Can An Oil Painting Be Put Behind Glass?

Can An Oil Painting Be Put Behind GlassDisplaying your art is half of the fun and you’d probably like to know the answer to the following… Can an oil painting be put behind glass? The answer is yes, but it’s best to do this only with very old oil paintings. Oil paints dry different from other paints, in a slow process of oxidization and curing, so you should wait at least 6 months to a year before even varnishing it. With glass, you risk trapping moisture inside, and you definitely don’t want that.

In this article we’ll talk a little more about putting oil paintings behind glass, places you should avoid hanging oil paintings, and whether or not it’s a good idea to put canvas in a frame with glass.

Let’s get started!

Why don’t you put oil paintings behind glass?Why don't you put oil paintings behind glass

While you could certainly do it, it’s not very common to display your oils behind glass. From an aesthetics perspective, that’s an extra layer between you and the work, but there are some more practical concerns.

Damage can occur if the glass is close enough to touch the paint, for one thing, and for another, moisture and dust can get trapped inside and do a bit of damage. You can avoid the glass touching the paint by incorporating a spacer, but the moisture and dust bit is still a concern.

Finally, if the painting is already varnished, why bother with glass at all? Varnish will protect the painting from water and UV rays, leaving you to only have to deal with the occasional dust, making the addition of glass kind pointless.

It will also reflect in weird ways if anyone tries to photograph your work, too, so there’s also that. If you have an extremely old oil painting, then glass might be considered for a little extra protection, but otherwise there’s really not a whole lot of good reasons to put your oil painting behind glass.

Where should you not hang an oil painting?

Where should you not hang an oil paintingWhen you are deciding where you want your oil paintings to go, there are a few definite no-no’s that you will want to avoid so that you don’t risk inadvertently damaging them. Below I’ve listed some places that you should avoid if you like your painting:

  • Above the mantel – While a painting might like great above the mantel, you really don’t want to put an oil painting there. Heat is sneaky and there is no guarantee that damage isn’t going to inadvertently occur over time. Even with special frames, I wouldn’t trust it, and I can’t recommend that you do either.
  • Near a radiator or heater – By the same token, too close to a radiator, heating vent, or your favorite spot for a space heater is also bad idea. Same principle, basically, boiling down to ‘heat is bad for your painting, keep it away.’
  • Direct sunlight – While your varnish provides UV protection, never underestimate what the sun can do. If the UV protection wears down enough, then sunlight gets to work on the rest of your varnish and the binders in your oils. This is a one-way ticket to cracking. If you must put it in sunlight, treat the window glass for added UV protection.
  • In a bathroom – Places with a lot of humidity, such as the bathroom or your kitchen, are not a good place for your oil paintings. If you live somewhere that is often humid, such as Florida or Louisiana, invest in a dehumidifier. The last thing anyone needs is mold and mildew attacking their art.


Can you put canvas in a frame with glass?Can you put canvas in a frame with glass

You could, but it might detract from the work and there’s always the risk of the glass touching the paint, trapping moisture, or otherwise damaging the canvas. As far as detracting from the work, that extra layer of glass makes it harder to appreciate some of the finer textures and brushstrokes, giving a bit of glare even if there’s enough surrounding light.

So, you CAN put it in a frame with glass, but why bother? It looks better and it’s still protected without that shiny, unnecessary, and quite breakable glass.

Some closing comments

That concludes our little foray into the world of do’s and don’t with hanging and framing your oil paintings. While you can certainly put oil behind glass, it’s not recommended due to slow drying and curing times and the possibility of getting moisture and dirt trapped inside. It’s much better to let the paint cure, varnish it well, and then frame it – just leave the glass out of it.

If you still want to frame your oil behind glass, there’s a 3rd party link that can give you a little more detail on what can happen and you can find it here.

Whatever you decide, just be very careful about it, and I hope that the finished look is absolutely amazing!