The Benefits of UV Glass

It’s a well known fact that we have very little ozone above our country. The sun is particularly harsh for us - you can’t go outside without layers upon layers of sunblock, and limiting your exposure as much as possible is the only real way to keep you from getting burnt.

Just like us, our artwork suffers from our lack of ozone layer, with paper and inks suffering as much as our skin. This is why UV glass is an important consideration when it comes to framing your artwork. Certain pieces are more susceptible than others, and certain spaces more crucial than others, but because New Zealand is such a harsh environment you artwork will need it here more than anywhere else in the world.

So let us walk you through how the glass works, what UV damage is and what it will do to your artwork, and the things we take into account when weighing up whether we think you need it or not.

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How does UV glass work?

Different to a standard clear sheet of glass, a piece of UV glass has a film coating on one side that filters out the UV light so it doesn’t hit your artwork. This is placed on the inside, the same as the artwork so the film remains intact, meaning there is no risk of you damaging the film and reducing its effectiveness. The front side of the glass, the side exposed to the elements, is normal glass that can be dusted and cleaned with no worry. 

Even better is it is nearly impossible for the eye to see. We know what to look for, and if we peer at it close enough we will be able to tell without taking the frame apart. From a normal viewing distance however it is completely undetectable, silently working to protect your artwork without you even knowing it. 

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How does UV damage artwork?

The primary concern with UV exposure is the artwork fading over time, where the light over time degrades the ink. There are some printing processes that use what is called ‘Archival Ink’ which is designed to be fade resistant.

The secondary concern is the discolouration of the paper, ie paper turning yellow. Discolouration will happen whether you have a piece of art that is UV resistant or not. 


Why is it important to protect against UV damage?

We have no ozone layer in New Zealand, and just like our skin, our artwork suffers for it. No matter what kind of artwork you have, your print will likely be damaged by the sun in some way over time whether its a super bright room or not. Sometimes this process happens slowly over 10 years, sometimes in a matter of months, it entirely depends on the space its in. 

It is incredibly important if you have a piece that is special to you, either from a monetary perspective or a personal, to ensure that it is properly protected so it lasts. Our general rule of thumb is if you will be upset if it discolours, put UV glass on it just to be safe. It will give you the flexibility to hang it wherever you want during its life, be it a dimly lit hallway or a bright living room, with the peace of mind it will be safe. We choose to use high quality archival boards in all our frames, so in combination with a UV glass, your work will be perfectly protected from back to front. 

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What do I need to use UV glass on?

Things with a lot of red in them will fade really quickly as red is the least stable of all colours under UV stress. Newsprint, magazines or posters, anything printed cheaply using the offset printing process as these are meant to be very temporary forms of print and will not hold up long term without some protection to them. Leave a newspaper out in the sun for even a day with a coaster over a portion of it and you will see the paper starting to yellow around it. Even colourful fabrics and some paintings are susceptible to fading.

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Some pieces of art are protected from fading in and of themselves. Things printed with archival ink, or in the giclee printing style, are guaranteed by the ink companies to be resistant to fading for 100 years (not that anyone has been able to test that theory! But we will trust them). Screen prints typically have such thick layers of high quality ink that fading is not a huge concern there either. Same with oil paintings, so long as the paint is high quality, the colour is so thick it is unlikely to fade. 

Having said all that though, no matter whether your print is UV resistant in terms of fading or not, paper discolouration is a concern. We have seen things in bright spaces go yellow in less than a year where they don’t have some protective glass. Newspaper can even go yellow in a matter of days if left in direct sunlight. But even more than discolouration, this damage to the paper can turn it brittle overtime too.

What things do the team take into account when advising a customer on glass choice?

When considering whether you need UV glass or not, there are 5 very valuable points to consider:

  1. What kind of artwork is it? Will it fade really quickly?

  2. Is it valuable in terms of resale?

  3. Is it special to you (the customer)?

  4. Where is it going to hang?

  5. Are you working to a budget?

These are the questions we work through when advising you into choosing the right glass for your artwork. There is no hard and fast answer as to what needs UV glass or not because everyone is different. Your space and your needs out of a frame are as much a consideration as the artwork itself. Sometimes you don’t need UV glass, and we will tell you so, but more often than not if you want to have the piece around for a while, UV glass is a huge part of making that happen. 

Hopefully that answers your questions as to why UV glass is so important!

Let us know if you have any questions about glass choice either for upcoming projects, or if you have some pieces on the wall you’re concerned don’t, bring them in for us to check out! We can pull the frame apart and add a UV filtering glass for you.