Lighting and Cleaning of Watercolors

How to Care for your Watercolors: Part Three

Q: How should I light a watercolor?

First, we recommend lighting your artwork either with ceiling lighting or, if the frame allows, with a good picture light. Ceiling light angled at 30 degrees will often dissipate the glare, particularly at night. We caution against the use of fluorescent and halogen lighting which emit harmful amounts of ultraviolet light. If you choose halogen bulbs, use an ultraviolet (UV) filter.

Second, UV-filtering museum glass is available with a non-reflective, non-distorting surface which we highly recommend for most works on paper. There is still some distortion, however, which may cause a small amount of blurring in small, highly detailed works.

For step-by-step instructions on how to install a picture light and switch, please click here

Q: How should I keep the UV-protective plexiglass and glass free of dust and streaks?

Household glass cleaners, such as Windex, should never be used on plexiglass! It will scratch the surface and cause it to yellow over time. Clean only with a mild solution of detergent and water or with special plastic cleaner using an especially soft cloth. First, remove your artwork from the wall and lay it flat. Apply cleaner to the cloth instead of directly onto the surface to avoid liquid running under the surface, and then buff until clear.

Reflection-control glass also requires a special cleaning solution. Your framer will suggest a cleaner for your particular type of non-glare glass.

Q: I like the light and airy feeling of watercolors. Can I hang them in my beach house?

If your beach house is climate-controlled, you’re all set. Otherwise, no! Humidity, along with air pollution, dust and temperature changes can all deteriorate paper. Ideally, temperatures should be kept fairly constant, below 75 degrees at a relative humidity of 50 to 65 percent, in no case going below 30 percent. The use of humidifiers and de-humidifiers can be appropriate aids in maintaining a proper environment. In caring for all art work, extreme fluctuations of temperature or humidity should be avoided.

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