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Should You Keep Your Oil Painting Under Glass?

If an oil painting is painted on canvas, panel, or board, there is no need to frame it under glass. Glass is used in framing to protect artwork from moisture and UV rays, which can fade colors. The final varnish applied to oil paintings is frequently thought to be adequate protection.

You might notice a few oil paintings behind glass in a museum or gallery. This is primarily used to provide additional protection against vandalism for highly valuable works of art. A special grade of glass, often referred to as conservation or museum glass, is sometimes used to add even more light protection, and some glass includes a coating that reduces reflections as well.

While most oil paintings do not require glass framing, there are a few exceptions. If your painting was done on paper or thin card, putting it in a frame with glass will protect the support. The oil paint itself does not require protection; however, the paper does.

If you do decide to put an oil painting behind glass, include a mat (also called a framing mount). Mats are important components of framing, and they do more than just add a nice decorative touch.

A mat is necessary because it adds space between the glass and the artwork, which is why they are frequently used with flat work such as photographs and watercolors. This extra space allows for air circulation and prevents condensation, which can lead to mildew, mold, or buckling. When it comes to paintings, the mat also ensures that the paint does not come into contact with or stick to the glass. If your painting has thick paint, make sure the matting is thicker as well.

The Different Types of Paintings That Should Be Framed With Glass

Oil paintings are one of the few types of paintings that do not require glass when framed. Varnished acrylics adhere to the ‘no glass’ recommendation as well. If you work with other mediums, you should know what type of framing is recommended.

Glass is recommended for the following pieces of art:

  • Any work on paper or a similar thin support.
  • Pastels and watercolors
  • Drawings in pencil, charcoal, and other (vulnerable) mediums.


How to Care for Paintings That Aren’t Framed

  • Use your eyes, not your hands, to look

To keep a painting in good condition, no one should touch it with their fingers or other implements. If you have a large group of people coming to a dinner party or another event, you may want to hang a small plaque next to the painting asking them to look but not touch, or even create a clear plastic “shell” that can be temporarily installed over the picture frame. If the gathering is going to be particularly crowded or if it has the potential to become rowdy, you may even choose to remove the painting and store it in a secure location.

  • Dulling and damage are caused by dust and dirt. 

Dust and dirt can adhere to the surface of a painting, dulling the colors and causing the artwork to deteriorate. Dusting carefully prevents dust from accumulating and adhering to the surface of the paint. The best tool to use is a soft artist’s brush. Look for a flat brush with soft, springy, gentle bristles that is about two or three inches wide. Before dusting, inspect the painting. It is not safe to dust the painting if there are any chips or cracks in the paint because you may further chip the paint and brush it away from the painting. If the surface is still intact, dust the painting very gently. A strong light will help you see where there is dust or quickly catch any flaking of the surface paint so you can stop before causing damage.

The Marshall Gallery 2

By Dru Bloomfield –, CC BY 2.0,

Framing Options for an Oil Painting

How do you frame an oil if glass is not recommended? There are numerous framing options for oils on canvas, board, and panel:

  • Place a frame in front of the canvas.
  • Install the canvas or board in a floating frame.
  • Skip the frame entirely (often called a gallery wrap). Make sure your canvas is neatly wrapped and that you continue your painting onto the canvas that covers the side rails.

Are You Looking for Contemporary Art to Complement Your Home?

The Marshall Gallery, located in Scottsdale’s Historic Arts District, has been the center of contemporary art since its founding in 1998. Boasting a collection of paintings, sculptures, and exquisite glass pieces, the gallery hosts several exhibitions each year plus a biennial glass invitational that attracts top-notch talent. Here you will find exceptional art presented in an open and relaxed gallery space, which is perfect for browsing the ever-changing collection. Explore on your own, or allow our expert art consultants to offer complimentary assistance to find the perfect addition to your own collection. Looking for the perfect piece of art to complement your home’s decor? Visit us in person or browse our online art store!