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3 Ways To Frame A Pastel Or Oil Pastel Painting

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How To Frame an Oil Pastel or Regular Pastel Painting

Since oil pastel paintings don't really ever dry, they need some accommodations when it comes to framing. Namely, a deeper air space between the glass and the painting to prevent the transfer of the pastel. I do this primarily in 3 different ways.

3 Ways To Frame An Oil Pastel Or Pastel Painting

1. Using matting

2. Using a wooden liner

3. Floating with a shadowbox

This page was created to explains these framing options in depth and in some cases step by step. Also I will briefly cover some ways to storage your oil pastel artwork without framing.

Copyrights protected by copyscape

Copyrights protected by copyscape

All copyrights are retained by the artist,

Mona Majorowicz of Wild Faces Gallery.

The artwork or content in this lens may not be used or reproduced, either

in part or in whole, without the express written consent from the artist.

Original Oil PAstel painting by Mona Majorowicz

Original Oil PAstel painting by Mona Majorowicz

Protecting Your Delicate Pastel Artwork

Caring For An Oil Pastel Painting

Because Oil Pastels never really "dry," they must be handled and stored carefully as they can be damaged but scratching or rubs. In a like manner a traditional pastel painting also has a very delicate surface, plus you have the added issue of dusting.

Most artists use 1 of 3 methods to protect their completed works For Storage Before Framing.

Cover with a wax paper. This is a good plan for temporary storage. For anything long term, you should really get them framed.

Apply a fixative or varnish. This is somewhat controversial. Sennelier makes an oil pastel fixative spray. But I would recommend only using it with Sennelier oil pastels. Personally, I don't use fixative because Holbein, my main brand, says not too.

Frame under glass. (My personal way of going.)You must be sure to provide an air space between the glass and the painting with the use of matting or spacers.

It is the framing aspect that we will be addressing with this page.

The First Way To Frame Your Oil Pastel Is By Creating Depth With Matting For Shadowbox Framing

Shadowbox Framing Your Oil Pastel Painting With Matting

The following are two ways I usually get the depth I need through matting.

Multiple Mats

Scroll to Continue

Since I tend to work oil pastels by laying in thick coloring, I may use a minimum of a three mats, but most often I go with four. The multiple mats stacked up create the depth needed. This is pretty straight forward, so I won't elaborate on it. However if anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask me.

Spacing Mats Apart

I achieve the depth I need by putting an (acid free) AF spacer in between the matting. This is not one of my paintings, nor is it an oil pastel. I am using the same technique for it, that I would for an oil pastel painting, because it adds a certain drama and interest when framing other items as well.

Note: This watercolor of a poppy was painted by a friend of mine, Arjes Youngblade. She has graciously allowed me to use her painting in this demonstration. It is a copyrighted image.


Start With The Bottom Mat To Build The Shadowbox

Shadowbox Framing Your Oil Pastel Painting With Matting

Here is the artwork with bottom mat only, which was cut at 4 3/8 inches.

The photos are going in the order of what is closest to the artwork, on out.


The Foamcore Spacer Is Added

for creating depth in your shadowbox

Here the AF 3/16" (depth) foamcore spacer has been laid in place. It was cut at 3 inches. It needs to be well undercut from the topmost mat, so as not to be visible from any angle. In this instance, the spacer was cut 3/4 of an inch less than the top mat.


And Lastly The Top Mat Is Put In Place

Shadowbox Framing Your Oil Pastel Painting With Matting

Here the top most mat has been added. It was cut at 3 3/4 inches.


Finished Framing Using Foamcore Spacing Between Mats

Shadowbox Framing Your Oil Pastel Painting With Matting

And now the frame and the glazing (glass) have been added. Because this project is an original painting, I am using Conservation Clear glass.

Clear glass should always be used in any framing project that has some depth to it because Non-glare (also called reflection control) tends to get a foggy appearance with any more than a double mat. Of course there is also museum glass which has anti-reflective properties while maintaining a clear view. Muesum glass is the most spendy glazing option.


Cross Section of Layers

Shadowbox Framing Your Oil Pastel Painting With Matting

Here is a cross section view of all the layers, including the backing boards. In this instance I used a black foamcore spacer to help differentiate it from the surrounding boards.

