Should poster frames have spacers?

Tommy P

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Nov 16, 2003
Mid North Indiana
Almost to embarrassed to ask this but....

I'm framing seven movie posters (not originals) that the customer wants in Nielsen metal frames. No matting just framed. I have mounted all of them and now wander if they should all be spaced from the glass.

I'm well aware, as all of us, that "no art should touch glass." Is this an absolute truth concerning a ten dollar poster? Am I risking sticking to the glass down the road? Will my Mom be mad?

I want to do the right thing....I think I know what that is, but what do the rest of you do concerning this?

Why am I even asking this?....I need another cup of coffee.........
I also explain glass spacers but leave the decision to the customer.
The one time I will insist on spacers with an inexpensive poster is with one of those super glossy jobs.

The reason I insist is because I know, if I don't use spacers, I'll get Newton rings and it'll look like there's moisture in there.
A couple of them are the super glossy, mostly black type. I wondered if they might be more of a problem. The one of the new "War of the Worlds" is even completely readable, though a mirror image, on the back! First that I had seen that!
I always explain, but let the customer decide...

Dave Makielski
Am I the only one who's ever done this with a glossy poster?

I give the customer the choice. Naturally, they figure - if it's their choice - they'll take the cheaper option. No spacers.

I'll get the thing put together, look at it, and think, "This looks like crap, and it hasn't even left the store yet."

So I take it apart, add spacers (at my own expense) and reassemble it.

Then I'll spend the rest of the day thinking that the customer knows me better than I know myself.

BTW, if you normally use spring clips with metal frames, I'd strongly urge you to leave them out when fitting a poster w/o spacers or mats and fill the package - rather loosely - with fomecore or Coroplast.
It Depends who you are!

If you are a discount shop that targets the lower end - slap it together after telling the customer the risk involved and receiving their permission.

If however, you are a upper end shop that concentrates on the highest quality, and advertises it & backs it with a copmplete customer satisfaction guarantee, I wouldn't recomend anything but drymounting & spacers on a cheap open edition movie poster.

The only exception for me would be for a reliable regular customer I know very well, who, declines after hearing about the risks.

Depends on the image you wish to retain. As Ron indicates, if it bothers you (from a business perspective) don't do it!
I really new the right answer. Just needed to be reaffirmed. Professional ethics and image can only be protected by your own policies!

Thanks for the advice......
Just to clarify, I only agonize over this with those rare, high-gloss posters.

The ones that don't do very well in the heat press.

The ones that will develop permanent fingerprints if you touch them without gloves.

The ten dollar posters that will give you the hundred dollar migrane.

There really is no choice with those things.
Yup, agree with that! Cost of a spacer is far less than the hassle of having to take apart anything that remotely looks like it needs them!
Professional ethics and image can only be protected by your own policies!
Good !!!!
Yes, I have added spacers free of charge before.
I try to avoid it though.

Have you tried the glossys on low heat board?
The best product I've found for mounting them is Crescent SuperSmooth with Perfect Mount.

It was discontinued a few years ago.
This is one of those threads where we cloud our "perceptions" of what we think consumers want and what we feel are our "professional" requirements.

Remember, often we are talking about a $10 poster in most cases. I doubt many consumers feel that our "suggestions" aren't much more than a money grab.

I appreciate that we all have standards, but really don't understand why framing a $10 poster requires anywhere near the excesses often quoted. In real world framing, I would be very surprised if spacers on items like this represented anywhere near what the consumer "expected"

Perhaps I can draw an analogy

We all get our oil changed. And our cars represent, in almost all cases, a more significant investment than the garden variety type of art we usually see

So, imagine that you pull into your local service drive, garage or wherever you get this done. And out runs the attendant who very nicely comes to wait on you. You ask for a basic oil change (black poster frame). He tells you that they only sell synthetic oil products, like Mobil One, and reads off a list of why this product is so far superior to regular motor oil. And, of course, everything he says is absolutely correct.

But, you tell him that "That product is great for my Lamborghini Diablo (family heirloom), but this old '63 Dodge Dart ($10 Scarface poster)is worth less than what the Mobil One Synthetic costs ($99.95)"

He informs you that they have professional standards and regular oil doesn't meet their standards.

What do you do?

