Art and Framing Terms: A Complete Glossary

Art and Framing Terms: A Complete Glossary

We’ve collated a full glossary of Art and Framing terms both for the artworkd as a wholer and also for our website, that we hope will be useful.

Acetate: A fabric derived from either cotton or wood pulp that has undergone further processing thus classifying it as synthetic. It reacts badly to high heat and high concentrations of alkalis or acids. Acetate is an unusual base for fabric art.
Acid: acid attacks cellulose fibres by shortening them, causing the paper to discolour, become brittle and eventually turn to dust. Exposure to light and damp accelerate this process. Acid is generated by the lignin (tree sap) in the paper. It can also be introduced by chemicals used in paper manufacture, framing materials and atmospheric pollution.

Ballpoint needles: Needles with a blunt point. They stitch into the holes on cloth (eg canvas or aida) and do not pierce the surrounding threads. Also called tapestry needles.
Ballpoint pens: These should never be used for any framing project. Use only a pencil.

Calcium carbonate (chalk): This is the buffering agent most commonly used in the manufacture of paper. This alkaline reserve, usually about two per cent, reacts with pollutants and acid before they can attack the cellulose fibres, but it becomes used up and exhausted over time, ceasing to protect the paper.

Canvas: An open-mesh material which is generally the substrate for oil paintings and needlepoint, and is increasingly used for giclée prints. Canvas is produced in a variety of sizes and of varying fibres: cotton, acrylic, linen and plastic. Works on canvas must be stretched, or supported, over bars or board. Canvas slackens over time, so the artwork will eventually need to be re-stretched. (For the first 40 or so years oil paint is malleable and will yield as the canvas gradually slackens. Once the paint has dried, it may crack and flake as the canvas stretches).

De-acidification: De-acidification fluids can be bought which neutralise the acid and apply a calcium carbonate buffer. Such fluids alter the composition of the paper and can affect colours, so it is not recommended that the framer use them.
Deckle-edged: Paper with uneven, feathered edges, such as handmade paper. Deckle-edged paper is generally float-mounted with the edges showing.

Egg tempera: Water-based paint made from watercolour pigments that are ground with egg yolk. Used by the ancient Greeks and Romans but later supplanted by oil. See ‘tempera’.
Emafyl: The brand name of a plastic moulding made in the UK. See ‘plastic moulding’.

Fabric art: A generic term incorporating all art made mainly from fabric, including batik, cross stitch, embroidery, tapestry and woven materials.
Facsimile: Literally, an exact likeness, a copy replicating an original work. See also ‘reproduction’, the term used more generally in relation to contemporary fine art printing.

Gesso: Mixture of chalk and glue that forms the base of gilding. Gesso can also be carved and can be used to decorate mounts and frames.
Giclée prints: Inkjet prints printed from a computer where the image has been stored as a digital file and is then outputted onto paper or canvas with a high-resolution wide-format printer. The image may have been created on-screen or may have been scanned into the computer. This relatively new printing technique is rapidly gaining market share.

Handmade paper: Paper made by hand using a mould, which is covered by a flat frame called a deckle, which in turn catches the run-off of wet pulp. The mould is dipped into a vat of wet pulp, shaken to distribute the fibres evenly and drained of excess water. The wet mat of fibres is then dried against blankets and may be hot pressed, cold pressed or air dried.
Hardwood: Wood from deciduous trees with broad leaves. Most hardwood is physically very hard, but not always.

Image size: The measurements of artwork that are to be visible within the frame and mount, including borders, if these are to show. Image size is not always obvious and can be a matter of taste, eg a customer may want a tiny image framed surrounded by a large expanse of paper. Sometimes referred to as window size, since it is the size to which the window aperture is to be cut.
Impasto: The textural 3D quality of paint. Paint applied thickly with a palette knife has a deep impasto. Impasto can be flattened by inexpert restoration.

Japanese paper: Used when framing to museum standards, particularly for making hand-torn hinges with which to support artwork. It is made from certain Far Eastern trees (eg Mulberry) and has long strong fibres.

Kappa number: A test for the degree of lignification of pulps. Specifically, the number of millilitres of tenth-normal potassium permanganate solution consumed per gram of moisture-free pulp under standardised conditions.
Kent frame: Named after the 18th-century architect and designer William Kent, this frame has square corners extending beyond the outer edge of the rest of the profile. Each corner is decorated with a flower; the centre is flat and outer edges are both decorated and raised.

Lacing: This is the traditional manner of stretching fabrics that are sufficiently strong. It is usual to stretch over suitable grade mountboard or foam board. The thread used for lacing should be of the same weight as the fabric or slightly lighter; if there is a problem, the lacing threads should break, not the fabric. The thread should be a continuous length that is pulled through with each stitch from side to side and then from top to bottom at even distances apart. Tension is achieved by pulling the continuous thread. This method is time-consuming and therefore an expensive method of stretching, but is suitable for conservation work.
Laid papers: Papers with a grid pattern in the sheet, resulting from the pulp resting against raised wires on the papermaking mould screen. Laid lines are closely spaced while chain lines are further apart and run parallel with the grain direction of the sheet. The other main type of paper is weaved (see below).

