How to Prepare Pencil Drawings for Framing

By Audrey Farley
A well-chosen frame complements the drawing without distracting from it.

Pencil drawings on acid-free paper can last for hundreds of years. Whether sketched in black or colored pencil, drawings can be preserved by framing. However, it is important to properly prepare a pencil drawing for framing with a few simple steps to protect it from fading, smudging or bleeding onto the glass of the frame.

Remove stray marks, such as eraser crumbs or dust, from the pencil drawing with a paintbrush. Do not use your finger to wipe away stray marks because the paper will absorb the oil from your skin and cause the stray marks to blend or smudge. Also, do not try to blow the dust off the paper, as you can cause moisture (from saliva) to mark the surface, which also can smudge the drawing.

Apply a spray-on fixative to the surface of the pencil drawing. A fixative helps to preserve the image by holding the graphite more firmly to the paper to prevent smearing over time. If the drawing was sketched with colored pencils, a fixative will also intensify the colors and prevent fading. Stand outdoors or in a well-ventilated area to spray fixative because it contains concentrated chemicals that can cause dizziness or headache when inhaled.

Mount the drawing. Mounting helps to prevent any static or friction, which can cause the image to smudge or bleed. It also creates a little space between the paper and the glass so the image does not mark the glass. To mount the drawing, press it between two hinged-together boards that are at least 1.3 millimeters thick. One of the boards serves as a back mount, while the other serves as a window mount. The window mount resembles a mat with the center removed to frame the picture. Importantly, the boards should be hinged together with a water-soluble conservation gummed tape or linen tape, rather than pressure sensitive tape, which can damage the picture.

Wash and fully dry hands before touching the paper, so you do not leave oil or moisture on it. Always handle the paper by the corners. Avoid touching the pencil drawing itself so you do not affect the image.

About the Author

Audrey Farley began writing professionally in 2007. She has been featured in various issues of "The Mountain Echo" and "The Messenger." Farley has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Richmond and a Master of Arts in English literature from Virginia Commonwealth University. She teaches English composition at a community college.