The layers from the top down are:

glazing (conservation clear)

top mat (C1607 Brite White)

AF 3/16" foamcore spacer

bottom mat (1607 Brite White)


barrier board (2 ply 100% cotton rag board)

AF foamcore backing board


The Second Way To Frame Your Oil Pastel Painting Is By Using a Wooden Liner

Framing Your Oil Pastel Painting With Liner Spacing

This is my favored way to frame oil pastels. I like the simplicity, and it gives them the look of an oil painting on canvas. Also by framing in this way, it keeps my larger size paintings, from getting even larger (and heavier) because of the additional size and weight of the matting.

I apply a barrier using a 4 ply rag barrier board, or occasionally 2 ply to the wooden liner. This prevents the artwork from coming into contact, and being damaged by the wood of the liner.

In this photo, the liner is face down on the counter to show how it gets lined. I attach the barrier board with 1/4 inch ATG, (which is essentially a double sided framing tape.) An acid free glue would also work, just be sure to allow for proper dry time.

Also I recently discovered that a company makes a product just for this specific purpose. I haven't tried it yet but plan too and will post my opinion of the product.


Glazing Placement

Framing Your Oil Pastel Painting With Liner Spacing

The glass is cut to the frame size. It sits between the frame and the liner, well above the artwork. Finish with a barrier board behind the painting and fill with an acid free foamcore board.


Finished Framing Of OIl Pastel Painting Using A Wooden Liner

Framing Your Oil Pastel Painting With Liner Spacing

A simple classic look. I apologize for the lousy photo. I took it late in the day, when there was tons of glare coming through my front room windows. But you get the idea.


The Third Way To Frame Your Oil Pastel Artwork Is By Floating The Artwork In A Shadowbox Frame

Shadowbox Framing Your Oil Pastel Painting With Matboard Spacers

In this last segment on framing oil pastels, I will discuss creating the depth we need using by floating the painting in a shadowbox frame. A shadowbox is created by using spacers to hold the glass off the artwork. Choose a frame with some depth to it. How deep, will depend on what you are framing, or the look you want to achieve. My frame shown here is 1 1/4 inch deep.

Creating A Shadowbox

In this photo the frame is lying face down on the counter.

First cut the glass and lay in frame. The tighter the glass fit the better. I then line the edges of the frame first with a strip of acid free foamcore. Then, I apply a 3/4 inch strip of the same color matboard as will be used as the backboard. (In this case Rust Suede) Which is then glued into place on the side of the frame. By lining all four sides, the glass is held in place.

Note: that sufficient space has been left for the artwork and backing materials to fit into the frame.


Floating The Artwork

Shadowbox Framing Your Oil Pastel Painting With Matboard Spacers

As I said, I chose to float this piece because of the deckled edges. Though it is hard to tell from this photo, the artwork is actually mounted onto a 3/16 inch acid free foamcore board, which is itself, mounted onto the suede backboard. This will create more shadow, thus adding a little more visual interest.

I mounted the painting by gluing it to the foamboard using a China Paste acid free glue. In general minimizing the amount of adhesive is best for maintaining the archivability of any artwork. But with the floating technique, some sort of adhesive will have to be applied, be it glues or tapes. I prefer glues as tapes will often give way after a few years, especially in high humidity or temperature extremes.

That's it. Pop it together and your framing is done.


Plastic Spacers for Shadowbox Framing

An option for creating a shadowbox without a lot of depth.

Lets say you don't want any matboard, or just a single mat. (Note: A single mat will not provide enough air space to prevent transfer.) But you don't want to shadowbox either, or you just want to use a more shallow frame. Well that's where plastic spacers come in.

These spacers come black or clear, and in a variety of sizes and depths. Several companies make them with subtle variations. I like these, because they are quick and easy, and have a peel away, sticky side for mounting. And yes, they are archival as well. They perform the same function, and are applied in the same manner, as the matboard spacers mentioned above.


Finished Framing Using Floats and Shadowbox

Shadowbox Framing Your Oil Pastel Painting With Matboard Spacers

I had no intention of framing this small buffalo painting, done last year. But I have been selling quite a few originals lately (which is of course the goal.) Since most of the artfairs I do are quality events, they require a substantial assortment of original work So I pulled him out. I must say, when I got him done, I was quite happy with the result. It's amazing how a nice frame can add so much.

And proof my point, he sold within a couple of days right out of the gallery. The work never even made it to an art fair.

Quality framing can not only protect but enhance the art, resulting increased sales.


About The Author Of Framing Oil Pastels


My name is Mona Majorowicz I am a professional artist who has been making my living selling my work for some time now. I am an animal artist, (meaning I paint critters) who works primarily in Oil Pastel or Water Soluble Pencil.

