There are many choices to consider when framing your paper artwork, from which glass to use to the more decorative elements.

Not only is it important to display your painting, drawing or print in a conservation safe manner, but to elevate the beauty and importance of the piece an appropriate mount. Our conservators create washlines and mount details by hand in our studio. These traditional lines can be selected from our catalogue or created especially for your artwork.


Decorative mounts have accompanied artworks on paper for hundreds of years. Some of these begin to form part of the artwork itself due to its historic and artistic value, whilst others have been added at a later date. This article will look into the many styles available from our team.

Mount washlinesAbove: a selection of mount styles available from our conservators

Historically, paper artworks such as engravings and etchings were kept by collectors in the pages of books for safety. Later, they began decorating the surrounding mount with complimentary colours, gold leaf and illustrative borders.

This enhanced the beauty of the artwork, whether this was to simply appreciate the piece further, achieve a higher sale price, or elevate the importance of an aristocrat’s prized collection. Some washlines and decorative mount elements may have been added by the artist themselves.  Wooblock print illustration washlines

You may find that an old mountboard has caused staining to your watercolour or print over time, darkening and yellowing the affected paper. This will require conservation treatment to gently remove the stain and contaminants and the original mount may need to be discarded to protect the artwork going forwards.

Historic watercoloursAbove: historic washline mounts on watercolours

When paper is acid stained or requires a clean mount, our team can expertly recreate the washline or details of the original on safe, acid-free mountboard. This will allow the artwork to retain its original display whilst preserving the paper within conservation approved materials. 

Before and after restoration of boat watercolourAbove: a watercolour painting with acid staining before and after restoration by our paper conservator

Framing watercolours, gouache, chalk and pastels

Any work on paper that has pigment sitting upon the surface requires distance from the glass to prevent it sticking or becoming abraded. Whilst one mount board layer may be enough, we often use two or three layered mounts on these artworks for extra protection and for the three dimensional aesthetic this provides within a frame. Traditional washlines are often the most effective detail to add to a historic watercolour, chalk or pastel artwork. These can pick out the colours of the composition and enhance the overall display by doing so. 

Pastel mount

Gilt lines may also provide the work with an extra special flourish, especially if they are from a highly decorative era such as the baroque or rococo. A fine gold line may also suit artworks from the Regency and Victorian periods, in keeping with a fashionable 19th century neoclassical or neo-gothic aesthetic. 

Chalk drawing mount washline

Simple colour lines may suit modern or contemporary watercolour paintings and pastel drawings, as well as prints after such artworks. We have a range of simple lines named after artists of the impressionist genre due to their bold use of colour within their compositions. When a modern piece is full of bright and dynamic tones, we recommend that only a simple mount decoration such as our impressionist lines are used. 


Framing engravings, etchings, mezzotints and lithographs

Monotone prints from the era of Albrecht Durer onwards may benefit from a traditional washline. These historically important and often valuable artworks may appear unassuming to the untrained eye, so the use of a decorative mount is often key in presenting them in all of the grandeur they deserve.  

Engraving washline

We recommend that engravings and similar prints have a washline with a neutral tone or gilt lines with a mixture of thick or thin black lines to compliment the lines of the print. Our team can put a portfolio of options together for you to choose from, helping you to decide upon the best presentation.

Etching washline

Modern monotone prints may benefit from a bold and stylish line surrounding them. We have a selection in our catalogue of traditional and contemporary mount lines to choose from, to suit even the most contemporary lithographs.

Modern print washline

Framing Japanese woodblock prints

Japanese woodblock prints may have very sensitive materials, it is extremely important that they are kept within a conservation appropriate mount. We recommend that woodblock prints are framed with double or triple mount layers for added protection. Due to their highly illustrative compositions, our team has created simple line decorations to especially suit Japanese prints. You can choose from these traditional borders or modern lines to enhance the linework of woodblock art.

Japanese washline

How can we help?

If you have a bespoke mount detail in mind that you would like our conservators to create or would like to choose from our selection, please get in touch for a customised portfolio to suit your artwork and requirements.

To make contact please email us via [email protected] or call 0207 112 7576

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