Framing pastels is tricky. The paintings need to be behind glass for longevity, but they must not 'touch' the glass surface, otherwise the pastel dust is stuck to glass surface and the quality of the painting itself suffers.
There are 3 common ways to protect and frame pastel paintings:
1. Apply a fixative
Fixatives are binders that help pastel (or charcoal) particles bond with each other, and hence prevent the pastel dust from coming off. There are artists that use only fixative to protect the paintings and leave it unframed, or in an open frame i.e. without the glass.
It is not my preferred method, since fixative can darken the painting and a heavy application can also affect the structure of the paper. An uneven spray of fixative can also leave blotches which may be hard to correct.
2. Use a Mat
Matting an artwork is a common method, not just for pastel paintings but any kind of artwork or digital images. Mats are available in many different colors, and a create a border around the artwork. A well-chosen mat will compliment and enhance the appeal of the artwork.
For pastel paintings, a mat functions to protect the artwork as well, since it naturally creates a barrier between the artwork and glass surface. It is best to choose a darker or neutral color, since pastel dust can fall onto the mat. If you're using a beveled cut mat, it may be possible to use the reverse side of mat so that the bevel-edge acts like a 'gutter' and can collect pastel dust.
3. Use Frame Spacers
This is my favorite way of protecting a pastel work. A frame spacer is a thin plastic strip, that can be stuck to the underside of the glass of frame. They several feet long, but can be easily cut to size with a sharp blade. They also have a 'peel-and-stick' adhesive backing for attachment to the glass surface.
When using a spacer, make sure to use a 'deep rabbet' frame so that the frame can easily fit the added width from the spacer.
Check out a step-by-step video for framing a pastel work using Art Spacers.
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