Masking tape: Cheap self-adhesive tape designed for temporary use. Not only is it acidic and therefore harmful, it will leave a residue which is impossible to remove. It is likely to fail more quickly than other tapes as it is not designed to stand the test of time. NOT suitable at any framing level.
Mat, matting, matboard: The US term for mountboard.

Needle art: Another term for embroidery, describing the decoration of fabric by needle and thread. There are hundreds of different stitches and types of embroidery and any type of fabric can be embroidered.
Needlepoint: Needlepoint describes any embroidery on the canvas where the whole of the canvas is covered by stitching. The term includes gross point, quick point and petit point. Needlepoint often needs squaring before stretching because the diagonal stitch can distort the shape if over tensioned. The term ’tapestry’ is often erroneously used to describe needlepoint; tapestries are in fact woven, not sewn.

Oak: Hardwood used by framers wanting to hand-finish frames leaving the grain visible. The Victorians liked to finish oak in gold.
Obeche: A fine-grained hardwood commonly used to make picture frame mouldings. Obeche is soft, has little character and is relatively cheap. It is ideal for painted finishes, though basecoats are needed as the surface is highly absorbent.

Padding: Polyester wadding can be used to pad fabrics. It helps to disguise knots and uneven tensions in fabric art and is particularly good behind silk embroideries, which are more difficult to stretch without rippling. It also provides a luxurious 3D appearance, although this is minimised when behind glass. Foam padding is not suitable because it degrades and discolours with age. (Also see ’knots’.)
Panel: Paintings on a wooden panel can warp in extremes of temperature and may actually split. Restorers can remove the top layer of wood that holds the paint and lay this onto another panel.

Rabbet: US term for ‘rebate’, or the depth of the moulding.
Rabbit skin glue: Glue made from the skin of rabbits that is traditionally used in water gilding.

Safety glazing: Another term for anti-bandit glazing, meaning glazing that will not shatter if broken.
Samplers: Originally this term referred to a test piece of embroidery. However, by the 17th century, these practice pieces had taken a definite form and were known as samplers. Antique samplers are highly collectable and the value depends very much on the condition.

Tapestry: Commonly used term for ’needlepoint’, which is the correct term for hand-sewn designs of this type. Genuine tapestry is actually woven, not stitched.
Tapestry needles: The thickest type of needle available. They have a large eye since most needlepoints are sewn in wool. They are available in a variety of sizes and are similar to chenille needles. Tapestry needles are blunt so that they do not pierce the threads or cloth. Sometimes called ballpoint needles.

Ultra-violet (UV) light: The invisible light at the violet end of the spectrum that causes the paper to deteriorate and discolour, as well as fading some colour pigments. UV light is a major threat to the longevity of works on paper.
Unbuffered: Board or paper that has not been treated with an alkaline reserve. See ’buffered’.

Velcro: An ingenious fabric incorporating two compatible strips, one covered with tiny hooks the other with loops. The two, when pressed together, provide a strong and tight bond. Two types are available: self-adhesive and plain for stitching. Velcro can be used to support large unwieldy textiles. A frame can be made, the velcro attached to the frame and rear of textile, and the two can be stuck together but removed if necessary.
Vellum: Fine parchment made from burnished calf, kid or lambskin. Vellum tends to be harder than other parchments.

Warp and weft: These names refer to the construction of fabric and some paper. Woven fabrics are produced from interlocking fibres at right angles to each other. The warp runs from top to bottom and the weft runs from side to side. Imagine an old weaving loom: the warp threads are attached to the front and back of the machine. The weft produces the selvedge edges. (Weft = west-east.)
Washline: A decorative line is drawn around a window aperture, traditionally using a special ruling pen and watercolour paint.

Xylography: The art of engraving on wood; the term, therefore, covers both wood engraving and woodcut printmaking techniques.

Zeolite: Zeolites are chemical components that can be incorporated into mountboard to form molecular traps which help protect the board from becoming acidic due to atmospheric pollutants.

Black and White Printing: With the advent of digital technology any image can be printed as a black and white canvas print. Many commercial canvas printers offer black and white printing on coloured inkjet machines. This results in a poor-quality, non-neutral print that can have a perceptible colour-cast under different lighting conditions. Blue Horizon Prints offers a dedicated machine using true black and white inks, for exceptional definition and true-neutral black and white printing.

Border-Wrap: Border-wrapping involves a solid colour border (usually matching a colour tone from the main image) being printed around the edge of the wooden frame. The physical image remains on the front of your canvas print. Border-wrapping produces the most effective canvas prints when the subjects in the picture are close to the edge of the frame.

