Light Damage – Protecting Framed Artwork | Photographs | Collections


Light Damage: Protecting Framed Artwork / Photographs / Collections



light damage
Note the vibrant colors of the “All America” athletic certificates on the right. Now compare them to those directly under the florescent light in the center: in these the reds have disappeared / the ink signatures have faded / even the brown simulated-wood frames have been dramatically affected – all due to light damage.


While in the midst of working on blogs covering a completely different topic, we recently came across truly stunning examples of the significant & immediate threat caused by light damage. We’re sharing some of the photos we took of this light damage in the hope of preventing it from affecting your framed artwork, photographs, & collections.


light damage
Identical examples of All America certificates that graphically illustrate the different degrees of light damage caused by their relative proximity to florescent light sources.


If the light damage affecting these All America certificates wasn’t enough, we also came across this recently:


light damage
These are identical poster-sized reproductions of a painting entitled “Queen of Hearts” by artist Ramon Santiago. The “blue” version in the frame is suffering from extensive light damage caused by florescent lighting. The unframed “red” version of this same poster has been stored for decades in an archival storage box, and is as fresh & vibrant today as it was when these posters first came off the press in 1988. (Please click on the image for more information.)


Archival Methods has in fact devoted an earlier blog to light damage (see the link at the bottom of this post), so why update it here?

The reason is simple: rarely have we come across examples of this damage that are so clearly evident—a condition that may be affecting parts of YOUR family archives or collections as you read this—a condition that can cause permanent damage and yet is almost completely avoidable.


light damage
Even the once-bold ink signature and dedication on the framed “Queen of Hearts” poster has faded due to light damage. Using ultraviolet light-filtering picture frame glazing such as Acrylite OP-3 would have helped to mitigate this damage – see below. (Please click on the image for more information.)



Preventing Light Damage: Causes & Solutions


The majority of light damage is caused by ultraviolet (UV) light.

UV light is present in sunlight (this is the cause of sun-damaged curtains and upholstery fabrics), and in florescent light as discussed above.

Yet preventing this sort of damage is a relatively simple 2-step process.


Preventing Light Damage:  Step 1 – Avoid the Source


light damage
These two framed Santiago posters (the faded “Queen of Hearts” is on the right) have been hung on a wall that is NOT exposed to direct sunlight coming through ANY windows in this office, including the window on the left. Instead, the REAL culprits in the destruction of these works are the florescent lights on the ceiling – the reflections of which can be seen as white bands in the glass of each framed work.


The first and easiest way to avoid UV light exposure is to keep your framed photographs, artwork or documents out of harm’s way by placing them on walls or shelves where they will not be exposed to sunlight through windows or skylights, or to overhead florescent lighting (see photo above).

It really is that simple.


Preventing Light Damage:  Step 2 – Use Filtration


light damage
Acrylite OP-3 glazing, with optional backing board. (Please click on the image for more information.)


Even if you are diligent about “avoiding the source,” it’s often a good idea to also use “filtration.”

While there are a number sleeves and diffusers that will filter UV light emitted by florescent bulbs, these are generally cumbersome and expensive. As an alternative, using a UV-filtering glazing such as Acrylite OP-3 instead of glass will protect framed works by filtering out 98% of UV light (see photo above).


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Complete Frame Kits include a sheet of UV-safe Acrylite OP-3 glazing.
(Please click on either image for more information.)


Acrylite OP-3 is available in precut sheets in 16 standard sizes, from 8 x 10″ up to 30 x 40″, and is perfect for protecting both vintage and contemporary artwork & artifacts from light damage (see photos above).


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Gallery 12 Wood Frames. (Please click on either image for more information.)

light damage


Acrylite OP-3 is also included in all of the various easy-to-assemble Gallery 12 Wood Frames available from Archival Methods (see photos above, and link to video below).



Preventing Light Damage: Final Thoughts & Other Resources


light damage
Various posters, including the pristine copy of “Queen of Hearts” shown towards the top of this blog, are being stored by their owner in individual Crystal Clear Bags with a sheet of 2-Ply Museum Board added for structural stability and support. These were then placed together in an Archival Corrugated Drop Side Box, which will easily accommodate larger works.  (Please click on the image for more information.)


In closing, perhaps the best way to prevent light damage is to store your artwork, photographs and other such materials in a cool / dry / dark area or closet in your “living space” (i.e. not in your attic or basement) in appropriately-sized archival enclosures and boxes (see photo above).

Yet if you’re planning on displaying some of your materials, as most of us are, always use acid-free mats & the right picture frames / avoid direct sunlight & exposure to florescent lighting / and consider using a UV-filtering glazing such as Acrylite OP-3.

We hope you’ll take a moment to visit our related blog and short video on preventing light damage by clicking on the images below, and will contact us here at Archival Methods for friendly, expert advice should you have any additional questions.


light damage
(Please click on the image to see our short video on Gallery 12 Wood Frames that each come with Acrylite OP-3 glazing.)



light damage
(Please click on the image to see our previous illustrated blog on Light Damage.)


Lastly, for a short summary on light damage from the Library of Congress, please click here.