Picture Frame Glass- 101

Picture frame glass is not typically high on the list when you start learning how to make your own frames. Once you reach the stage of needing it though, it can cause a bit of a dilemma. 

Questions pop up about real glass versus plexi-glass, standard glass or UV protected glass, where can you get glass cut or can you cut your own?

These are just a few. There will be         more, trust me.... 

But don't let doubt shatter your               confidence!

I'm putting together some pages here     with cutting edge info!  OK, enough with the bad puns!!  

Below you'll find the basics you need to know to get started. 

I've added a page on how to cut your own glass, along with pictures and a video. Check-it out here.

Picture Frame Glass - options

Each type of picture frame glass has pros and cons and is used for different purposes. Below is a chart that will help you figure out what makes most sense for you and the project you are working on. 

Basic (clear) Glass


  • Cheap
  • Easy to get
  • Easy to clean
  • Hardest to scratch


  • Heavy
  • Lower UV protection (approximately 50% blocked)
  • Safety - when using large pieces

When having custom frames made or talking to most, if not all, professional framers one thing they will tell you is that basic glass is not usually recommended for framing.

While this may be accurate in many cases, it is not accurate in ALL cases. Many of the things that we may make frames for are not museum quality and are not intended to last for 30 years etc...

Conservation Glass 


  • Highest UV protection available                               (approximately 99% blocked)
  • Harder to scratch than Acrylic


  • More expensive
  • Heavy
  • More caution needed when cleaning
  • Scratches a bit more easily than basic glass 
  • Safety - when using larger pieces

As mentioned above, standard glass blocks approximately 50% of UV rays (the industry standard is 97%). Depending on where you hang the frame (avoid placing near windows or in well lighted areas) it may not be exposed to as much anyway. As for sun light, keep in mind that the windows the sun light comes in through block about 50% of the UV light before it enters the room. 

Museum Glass


  • Highest UV protection available                           (approximately 99% blocked)          
  • Also treated with non-reflective coating so the art work has the most visible and clear appearance under glass as possible.


  • Most Expensive
  • Heavy
  • More caution needed when cleaning
  • Scratches a bit more easily than basic glass because of the UV and reflective coating
  • Safety - when using larger pieces

I'm not suggesting you should never use the more expensive types of protective glass, I'm just suggesting you think about the value (financial and sentimental), the intended longevity, where you're hanging the frame and the budget you are working with when deciding. In many cases, standard glass may well be the answer for your project.



  • Safety
  • Light weight compared to glass


  • More expensive than basic glass
  • Hard to clean (static charge builds quickly causing dust and particles to cling to the glass)
  • Scratches VERY easily

So there you have it. You now know about the different types of picture frame glass you have access to and the pros and cons of each! Use this info to decide what's right for your project.

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Helpful Definitions

Glazing - a general term used in the picture framing industry when referring to the glass used in a frame - no matter what type is used.

Acrylic - glazing made of plastic, better known as plexi-glass (did you know that plexi-glass is an actual brand name?

Lites - this is a term used in the industry when referring to a specific number of pieces of glazing - for example: a case contains 24 lites.

UV Protection - Ultra violet rays from sun light or indoor lighting can fade colors and break down artwork over time. UV protection reperesents how much of the ultra violet rays are filtered out by the glazing used in the frame. The higher the %, the more protection it offers.

Non-Glare Glass - Light shining on standard glass causes a lot of glare that sometimes makes viewing the artwork difficult from certain angles. Glass that is treated with a reflective coating can cut down or eliminate the glare completely.

Where to buy Glass

Basic glass can be purchased at any hardware store or glass company. Simply tell them what size you need and they will cut it for you. 

Conservation, reflective and museum grade glass can be found at most art stores.If you do a search for glass suppliers in your area you will find a number of locations to get it. 

Want to cut your own?

I published some info and a video covering what you need to know and how to cut your own glass.

Check it out here.

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