Colour Profile: A colour profile refers to the way in which a particular printer or computer monitor interprets the range of colours present in an image. Mismatched colour profiles can result in a consumer receiving a different result from the printing device than suggested by the output on the screen. Colour profiles can also refer to small files that can help you calibrate your computer to those of the canvas printer.

Colour Correction: Many images taken on digital devices can end up with a perceptible colour cast. This is a dominating colour tone or hue that was not represented in the original scene. Colour correction involves digital editing to remove the colour cast.

Diptych: A diptych is a single image or photograph divided into two distinct canvas pieces. The canvas panels on a triptych are almost always hung together. Each canvas print can be identically sized, or two different-sized panels can be used. When viewed together they seem to be a single canvas print.

Framing: A framed canvas print will be wrapped around a light-weight wooden frame. Blue Horizon Prints uses premium kiln dried timber that lasts and looks significantly better. High-quality frames (used for canvas printing or art-reproductions) are usually also profiled (bevelled). Profiling (see definition) means that the minimum amount of canvas touches the frame – minimising the possibility of unsightly lines developing on the canvas over time. We use a thick, 3.2cm New Zealand Pine frame for all stretcher bars except when specifically requested to use thicker or smaller.

Stretcher Bars: See the above, a stretcher bar is a term used for the wooden frame over which a canvas is stretched so that it can be delivered ‘ready-to-hang- (see definition below). We use a thick, 3.2cm New Zealand Pine frame for all stretcher bars except when specifically requested to use thicker or smaller.

Gallery-Wrap: Gallery-wrapping is perhaps the most popular way to show off a canvas print. When gallery-wrapping, the image on the front of the canvas is also wrapped around the edge of the timber frame. This produces a seamless, modern look that is a great way of showing off your new canvas art! When thinking about asking for a gallery-wrap for your next canvas print, you should remember that a small proportion of the outer image will be lost during the wrapping process. Where this is likely to be an issue, it is worth investigating border-wrapping options. See more about all our canvas wrapping options here.

Mirror-Wrap: An alternative option to the above Gallery-Wrap, at Blue Horizon Prints a mirror-wrap is our preferred wrap option, its a little trickier than just wrapping whole the image over the canvas and often required some photoshop work to remove unsightly sections of the photo that cant be mirrored such as parts of the human body however when done right, it works amazingly and means that none of the original image is lost over the canvas edges.

Giclee Printing: While the ultimate origins of the word giclee are somewhat hazy, it immediately derives from the French word “gicler” meaning to squirt. Literally, it refers to a particular process of printing, in which high-quality digital images are printed on premium canvas using long-lasting inks. Giclee printing is generally perceived to result in the best quality canvas prints.
Lamination: An unlaminated canvas print is like a house without paint. Not only does it look worse, but your print won’t last anywhere near as long. The laminate is a liquid coating that is carefully sprayed over the top of the printed canvas, providing a fully sealed barrier that protects your print. Lamination offers a physical protective barrier, UV protection, fungal protection and anti-graffiti properties. A high-quality invisible laminate (like the one used by Blue Horizon Prints) will allow you to wipe your canvas print down with a damp cloth.

Light-fast: Most inks used in the canvas printing process have a particular light-fast guarantee. This rating specifies a time period in which there should be no perceptible fading of colours. A poor quality canvas print will use inks that have a limited light-fast rating. Over-time you will begin to notice a drop in quality. At Blue Horizon Prints we use inks that are light-fast for 75 years (colour) and 200 years (black and white).

Pigment Inks: A variety of inks are used by different companies printing on canvas. Genuine pigment inks are longer-lasting, produce better colour definition and higher quality images when printed on canvas.

Profiling: Profiled timber pieces are slightly curved – meaning that the canvas used for the print only touches the wood at a single point. While this is not immediately visible, it helps prevent unsightly lines appearing longer-term. Most canvas printers will not offer double-profiling as it is a time-consuming and labour intensive process.

Proof: A proof is a file that shows what an image will look like when printed as a canvas print. This allows you to check that you are happy with borders, colour definition, cropping or any editing.

Ready-to-hang: A ready-to-hang canvas print can be placed directly on the wall. At a minimum, it should have pre-installed eye-hooks and already be strung with high-quality twine.

Triptych: A triptych is a single image or photograph divided into three distinct canvas pieces. The canvas panels on a triptych are almost always hung together. Each canvas print can be identically sized, or three different-sized panels can be used. When viewed together they seem to be a single canvas print.

Un-framed (unframed): An unframed canvas print is simply printed on a piece of canvas. No framing is used. It might be suitable for situations where you would like to frame your print yourself if you would like to have an easily transportable canvas print. It is also often called a ‘rolled canvas’.

More information about many of these topics/words can be found on our FAQ’s page here.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

Copyright 2011 Blue Horizon Prints | All Rights Reserved.