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Caring For Your Artwork

What to do about displaying your paintings

The common place to hang a painting is on a wall. However, there are places on the wall which are bad for hanging paintings and ones which are better for preserving your painting. The best place to hang a painting is on a wall which has a wall stud where you can securely anchor the wall hooks, away from any heat source, in a place that is relatively stable and has reasonable humidity and not in direct sunlight.

Dirt and Heat

Heat dries out the material of the painting, speeding up the process of natural aging. Also, as hot air rises it carries dirt with it. Thus, a painting above a heat source will experience far more grime than is normal for the rest of the room.  Heat sources can also soften paint. Dirt and debris can easily trap itself in the softened paint and varnish.

It is not advised to hang paintings over fireplaces. In addition to the damage caused by the radiating heat, soot and smoke damage will permanently darken and alter the tone of the painting, especially if the painting is unprimed and unvarnished. 


Moisture will weaken the adhesion of the paint layers and eventually cause paint loss. The support and ground (background surface/ canvas), are the most sensitive components of the painting to water damage. If damage to the support and ground are pervasive, further damage to the paint and varnish may occur.


Low or high relative humidity as well as rapid changes in relative humidity are not good for paintings. Low relative humidity tends to minimize chemical change. However, it also tends to make the paint brittle and prone to mechanical damage.  Although high relatvive humidity tends to minimize mechanical damange, it tends to promote the growth of biological organisims. 

Too much change in relative humidity is especially bad for wooden panel paintings. In response to fluctuations of humidity and the shielding effect of the paint layer on top, the wooden panel has a tendency to slowly form a concave shape. Historically, restorers have flattened the wood panel; however, in time, this procedure has caused the paint layer on the other side to flake off.  Conservators have since recommended that one should avoid applying excess pressure to constrain the natural tendency of wood to curve.


As a rule of thumb, ultraviolet light should be kept away from paintings, especially in display and storage.  Fugitive dyes and colorants used in the paints will eventually discolor under exposure to ultraviolet light. The fading of pigments and dyes in paintings will affect the color balance of the image. The intensity and wavelengths of light used in displaying graphic art is generally safe for paintings.

How to deal with dust

Provided that there are no signs of loose or flaking paint, a painting may be safely dusted using a clean, soft, natural-hair artists' brush (3.5cm to 5cm tip).  The painting should be positioned on a clean padded surface and held upright at a forward angle so the dust falls away from the face of the painting.  Brushing is carried out slowly and gently in one direction across or down the painting followed by a second brushing in the opposite direction.

Brushing painting having a matte surface (lean in binder or loaded with pigments) may burnish the painting and leave an undesirable glossy, permanent imprint. In this case, brushing should be avoided.

  • dry or moist dust cloths,
  • stiff bristle brushes,
  • or feather dusters to dust a painting.
Threads from dust cloths may catch on areas of raised paint, moisture may cause subsequent loss of paint, and both bristle-haired brushes and feather dusters can scratch the surface of a painting.