Have a few of your prized photographs or artworks started to turn yellow? Concerned more will? In this article, the team at The Picture Factory explore why this is happening, as well as ways that framing and proper storage can assist in preventing yellowing.
Why Do Pictures Turn Yellow Over Time?
The answer to this question is a combination of factors. Primarily, it’s because of the way that the pigments within the materials used degrade over time. The most common culprit is called ‘lignin’, which is a type of polymer that’s found in wood, and by extension, paper and canvas materials. When lignin degrades, it produces an acidic substance that is responsible for the yellowing of paper and photos.
There are other contributing factors to consider, however, that can accelerate this degradation. For example, the dyes used in paint and printing processes can also break down and release their own chemicals to react with the canvas or paper. Direct and constant exposure to UV light can have a similar effect, causing the pages to essentially be bleached, affecting their colour and clarity. Lastly, the varying temperatures and humidity of the environment in which these items are stored will also contribute to the breakdown of dyes.
Methods to Protect Art From Yellowing
Fortunately, there is a range of methods you can take that work towards preserving your pictures and artwork from degrading and turning yellow. These include:
Using Archival-Quality Materials
Begin by using archival-quality materials, such as acid-free paper or canvas, in your future creations. These materials are designed to resist degradation and yellowing over time. Naturally, this is only possible for new pieces, and cannot provide much help for photos or paintings that have already been produced.
Using pH-Neutral Picture Frames & Mat Board
When it comes to framing your artwork, be sure to use pH-neutral picture frames and mat boards, or materials that do not contain lignin. For example, metal frames are pH-neutral, or you could custom-design your frames to ensure your pH-neutral mat board goes beyond the paper surrounding the image, as this will help protect it from acid damage. You can also laminate your work to prevent outside contaminants from reaching and staining the surface.
Avoiding Direct Sunlight & Minimise UV Exposure
One of the best ways to keep your artwork from yellowing is to avoid exposing it to direct sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet (UV) light. If you can’t avoid UV exposure altogether, try to minimise it as much as possible with the use of UV protection glass, or hanging the item in areas of your home that receives a healthy amount of shade.
Storing Precious Artwork in a Cool, Dark Environment with Monitored Temperature and Humidity Levels
If you have particularly valuable or delicate artwork in your collection, it might be best to avoid hanging them entirely, and instead store them in a cool, dark environment with controlled temperature and humidity levels. This will help protect your artwork from a variety of damage even beyond yellowing.
Work with The Picture Factory to Help Protect Your Photographs and Artwork
When it comes to protecting your artwork from yellowing, the team at The Picture Factory have a range of solutions to assist, from custom picture framing to block mounting. For more information, please contact us today, and we will be in touch as soon as possible.