I own and operate Wild Faces Gallery with my husband Mike in a small rural town in Iowa. There we sell my original artwork and prints, as well as do quality custom framing and offer Giclee printing for other artists as well as for ourselves. I have over 20 years experience in the art and framing industry, both as a business owner and as a working artist.

I write a regular column for Apples 'N Oats (an equestrian magazine) about painting horses. If you would like to see real life photos of Catch, or want to follow the painting's progress (with full story) from start to finish please visit my blog, Fur In The Paint

Animals are my passion and art is how I chose to express it.

I would love to hear from you

Dallas from Tx on June 04, 2018:

Thanks that helps a lot

john-dewitt-7 on December 13, 2012:

Oil Pastels! My absolute favorite medium! Phenomenal lens, thanks.

Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on November 12, 2012:

So glad to read tips like these from someone experienced in framing these oil paintings. There is nothing that can compare with learning from first hand Thank You for sharing.

Mona (author) from Iowa on August 15, 2011:

@CreativeMind2011: Yes white is the artistic way to go. Truthfully I sell a lot of my work direct to the customer and most like the colors over white. It is easier to imagine living with in their home. That's probably the self taught artist in me. Most of my collage taught contemporaries like white and simple framing.

Mona (author) from Iowa on August 15, 2011:

@anonymous: Hey Mary, Thanks so much for the note.Oil pastels were also a favorite of mine as a kid as well but yes, the mess! :) Glad you found the information here useful. Feel free to ask any questions that you may have as they come up.

anonymous on August 15, 2011:

Thanks so much for the great insight. I have just started using oil pastel after a childhood of having them taken from my hands by a very nervous mother shouting "NOOOOOO!" (I mean why keep them around if you don't want an inquisitive child to touch them?) But finally got around to using them and have no idea what to do with the finished product. I was really wondering about the fixative question. Thanks so much!! P.S.-Now that I'm a mom, I give my kids tons of other media, and hide my pastels.

nycelady13 on July 04, 2011:

Nice framing ideas. Matboard and framing is a perfect match to enhance and preserve art works and photos.

nycelady13 on July 04, 2011:

Great lense with quality contents..Keep it up! *****5 stars

sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on April 26, 2011:

thanks for the tips and detailed instructions. very informative lens.

CreativeMind2011 on March 15, 2011:

Thanks for providing a detailed guide on framing oil pastels. White mat board really looks great on the colorful paintings. It helps on enhancing the image to make it more bright and attractive.

Michelle Mafra from Corona CA on November 05, 2010:

Great tips

John Dyhouse from UK on October 24, 2010:

great advice and I think it could also apply to soft pastels. I have often had the pastel itself, sticking to the glass, when behind a single sheet of matting - thanks

Jimmie Quick from Memphis, TN, USA on October 11, 2010:

When I saw the buffalo, I thought, "Oh! I love that one." And you said it never even made it to the art show. :-) No wonder. I really like that style of framing. Really suits the subject, I think.

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on October 08, 2010:

Wow! This is awesome advice! So much I didn't know. I always wondered why I saw so many oil painting without glass. I thought they would just get dusty and possibly harmed by the exposure. Now I can understand why they need special attention. No one would want to ruin a work of art.

Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on January 14, 2010:

You really make top-notch lenses.

Mona (author) from Iowa on December 29, 2009:

@anonymous: Lovely work, I particularly like "End of Reign" and "Keeping Pace." I apologize for the delayed response. I've had a person thing come up and have been away from squidoo for a very long time.

Mona (author) from Iowa on December 29, 2009:

@editionh: I use a Chinese rice paste glue (acid free) which I apply with a brush to the back of the paper. I had tried using acid free tapes but this failed to hold. Before i mounted my original I did a practice mount with the same paper and then tore it off to see how firmly it held. It held on very firmly so I've used it from them on. So far everything has held up perfectly.

editionh on October 19, 2009:

Thank you for putting this up. How do you prevent your pastels from slipping off the carrier board.

You say that you use glue, but how do you apply that exactly, so that the pastels will stay flat all the time. I use acid free two side adhesive tape, but with bigger pieces it can be difficult to keep the work flat with changing humidity in a room ?

anonymous on June 15, 2009:

Your blog was very helpful. I'm an oil pastel artist as well and I'm researching framing so I can frame my own work in the future. Here's a link to some of my work.

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