Art can be intimidating partly because it has its own language that may seem foreign. Here are some of the terms you'll hear used when discussing artwork:

Decorative Art | Fine Art | Framing
Decorative Art
Bottom Weigh
The technique of making the bottom of the mat slightly larger than the top and sides to weight the picture down. Not used as much currently, but still sometimes requested, particularly on signed/numbered pieces and other graphics.
Canvas Transfer
The process of taking a poster and transferring it with an emulsion to a sheet of prepared canvas. This techniques gives the poster the illusion of being painted on canvas. (Several techniques can also be applied that can give either an aged/cracked look or simulate brushstrokes).

Decorative Reproductions
Another term used interchangeably with posters, that is, artwork reproduced in unlimited quantities for decorative use. Though they are not produced as "limited", they often do go out of print since the initial run may be only 3,000-5,000. As these are sold, the artist or publisher may choose not to reprint the poster, in preference to another work by the artist to create "something new."

Finished Size
The size of the art piece before the width of the frame is figured in.

Image size
What's going to be showing on the poster or where the matting stops and the artwork begins. Typically the image size will be 6" smaller in both dimensions than the final size, when you put 3" matting all around.

A term originally used to identify those art pieces created to advertise an event or a location. Some of the earliest examples were the posters created by Toulouse-Lautrec for the Paris dance halls. Now this term designates any art piece produced as a decorative print, often not connected to any museum showing or event, but exclusively created for the buying public.
Tight poster
This is the term used when no mats are going to be used in framing. It indicates that the entire poster, including all the words, will be showing.

Window Size
The size of the image that will show with any borders or bottom weighting. The same as image size.


Fine Art

100% Cotton Fiber
A paper that is often used in printing fine art because of its purity and longevity.

Acid Free
All components of rag mat board are completely acid-free and do not contain alum or lignin. The board is buffered with calcium carbonate, resulting in a pH of 8.5 to 9.5, according to independent laboratory test results.

A term used to describe conservation quality art and framing materials.

A plastic-based painting medium which, because it is water-soluble, dries quickly and cleans up easily. Effects range from translucent watercolor-like washes to opaque hard edges in bright colors.

Banner Art
Large scale colorful sheets of nylon sewn into shapes which hang or drape across large expanses such atriums and cathedral ceilings.

Louise Kodis
Color photographic print produced from a color negative.

Cast Glass
Unlike kiln forming, which used existing sheets, cast glass starts with glass in a liquid state which is poured into a sand mold or form. Its main advantages are the thickness of glass which can be achieved, and the variety of colors available.

Color photographic print produced from a color transparency.

The gluing together of bits and pieces of originally unrelated images and parts thereof, including previously used commercial materials, to create something unprecedented. This term is also used when diverse elements are mounted and framed together, as in a shadowbox treatment.
Fiber used to make the finest types of paper and mat boards because it is the purest form of natural cellulose. Cotton rag is strong, requires less processing, has a history of performance and it is an annually renewable resource, making it a better product for our planet.
Etched glass
Glass in which an image is made by masking and then sandblasting surfaces. All sorts of patterns, designs and lettering can be frosted on glass, making it ideal for dividers, walls and signage.

Kathy Bradford
Original graphic prints made by scratching, incising or eroding the surface of a flat sheet of metal to create indentations. The plate is then placed in an acid bath that eats away at the incisions scraped into the plate. The plate is inked to allow the indentations to hold ink and the rest of the plate to be wiped clean, and a print is then taken on paper using a press. One common characteristic of etchings is an indentation, which is the mark of the plate pressed into the paper as the plate and paper together move through the rollers of the press. The enormous pressure involved forces the damp, therefore softened paper to extract the ink from the lines and other marks etched into the surface on the plate. This indentation has become its trademark.

Joyce Carey
Fiber art
Art made with thread, yarn, or fabric such as in weaving. Some fiber artists can create extremely large and complex pieces for use in corporate and health care settings.
Giclee/Iris Print/Digital Print
The word Giclee is a French word meaning 'fine spray', which is what an inkjet printer does as it prints this type of art. An original is produced and entered into a computer through a digital scan. The giclee process then is digital printmaking with an iris printer that uses minute droplets of ink to create prints that cannot be duplicated by other printing techniques. Because there is no visible dot screen pattern, the resulting image has all of the subtle tonalities of the original art. Each dot may have over 4 billion possible colors! This produces exceptional museum quality prints. The entire giclee movement is only about 3-4 years old and has allowed many artists to experiment with printmaking that were not involved before. It permits the artist to make the artwork any size and to print on any substrate or type of paper or canvas in very small quantities at any one time.

