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When considering framing a valuable piece of artwork—or even just scrapbooking—you may have run across the term ‘acid-free’ when it comes to matboard and papers.  It’s hard to imagine that something that looks like cardboard could be damaging to your piece.

An example of foxing, or discoloration, from a standard mat.
An example of foxing (discoloration) from a standard mat.

In actuality, matboard is made from two basic types of pulp: wood pulp and cotton pulp.  Wood naturally contains acid and lignin (a substance that converts to acid), which over time can transfer to the artwork and cause damage. Cotton pulp is naturally acid-free and lignin-free.

Our supplier, Crescent Cardboard, has conveniently broken down the three categories of matboard into Good, Better, and Best and explained the difference.


Considered ‘decorative’, these wood-pulp matboards, have been treated with calcium carbonate to temporarily buffer the acid in the wood . . . making them pH neutral. But lignin remains, and will eventually convert to acid once the calcium carbonate breaks down.


Matboards in this category are constructed of alpha-cellulose, or wood pulp that has both acid and lignin removed.  This process explains why they are a more expensive option. They provide the minimum levels of conservation framing and are recommended for fine art prints, limited edition prints, valuable documents and original photography.


This quality of matboard—made of 100% cotton, or rag—meet the requirements for museum-quality framing.  We recommend BEST matboards for any valuable works of original art, historical documents, original photography and heirloom needlework.

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About the Author : Alethea Barras

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