Paper is starting to "yellow"


MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Jan 1, 2005
I have a pencil drawing on paper. It has been framed for around 15 years and is starting to yellow all over - especially near the mat. It has a foam core backing. I also notice the paper has out gassed a faint film onto the inside glass surface.

Okay, it is conservation framing time. The paper is obviously not “acid free” and will continue to deteriorate despite framing efforts. Can paper be made to be PH neutral after the fact?

Thanks, John
There is a product called Archival Mist, LJ carries it. We use it on Newpapers.

Happy Framing
You can deacidify paper that has been altered by outside sources but if the paper is inherently acidic (wood pulp paper) I don't know that you can. Correct me if I am wrong but I think I am right. You can slow the yellowing process by using a UV filtering glazing though.
Archival Mist and similar products are intended to neutralize acidic papers (like newsprint) by adding a buffering agent.

My experience is that you need to really saturate the paper, which may change the color slightly. Also, the effect is presumably temporary since impurities in the paper are not actually removed.

You didn't say if the drawing is your personal property. If not - or if it's something important to you - I wouldn't screw around with the paper. Either get it to a conservator or just reframe it to minimize the further effects of poor framing.
This sounds like a job for Zeolites. Swithc it off to Artcare mats and backing. If Bainbridge's hype is true this should help to take care of the out gassing.
The only color difference I have noticed with Arhival mist is whitening. This may not be a bad thing.

I have used it on my drawings on newsprint, because having an altered but nice looking drawing is better than one that browns itself to a crisp and falls apart. (of course, my drawings aren't worth thousands of dollars, either, their value is entierly in looking at them)
**** Dave, you beat me to it.

Zeo is the wayo to go. Remat and back with a sheet of Artcare is the best you can do for non-invasive.

But if it's valuable, Ron's right, get it to a Conservator. They aren't as expensive at this stage as when the piece is half gone.
If the discoloration is mostly around the mat opening, then it may be mostly from the mat, not the art paper itself. If you used an "acid free" mat 15 years ago, the buffer may be exhausted by now, allowing the lignin (in the board all along) to do its dirty work. If the bevel has discolored, you'll know that's at least part of the problem.

Light exposure would be another contributor to the discoloration, especially if UV-filtering glass was not used.

The film on the inside of the glass could be from the old foam center board. 15 years ago the manufacturing processes were less sophisticated than today. Old-timers (so I've heard :rolleyes: ) can remember opening a box of foam center board, and having the whole shop smell like plastic within minutes. It doesn't outgas like that anymore.

I would not suggest an invasive treatment such as deacidification. The aqueous solution might damage the image, as loose carbon from the pencil work could run or smear. Also, that kind of treatment might retard further acid burn, but probably would not do anything to help damage that has already been done.

Remount the art to a buffered alphacellulose board. ArtCare, with its zeolite "molecular trap technology" certainly would do no harm, and might help to retard further damage from chemical contaminants within the frame package. However, zeolite is a passive filter, meaning that it only traps what comes to it. That works great for contaminants swimming around inside the frame, but would not be as effective in removing contaminants already in the art paper. And when youy reframe this art, hopefully you will use inert products, which will not create chemical contamination in the closed-up frame package.

Of course, you'll use alphacellulose mats and UV glass this time, right? One more thought: If the pencil work is highly detailed, you'll like Museum Glass.
Thanks for all your help. I do my own framing as a hobby, but I took this art to a framer because I wanted full conservation framing and I wanted something more than the common double mat look. I decided not to do anything to the paper. I'd be upset if the image got damaged in any way.

I went with 3 mats, the center being a 4 ply rag to give some depth to the piece. These are all alpha mat. I selected conservation clear glass. I was told the backing and hinge mount would be conservation quality.

Prior to design, I told them, “money is no object. I want conservation framing and I want it to look special.” mainly as a curiosity to what they would come up with. I think they did well without over framing the piece. The price came out at $140 for a 16x17” frame. Can't wait to see the finished product.
John, it sounds like you exercised good sense. The framer should be grateful to have you as a customer.
Originally posted by JohnR:
...I was told the backing and hinge mount would be conservation quality...
Test your framer. Ask him/her to describe in detail the mounting materials and methods.

