Framing Animation Art

Animation art has its own particular requirements when it comes to framing. Most framers are unfamiliar with it and some even refuse to handle it. As the popularity of animation art continues to grow, uncertainty will gradually be replaced by knowledge, and this will cease to be as much of a problem as it is today. But for now, here are some framing and mounting basics to consider before you take your art to a framer.

MUSEUM FRAMING is a much-heard term requiring some clarification. Simply, it means a dust-free and acid-free enclosure with a slow deterioration rate. It should not be air-tight, as the air inside must be allowed to exchange with the environment. Standard Crescent® brand mat board has buffered core and backing paper, providing satisfactory protection without the need for expensive non-acid rag board. But it does little good to use acid-free materials if the art itself is contaminated. Almost all fine art is produced using materials of high permanence. Animation art, however, was not intended to be long-lasting, and backgrounds, drawings, sketches, etc. suffer from inherent acid content. To gain any permanence at all, they must be deacidified to neutralize their pH level. Only then can museum techniques be of real value. Please note that most framers will not use museum framing unless you specify it.

MOUNTING OF CELS should stabilize and prevent them from moving or flexing while allowing them freedom to breathe. Because both the cel and the board on which it is mounted expand and contract with changes in humidity, but at different rates, the cel should not be held in place on all four sides. It is best to tape it at its top edge, permitting it to hang or lie against the mounting board, which will support it securely.

COVER CELS are plain sheets of acetate placed over the art to isolate it from contact. Because cels sold at Disneyland in the early years had cover cels, it is sometimes thought this is the preferred way to frame animation art. Though there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this practice for drawings and other works on paper, it is not recommended for cels. We often see cases where ink lines or paint have transferred to the cover cel, a phenomenon which can also occur when transparent plastic wrap is used to protect cels in storage. Cover cels were used for Disneyland art as an expedient to safeguard otherwise exposed cels; framed or properly stored cels do not need this additional protection. A sheet of acetate placed behind a cel, however, can prevent paint that might become tacky on a damp day from transferring to the background.

ACRYLIC GLASS is the most protective and practical glazing material available for framing animation art. With standard glass there is the danger of breakage, which almost always damages the art it was intended to protect. Acrylic glass is 10 to 20 times stronger than glass and about one-third the weight. Art framed under acrylic is not only more secure, it is astonishingly lightweight, eliminating the need for special wall bolts or brackets for hanging. It is fair to note that some purists believe acrylic is not as clear as standard glass, although the difference is not perceptible to most people and, in our opinion, far outweighed by the advantages. UV acrylic is also available, and will filter out ultra-violet light, which can cause fading, without markedly altering the color and tone of the art. Be sure to specify "acrylic glazing material," as there are other materials that are not the same. And be aware that acrylic glass is not always easy to find, though well worth the trouble and investment. If you cannot find a source in your area, S/R Labs can supply it cut to your specifications.

SECURITY HANGERS are an excellent solution for those who do not wish to go to the expense of replacing the glass with acrylic in a large, already framed collection. Breakage from falling is the greatest danger with glass, and these hangers use a three-pronged system to hold the art securely to the wall. Most framers should be able to get them for you, or you can order them from S/R Labs.

CERTIFICATES, LABELS AND OTHER NOTICES, whether new or old, should not be permanently affixed to the rear of your framed art. Chances are you will remove and replace the back support several times in the course of owning your art, and will find removing a label difficult or impossible. Notices of all kinds should be stored in a safe place, along with your bills of sale, appraisals, and other pertinent documentation. If it is important to you to have the labels with the art so they can be shown, they can be placed in an expendable polyester or acetate pocket mounted on the rear of the framed art. These documents, which attest to the pedigree of your art, are prone to the same acid deterioration as drawings, and can be treated in the same way to assure their longevity.


Whatever method or style of frame you choose, you will want to remove your art every 12 to 18 months to air it, clean the glass, and check for mold, mildew, or insects. Animation art requires periodic cleaning, although the frequency depends on the climate and conditions of its environment, as well as its age. Your own judgement can tell you when cleaning is needed.

One last point: Chose your framer carefully. As with every profession, there are degrees of craftsmanship and care. Once you have someone you're comfortable with, remember that you can be part of the education process. Work with your framer, explaining not only your own preferences, but the special needs of animation art as well, and you can end up with someone who is an active partner in your collecting experience. If you run into questions the above points don't cover, we invite you or your framer to call or write us. We'll be glad to help. Or, if it's more convenient, we can handle your framing needs here at the lab.