Cathleen Lengyel > Scribbles > Artist Help > How To Protect Your Art

How To Protect Your Art

You’ve been drawing like crazy and suddenly you realize you have nowhere to put all your artwork.   Now what?  There’s only so much wall space for framed pieces and you can’t just lay it around where it could become damaged.  What do you do?  Today we’ll look at some options you have for protecting your artwork while building your portfolio. When I began to draw again after many years, I did a few things I would strongly suggest you do NOT do.  

Protecting your art as you work

I was drawing in a large sketch book and simply flipping the page and starting a new drawing on the next page.  That’s fine if you’re just sketching for fun, however if you want to sell your artwork it is not a good idea at all.  When I made the jump to using more professional papers, at first I was doing the same thing.   Again, not a good idea, here’s why. If you draw in a pad of paper you run the risk of causing indentations on the paper behind the sheet you’re working on.  Your first line of defense to protect your artwork is to tear out individual sheets and tape them down to a drawing board.  Never work in the pad.  Why tape?  I have learned that taping them down keeps them from getting accidentally torn or creased, it’s keeps your paper nice and flat.  Taping it also keeps the edges pristine white.  You won’t need to erase the edges around the finished piece.  Be careful of the tape you use though, it needs to be acid free (archival is a bonus), or it can cause discoloration over time where the tape touched the paper.  I am currently using White Blick Artist Tape.  The white is ph neutral.  A word of caution:  No matter what tape you use, make sure to remove it very slowly.  Depending on the thickness of the paper you want to be careful not to tear your drawing as you remove the tape.  

So how do you protect it after it’s finished?

There are some good options for protecting your artwork.  First, there are portfolios.  Portfolios will allow you to slide your artwork inside the pages and protect them.  They come in many sizes and several brands.  
My Portfolios
My Portfolios
I have three different sizes of portfolios.  The first one I purchased was the 17 x 14 inch Blick Studio Series Presentation Book (middle of photo above).  It has a really nice leather like appearance.  It holds 14 x 17 inch papers beautifully. As I expanded my sizes I needed a much larger portfolio for my 18 x 24 inch papers.  For that size I chose to use the Itoya Original Art Portfolio (in the back, largest in the photo).  I really like the hardness of the portfolio as well as the fact that it has a reversible spine insert for customized labeling. Finally when looking for something to protect my smaller drawings I went back and got another Itoya Original Art Portfolio in the 9 x 12 inch size (smallest in front in the photo). I am seriously incredibly pleased with all three portfolios.  They are quite easy to transport and can be stacked away until I need to take them out. Each portfolio is made with special pockets that will not stick to your artwork, and they are pvc free.  They have aid free black paper inserts which also help to protect your artwork while it’s stored inside.  Those black sheets also keep your drawings from touching each other when in the pockets.  The pockets are designed to fit 2 drawings (on on the front side, one on the back side with the black paper between).  They work beautifully for graphite and colored pencil works. A word of caution:  NEVER use any sort of portfolio, album or binder that is not specifically designed to hold artwork.  Though they may be cheaper but they do not have the type of pocket that will prevent sticking of your drawings and over time since they are not acid free they can cause deterioration of the paper.  This is one area where you do not want to skimp and try to save money.  You’ve invested a great deal of time in your beautiful creation, you don’t want to ruin it with a bad portfolio case.  

But what if you’re creating in Pastel or Colored Pencil on sanded paper?

Since Brush and Pencil came out with some incredible products like their powdered blender, many artists have begun using sanded paper for their colored pencil work.  It’s recommended you use a good sanded paper or a paper that has had a few layers of gesso painted on it in order to use the powdered blender.  Likewise, pastel artists use pastel mat and pastel card for their pastel paintings. These papers are very ridged.  They wouldn’t hold up to the possible bending of the pages in a portfolio.  Also, pastels would get smeared and smudged being taking in and out of a portfolio.   So what can you do other than framing these pieces behind glass?  Get yourself an archival clamshell box!
Blick Archival Storage Box
Blick Archival Storage Box – Open
                    I purchased a Blick Archival Storage Box for my pastel pieces and colored pencil pieces done on sanded paper.  They are 1-3/4 inches deep which means you could store quite a few pieces inside them.  They are nice and sturdy.  I will say you need to purchase the size larger than your paper size.  I made the mistake of buying a 9 x 12 inch box for my work only to discover the 9 x 12 inch papers were too large to fit!  I had to return it and purchase the 11 x 14 inch box.  Other than that I am happy with it.  It is archival-quality storage that’s extra-durable and acid-free.  You may also want to look at the Eternity Archival Clamshell boxes as well.  (The eternity box is the next one I intend to purchase.) When you place your artwork inside, be sure to lay a sheet of glassine over each piece to protect the back of the artwork above it.   You can see in the photo above I have a sheet of glassine over my deer fawn pastel painting.   So there you have it!  Some easy ways to protect your artwork when it’s not framed.  I hope you found this helpful. Until next time, Keep Creating!
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