spacers are used on light-colored works and inside pale colored frames and the black spacer is used on darker works.

The easiest liners and spacers to use are the adhesive pre-coated types as it is a simple job to just cut them to length and stick them in place. One tip when positioning the spacer is to cut the top and bottom sections to a tight length first. Then when you fix the side members into place they help by holding up the top piece stopping it from dislodging in the future. The hollow plastic types can be easily cut with a sharp craft knife and the solid types can be scored and snapped or clipped to size with angle cutters. Pay attention to cutting the length accurately to ensure you have no untidy corners.

You can combine spacers with matting and stepped frames to create interesting depth in your pictures whilst adding the extra benefits of the increased air gap from the glass or acrylic front.

When you are next framing an object consider using a suitable spacer or fillet.