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The Framer's Workshop - Custom & DIY Picture Framing,
Oversize Printing & Digital Restoration

2439 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA 94704 • (510)  849–4444
Hours: Mon - Sat: 10 - 6 Sun: Noon - 6

FIrst hour FREE Parking Above Our Shop! $2 per hour after the first hour, up to 4 hours.

Framing Animation Cels

Preservation Framing & Handling of Animation Cels

Animation Cel Framing Example
Collectible animation cels are fragile and require special handling and framing.

Animation cels, or celluloids used in film production prior to computer animation, are transparant sheets of cellulose on which pictures were outlined with ink on one side and then painted by hand on the reverse. Since the introduction of computer animation, animation cels have become collectable icons of Twentieth Century popular culture. Their fragility, however, requires special handing and archival framing techniques.

Each animated film sequence was composed of multiple celluloid layers filmed with different layer combinations against a static background image. Today these cel sets are collected and preserved for posterity. Animation cels, however, were not created to be permanent. Adhesives used in the paint, for example, helped the paint stick to the cellulose, but also increased the likelihood that the paint would stick to the background or other cel layers. Framing fragile animation layers, therefore, requires a preservation procedure that protects these cellulose layers from one another. Since animation cels are painted on both sides of each layer, they need to be matted on both sides to insure sufficient air space between them. This precaution not only aids the preservation of the paint, but also allows dramatically sets off the layers, giving them a 3-D effect.

Animation cels are delicate, easily scratched, and should be handled only by their edges using clean cotton gloves. They should not be hinged to their backings. Instead, we use no adhesives on the cels and recommend the use of edge strips that gently hold the layers in place. We don’t recommend corner pockets because the cels could droop without support along the edges. Like all fine art, animation cels must be framed using preservation grade acid-free and lignin-free matting and ultraviolet protective glazing to help protect their delicate colors. Due to the fragile nature of this art, which could be damaged in an accident, we strongly recommend ultraviolet protective acrylic rather than glass.

Animation Cel Framing Example
Each layer in a cell group needs to be separated using 4ply or preferably 8ply preservation grade matting and gently held in place with edge strips.
Unfortunately, many animation cels sold on the Internet look good until one opens the framing package and finds adhesive tape slapped across the edges to keep the layers in place. In this event, we recommend the services of an art conservator to remove the adhesive prior to professional framing. Please do not try to remove this adhesive yourself or to clean animation cels as they are so easily scratched. At The Framer's Workshop we are happy to provide a free inspection of animation cels before any framing decisions are made. We will look at the cel layers with you and help you make decisions regarding the use of a conservator and the preservation framing of these historic items.

Display your framed animation cels with care. The gum-arabic paints used to create many of these cels are sensitive to temperature and humidity. Never display them in direct sunlight. We recommend hanging your framed cels on a cool, dry, inside wall that is not subject to temperature changes.


Animation Cel Framing Diagram
Cross Section of Archivally Framed Animation Cel.
Animation Cel Framing Example Animation Cel Framing Example
Animation Cel Framing Example Animation Cel Framing Example
Animation Cel Framing Example Animation Cel Framing Example
Animation Cel Framing Example
Animation Cel Framing Example

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