Well, some of us might tell him they need to check with your wife (haven't we heard that, some might be brow-beaten into accepting that as the only option (and never come back and telling all their friends how expensive oil change (framing) is, or they might just back out telling you there is a Quick-lube down the street that advertises $19.95 everyday

In truth, consumers get all levels of oil changes just like they get all levels of framing. Most all shops ought to sell a percentage of their business to these "opening price point" clients like these posters, a large portion of "bread and butter" options, and a probably smaller percentage of "high end" options (synthetic oil)

When we only offer "synthetic", no matter how superior it might be, we may not be fully addressing the needs/wants of the marketplace. No amount of professional standards alters that basic equation and all the target marketing won't change the amount of people that willingly pay for synthetic oil. (I do use synthetic oil, but I am in the minority)

Framespacers on a $10 poster might be a little like forcing Mobil One on a '63 Dodge Dart client
Are the Evergreen Slugs larger than the Banana Slugs here in the northwest? Or are they exclusive to the Central and Northern California area?
I agree whole heartedly with Bob. I just had a customer drop $500.00 in our poster specials Metal frame mount glass fit. Her son was going to college and she was framing all his posters that had previously been thumbtacked up. We first started with custom, but it was too much so the poster special did the trick. I doubt any of these ratty things will ever be of value She was happy I was happy . The last one we did was a 1.25 piece of wrapping paper now I know she priced some other shops and they didn't offer a poster special, I hope they keep it up that sale made my day!
Originally posted by Ron Eggers:

The reason I insist is because I know, if I don't use spacers, I'll get Newton rings and it'll look like there's moisture in there.
we used to call them newton swirls.... wonder where that started anyway?
I don't even ask the customer. If they order anything without matting, I automatically add spacers. I've seen posters framed right next to the glass and spots of condensation form in spots which unless the poster has a glossy coating, will cause permenant marks on the poster itself.
For a year, nobody opens a real discussion about Green Slugs.... life is nice. Real framing as usual.

Some idiot blasts away on Framers destroying Green Slugs and the universe pair-of-deniums shifts.... :D

Now Tom, [and I'm not calling you evil or a messanger of the dark side... :D ] starts a serious discussion.....

And I get not one, not two but five Giant Green Slugs in the door before noon today.

1938 Ringling brothers... museum treatment

One Eyed Jack (John Wayne) movie poster marked 19/168....dry mount and spacers... signed off.

1923 German movie... museum

Great Escape.... he's provideing german army blanket (grey like in the movie) for the fabric mat.
we used to call them newton swirls.... wonder where that started anyway?

Oddly, they were not named after Fig Newtons, as you might expect, but after Isaac Newton who observed them when he picked up his freshly-framed, high-gloss poster from the framer who didn't think that spacers would be necessary on a $10 poster.

It's all about perception.
Well, I have been thoroughly enlightened Ron. I had never heard of this "Newton" phenom but was always fearful of "Hayes Halos".

You know...................................named after another famous Isaac.....

By the way I spaced them all........and I slept well last night.....
Okay, getting back on track …


I wouldn’t use spacers on a $10 poster – period. With spacers, since all of the contact with the poster is on the edges, there is no support in the middle of the glass so it is more likely to break. A glass/poster/backing sandwich not only protects the poster but gives support to the glass as well.

To reduce the presence of Newton’s Rings, I often use non-glare glass with the etched side against the art. That seems to help a little.
That's an interesting idea, Bill, and a creative use for all that non-glare glass that's gathering dust in my shop.
The "mirror image" you see on the back of the poster means it came directly from a movie theatre. These are used in the movie marquees that are back lit. Sometimes employees can get them at no cost. But some people collect them. Since they are not part of the zillions published for consumers, I might use spacers, myself.

Just my 2 cents....

Your theory makes perfect sense. And the idea of non-glare shows your a thinking man....

Oh, and thanks Susan for the explanation on the one poster! Is your shop in "Old Town"? Been there many times. Just wandering..
Hey Mike, how 'bout a poll/pole?

When framing a mounted $10 poster in a metal frame with no mat, would you:

  1. Never use spacers.</font>
  2. Always use spacers.</font>
  3. Discuss it with the customer and let them decide.</font>
  4. Make my own decision depending on the surface coating of the poster.</font>
  5. Put in free spacers as an after-thought.</font>
The reversed non-glare glass thing does work.

Once, I had an employee mess up a customer's characature drawing by trying to erase a smudge, ending up with a shiny spot on the paper. I put a piece of non-glare glass on it wrong-side-out, and the mark disappeared. It works on Newton rings, also.

One can get very creative fixing employee mistakes.

If you did something for nothing, be sure to tell the customer!