Hand colored photographs
Black and white photographs painted over with oils, watercolors, or special pencils, which give the photograph a nostalgic look. (B/W photographs were hand colored before the advent of color photography)

Hand Made Paper
This process takes advantage of the ability of plant cell fibers (cellulose) to adhere to each other when a watery pulp made from the fibers is spread on a screen called a deckle and dried. When the pulp is poured onto a deckle, the water drains away and the fibers begin to bind together. The paper layer is then passed through either a series of rollers that dry, press and smooth it, or dried individually by first being pressed together on felt sheets, and then air dried. Fine artists will often make their own paper to create unique pieces.

Kiln-formed glass
Flat glass that has been heated just enough to cause it to slump or sag over molds, giving it a sculptural, bas-relief effect quite unlike any other form of glass. The glass surface retains a smooth finish, while the underside picks up the texture of the mold material.

Laminated glass
Glass made with tinted or screen-printed interlayers. Rice paper or other thin materials can be sandwiched between glass layers. Multiple colors can be added to the PVB interlayer itself, and any type of design can be silk-screened on, including even the halftone dot patterns of photographs.

Limited Edition Print
Such prints are done photographically from an original in another medium, such as watercolor or oil. There is really no limit to the amount of prints which can be made since it is entirely a printing process. The artist will generally sign and number the print in pencil at the bottom of the image.

A planographic printing process. The printing and non-printing areas lie in the same plane. The natural antipathy between grease and water is the fundamental principle of lithography. A drawing is done on a zinc plate with grease pencils; the plate is then inked with a water-based ink which repels the grease. An indication of a lithography print is how the ink sits on the paper. It appears to be on top of the paper and has a flat, even consistency, with little variation in ink application.

One of a series of prints in which each has some difference of color, design, texture, etc. applied to an underlying common image. Will have a number 1/1 in pencil on the print to indicate it is a unique piece of art.

A one-of-a-kind print made by painting on a smooth metal, glass, plexi-glass or stone plate and then printing on paper. The pressure of printing creates a texture not possible when painting directly on paper. Will have a number 1/1 in pencil on the print to indicate it is a unique piece of art.

A picture or design made of tiny pieces called tesserae of colored stone, glass or tile or paper adhered to a surface.

An image created on paper, canvas, masonite, wood, or furniture made by dispersing a pigmented liquid called a vehicle, which includes a binder to make it adhere both to itself and to the surface to which it is applied. Types of paint include tempera, watercolor, acrylic, gouache, enamel, encaustic, fresco and secco.

Pigments mixed with gum and pressed into a stick form for use as crayons. Pastels have a chalk appearance and must be sprayed with a fixative before they are framed.

Rag Mat
A mat whose core and backing paper are made of 100% cotton fiber.

Relief Printing
Exploits the surface characteristics of almost any material. Traditionally, these particular characteristics have come from the gouging, cutting or carving out of the surface of a wood block, be it fine or coarse-grained. Recently "found" objects such as corroded metal, eroded wood and other natural surfaces, which contain disparate elements, are inked up and brought together in one work. The surface of the print can possibly have variations in surface texture. The inked areas may be raised to accommodate the large textured objects.

Screen Printing/ Silk Screen/Serigraphs
Prints made by squeegeeing ink through a fine mesh screen. The white areas of the image are painted with a substance which hardens and so prevents the paint from passing through. Once a screen is complete, it is placed in its frame above the piece of paper or other material to be printed. A thick layer of ink is ranged along the far edge of the screen and is drawn across by means of a squeegee, which forces it through all the open areas of the mesh. The squeegee consists of a long flexible blade, which in essence is like the windscreen wiper of a car. The blade pushes the ink into the many tiny interstices of the mesh, but at the same time wipes away any ink remaining above the mesh. The result, when the mesh is lifted, is a complete flat skin of ink on the paper, often showing a ridge where one color overlaps another. A separate screen is made for each color of ink used in the print. Although silk-screens have a flat appearance, you can tell them from lithographs by the slight layered texture each ink color builds upon the next.

photo courtesy of Winn/Devon
A three dimensional work of art.Such works may be carved, molded, constructed or cast.

