Can you frame a watercolor painting without glass?

Watercolor paintings are quite expensive to frame with glass, and it is quite difficult to purchase glass online. Could you frame a watercolor painting with something else?

Watercolor paintings do not need to be framed with glass. As an alternative, acrylic glass would be a good choice since it’s cheaper and doesn’t break as easily. Glass does add value to a watercolor painting, however, since it makes it look far more professional. In other words, there is a trade off between a lower price and a better appearance.

An alternative to glass

When it comes to framing paintings, acrylic glass is probably the most popular alternative to regular glass.

As it is basically just plastic, it is much cheaper and doesn’t require too much caution. It won’t break easily, unlike glass, which can be quite fragile.

Framing acrylic glass is pretty similar to framing normal glass, so there aren’t many differences.

As far as the usefulness of framing your painting with acrylic versus normal glass is concerned, it’s pretty much the same. Both aren’t particularly good at protecting the painting from UV rays, but can handle dust and oils just fine.

It all comes down to your budget, preferences, and use cases. More on that in the following sections.

For a more detailed and in-depth guide regarding the question whether you can laminate watercolor paintings, you should read this article about it.

Why you should consider framing your painting with glass

So, while normal glass generally provides the same protection for paintings as acrylic glass, there are certainly situations when you might want to use it.

This is probably the most important scenario, where glass will be absolutely necessary. If a painting is framed with acrylic glass, many galleries don’t even consider it, as it appears cheap. 

Think about a person who visits a gallery and sees many different paintings. In a hypothetical situation where all of them are of equal value, the ones with real glass will always appear better.

That’s just the way humans perceive those kinds of things, so don’t cut corners there.

Trying to sell the painting

The previous point goes hand in hand with this one. If you intend to sell your painting to someone and want it to appear professional and of high quality, you should use glass.

It simply adds so much value to a painting and may attract other buyers.

Giving the painting as a gift

This is a tricky one. You should definitely use glass if your painting is intended to be hung somewhere.

Glass frames just add so much to a painting, as I have mentioned twice now.

Alternatively, if it’s just something small to place on a table or something similar, an acrylic glass will also suffice.

Obviously, it also depends on who you’re gifting it to and what their style is, so just go by that.

Speaking of gifting and selling paintings, I would also advise reading my guide on how to ship watercolor paintings.

watercolor brushes next to watercolor paint

Framing a watercolor painting: things to watch out for

There are quite a few things to do wrong with such a seemingly simple task, so I have written a more detailed guide on this topic.

Click here for more information.

Here’s a quick recap of the most important points.

Never forget to space a painting off the glass.

When framed, a painting should never touch the glass. The result would be the same whether the glass is acrylic or normal.

Since there is often a lot of humidity in the air, not spacing your painting off the glass can cause it to mold over time.

Even though this happens very rarely, it is still very important. After all, no one wants to own a moldy painting.

I would suggest using a matte frame. There are tons of cheap options, which add to the painting’s aesthetic and protect them at the same time, so you should use one of those for every single painting you frame.

The crucial aspect of UV-light

When a watercolor painting is exposed to UV rays or sunlight, its quality will deteriorate over time. Slowly, the paint will fade and the paper will become yellow and crumbly.

Especially when it comes to very valuable paintings, such as ones you have purchased or received as a gift, this is a problem. You wouldn’t want those to be destroyed by sunlight, just because you weren’t careful enough.

There is UV-filtered glass that you can buy. To some extent, it can protect the painting, but it isn’t a sufficient protection over the long run.

If you have the budget, you should absolutely consider using one in order to maintain your painting’s quality.

I will now discuss another important factor that plays hand in hand with the issue of UV-light.

If you were wondering, why watercolor paper is so expensive, you can find out by reading this post about it.

What is the best place to hang your painting?

A key decision like this can prevent a great deal of damage to a painting over time. 

The place where you hang a painting can either ruin it or ensure its longevity for a long time, while still being seen by everyone.

Ideally, you want to find a wall or a section of a wall that is rarely exposed to the sun.

It could be the walls with windows, since the light coming in won’t be able to hit the painting directly.

As a rule of thumb, sunlight should bounce off another surface before hitting the painting.

It’s best to choose a sunny day, pick a couple of potential spots to hang the painting and check it every hour of the day.

If it never gets exposed to sunlight, you’re good to go.

Also, you shouldn’t hang your paintings in the bathroom or kitchen, as those areas can get very humid and oily over time, so I strongly advise against it.

If your basement is a rather humid part of your home, painting shouldn’t be placed there either, as this might cause the painting to mold, as I mentioned earlier.

If you’d like to learn more about watercolor painting, I would advise reading Why Sealing Your Watercolor Painting With Hairspray Will Ruin It and Are Watercolor Paints Toxic To Dogs.


Watercolor paintings do not need to be framed with glass. Acrylic/Plexiglass is an excellent, budget-friendly alternative to regular glass. However, if you plan on selling the painting, you should definitely use glass, as it greatly improves its appearance and aesthetic.

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