What are the Different Types of Glass for Picture Frames?

Dan Cavallari

The three basic categories of glass for picture frames are clear glass, reduced reflection or non-glare glass, and anti-reflective glass. Each type of glass has a different appearance and can affect the photo or painting contained within in different ways. All three types of glass can be UV-protected to preserve the artwork or photos in the frame. Acrylic glass is also available, though this is not true glass and it can affect the way the picture is presented. Glass intended for use in picture frames can be cut to size for any frame, and custom glass can be cut, usually at a higher price than pre-cut pieces.

Many artists and galleries choose non-glare glass to prevent glare from blocking the image in any way during showings in galleries or museums.
Many artists and galleries choose non-glare glass to prevent glare from blocking the image in any way during showings in galleries or museums.

Clear glass for picture frames is lower quality glass that is not treated in any way, except for a possibly UV protectant. This is the least expensive option for picture framing glass, and it is just as durable as any other type of glass. The main difference between clear glass and other types of glass for picture frames is the amount of glare that will be present when light hits the frame. Clear glass is likely to produce a significant amount of glare when light shines directly on the picture, meaning it may be difficult to see the picture beneath. If the clear glass is coated with a UV protectant, it can still keep UV rays from damaging the picture beneath.

Reduced reflection or non-glare glass for picture frames reduces or eliminates glare altogether, meaning one will be able to see the picture within the frame clearly in all conditions. Many artists and galleries choose this type of glass to prevent glare from blocking the image in any way during showings in galleries or museums; lights are very often mounted directly above the hanging pictures, meaning glare can be an issue. This type of glass costs more than clear glass.

Anti-reflective glass, sometimes known as museum glass, is also a glare-resistant glass, but it also reduces any reflections that may be seen in the glass. This creates an almost perfectly clear glass that does not interfere in any way with viewing of the picture within the frame. Of the three types of glass available, this is the most expensive by far. It, too, can be UV-protected to prevent the picture within the frame from being damaged over time by UV rays. Museums and other establishments that want superior protection and display will choose this type of glass over other offerings.

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Discussion Comments


I am a custom picture framer. This article really doesn't tell the whole story about the types of glass available. The key function of glass over paper or fabric artwork is to protect it from moisture, bugs, dust, smoke, or what have you. However, glazing can harm a work of art if it is allowed to rest directly on the photo, painting, print, poster. Buy a mat or ask your framer to install glass spacers.

Types of glazing: Regular clear: no UV protection or reflection control, inexpensive.

Conservation glass: UV protection, no reflection control, mid-range cost.

Reflection control: Old school, fuzzy, stuff is the old technology. Ask for Tru-Vue Anti Reflective glass. It cuts the glare without compromising the image quality. It is higher cost, and requires special cleaning. It has about 80 percent UV protection.

Museum glass: Amazing stuff! Reduces glare and has 100 percent UV protection. Expensive, but worth it in terms of protecting and enjoying your photos and artwork.

Also, a word on acrylic: If you are dealing with framer's grade, there is no compromise on the image quality at all; it is as clear as glass with a fraction of the weight and does not pose the danger of breaking. Great choice when shipping something or for art hanging in a child's room.

All light fades your artwork and photos, not just direct sunlight. Protect it and enjoy it for generations.


So that's how art galleries can pull off being so picky about light placement while still framing things in glass! Technology's so cool; glass is reflective by nature, so of course people have come up with a way to keep it from reflecting. Making things do things they naturally don't do is pretty much what science does for technology.

The UV protection and anti-reflective properties in the glass types described here sounds like the very same technology used in my eyeglasses.

I got one of those fancy pairs that tints its lenses dark like sunglasses in bright light and goes transparent in dim light or indoors. My eye doctor said they're anti-reflective (for photos to prevent problems with glare, mostly) and protect my eyes from UV rays, so it's the same stuff, right?


The information in this article about getting picture frame glass custom cut reminds me of a dilemma I had a few years ago. I found this really cool picture frame at a thrift store, but the glass was all scratched, so I needed to get new glass. The only problem? It was a round picture frame.

Round picture frames make glass replacement a whole lot more difficult than your average rectangular picture frame. Most stores only seem to sell the rectangular glass for replacements, and in the end I had to go to a hardware store and order a custom cut piece of glass that would have been used for window panes.

Back then I wasn't aware that picture frame glass is specially made to protect the photos inside from UV rays and to reduce glare. Now I'm tempted to go see if there are any window pane glass types at the hardware store that is made for the same things -- I wouldn't put it past the fancy window makers these days.

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