For most paper items, the best answer is Japanese paper hinges -- torn, not cut -- and fresh cooked starch paste (or Nori Paste). The mount board should be alphacellulose.

But that's not the only good answer. The job could also be done with a clear film or fine mesh overlay. Corner pockets aren't good, but edge strips are, so long as they're made of thin, inert material, such as Japanese hinging paper or lignin free tissue.

If you hear the term "acid free", be alarmed & inquire further. "Acid free" isn't good enough to be called "full conservation". That requires "lignin free" (that is, alphacellulose) as well.
Jim, Thanks for all the tips. If you weren't so far away, I'd bring it to you. I'm near Dayton and I see you're several miles South East of Columbus. Oh well, the art is in their TLC now...

What is wrong with corner mounts? I use them in my own framing on heavy paper up to 16x20 if there is plenty of border to allow for them. I allow some room for the paper to move due to temp. and humidity. If the paper were larger, I'd include edge strips.
Yea, whats wrong with them? I use them all the time. Anything thin or large I also use edge strips but almost everything gets the corners. It also helps to flatten out things that are rolled while I put the edge strips on.

Has anybody made Artcare Restore their default mount yet? I'm really close!

Carry on.
Originally posted by JohnR:
...What is wrong with corner mounts?...
Corner mounts have these potential problems:

1. They require the art paper to stand on its bottom corners. If the paper is very heavy and stiff, that might not be a problem. But when thin or supple paper develops cockles at 45-degree angles in the bottom corners, that is a sure sign of mis-applied corner mounts.

2. Corner mounts can deboss the art paper. When the frame package is tightly fitted and expansion from humidity and/or temperature happens, the sharp-cut edges of corner mounts can leave an indentation as they are pressed onto the art paper. Using corner mounts made out of thin, torn paper could avoid this particular problem.

3. Corner mounts rely on pressure-sensitive adhesive, which can fail under the gravitational stress of the art paper's weight. Corner mounts are usually made of clear film, and their pressure-sensitive adhesive sticks better to the board than it does to the mount itself. So, the adhesive releases from the clear film corner mount -- not the board. Then the art paper falls down, sometimes re-adhering its verso to the small triangles of pressure-sensitive adhesive still firmly attached to the mount board. This hazard can be avoided by making your own corner mounts out of scrap clear film or Japanese papers, with tabs that go through slots in the mount board, and are secured to the back of it. Then they are positionable, too.

4. Corner mounts require very precise placement, in order to support the art paper best, and still allow adequate expansion allowance. That's difficult, as the adhesive is aggressive and not repositionable, and those little buggers are difficult to handle. It's easy to stick the mounts in positions too loose, which allows more expansion, but gives less area of support; or too tight, which creates cockles with expansion. Framers using corner mounts are generally in a hurry, and if one is stuck slightly out-of-place, it is usually considered 'good enough'. Nope.

Corner mounts are perfectly acceptable for some mounting jobs, and I use them myself on occasion. But like every other mounting method we know, corner mounts should be used correctly. The problem is that they are too often used when they are not the best mounting choice.
Why not put the original away in a safe dark place, and frame a laser copy on archival paper?
I actually have a framed copy. I photographed it with the finest grain film and my sharpest lens, scanned the negative, fussed over getting the levels just right in the print and framed it. I even ran off extras, signed it and sold them. Perhaps they got framed somewhere

It's hard to capture the pencil look in a reproduction anyway. Can't get that silvery reflection in a repro. I have a lot of pictures and I switch them out from time to time, giving them a break in dark storage. I don't allow too much light on them during display.

I still have the sketchpad it came from. It is full of unfinished pieces I abandoned. Even though it has been in dark storage, it has yellowed around the edges like an old book, perhaps due to oxidation from the air?

At any rate, the original is probably nearly finished getting its new display case put around it : ) Due on Monday.
When all is said and done, I'm afraid that paper is just self-destructive, not unlike some people I've known....
The cellulose in paper is actually pretty strong and stable - Good quality papers can last for centuries. But additives - lignin from wood pulp, poor quality sizes etc. - make paper much more susceptible to deterioration.

Environmental factors - light, heat, humidty air pollutants...speed up deterioration. Edge yellowing/browning in books etc is common - the edges are more exposed to the environment, while the center is protected. You'll often see it in framed papers or mats too.