Signed and Numbered
Refers to a print from a limited edition run. Generally, all limited edition prints are numbered as a fraction with the top digit being that particular print's number and the bottom digit being the total size of the edition. The artist will generally sign in pencil at the bottom of the print as well.

Silver gelatin print
Rag paper coated with silver halides suspended in a gelatin emulsion, used to produce black and white photographs.

Pigment in a water-soluble medium, handled as a wash. Most watercolors are quite translucent and exploit effects such as reserve highlights and the appearance of spontaneous and rapid execution.

photo courtesy of Portfolio Graphics

A visual space around an image, usually 1/2 inch to an inch. A border is needed when a piece is signed and numbered to expose these elements.
Closed V-groove
A technique where the top mat is cut in a V shape through the top color layer only exposing the core color (usually white). You can use this technique to cut decorative patterns and shapes which enhance the framing the picture.

Double Mat
Layering two colored paper mats on top of each other, allowing the bottom mat (mat closest to the image) to have a 1/4 -1/2 inch reveal.

Small strips of framing material that look like mini-frames that can be layered with mats to give the effect of frames within a frame. Very popular with more traditional pieces. Can be either wood, polystyrene or wrapped foam core.
Foam Core
Backing material used in framing for its rigidity and strength. It is usually pure white and about .25" thick. It can be used to adhere posters and prints so as to prevent rippling.
Linen Liner
A piece of linen fabric wrapped around a wood core which fits inside the rabbet of a larger outer frame. This takes the place of paper mats and is often used with paintings or canvas transfers.
Thin cardboard-like substance with a colored surface. Can be made of rag for finer art pieces or paper for decorative purposes. Comes in many patterns and colors, including ones that simulate leather, grasscloth, moire fabric, suede, and denim. A recent trend is toward neutral mats with embossed designs on them for a rich, textural feel. Typically framing uses either single or double mats with the inner mat (the one nearest the artwork) cut at .25".
The raw materials that frames are created from. Can be wood, metal or polystyrene.

Museum Mounting
Adhering fine art to museum quality rag mat board with archival glues, acid-free stamp corners, or linen tape. Typically costs around $30-$50 more and is only advised on original art.

An option for both plexi and regular glass. Has much higher UV protection than the regular versions but will appear to have a matte finish if viewed from the side as opposed to straight on, so we don't recommend it for hallways where pictures will be viewed mainly from the side.

A technique where the top mat is cut in a channel all the way through to expose the mat color underneath.
Any image that exceeds a final dimension of 30" x 40". By exceeding these measurements, you must now select specialty matboard (40 x 60"), ship via truck rather than UPS, and usually move from glass to acrylic facing.
Plaque Mounts
A process of taking decorative images and having them laminated to masonite with colored bevel edges. These images are perfect for high security psychiatric units where safety is an issue or in pediatric/juvenile wards where the ability to keep artwork clean is an issue. They are mounted directly to the wall with screws and washer into pre-drilled holes in the four corners.
An alternative to glass, plexi is a clear plastic substance that is perfect for healthcare facilities where breakage could be an issue but it is very easily scratched and needs to be properly cared for. It offers 97% UV protection, making it a good choice when artwork receives a lot of direct sunlight and its light weight makes it advisable for larger, oversize pieces.

A term used to describe frame moulding that is made from plastic. It is commonly used for budget jobs like guestroom art due to its low price point. However, it has bowing problems in larger sizes.

The indentation on a piece of frame moulding where the glass, mats, image and foam core sits. It is usually about a 1/4 inch wide and anywhere from 1/2 inch to an inch deep.

Security System
A hanging system used to secure artwork directly to the wall. We use a three point system with a locking T-screw.
Shadow Box
A deep frame which can accommodate 3-dimensional objects. One common use is in Assisted living and Senior Care facilities, where such a frame can be placed outside each resident's door to be filled with personal items. This is useful in helping them find their rooms and in creating conversations with other residents. More elaborate shadow boxes can be fashioned which reflect a particular theme through the use of various memorabilia mounted together in special ways (see our Case Studies under the "about us" section for an example of a quite unique creation.)

Tear & Float
A process whereby the image is hand torn to look like it has the deckled edge of a fine art original. It is then mounted on a piece of 1/4 inch foam core above the bottom mat to look like it is floating.

Wire Hanging
A hanging system where the image is suspended on the wall by a tension wire attached to both sides of the back of the frame and hung on a hook nailed to the wall. This allows for more flexibility but is not advised in a high traffic or high security environment.