Damage over time is expected with paintings as the materials experience environmental degradations. However, many of these negative changes can be mitigated by proper care and handling of your painting. Paintings are traditionally done on a canvas surface, nevertheless paintings on paper and other such mediums is becoming increasingly popular.
A constant temperature and humidity are extremely important in keeping optimum color quality and structural integrity of your original work of art. Temperatures that people would be comfortable in are also ideal conditions for paintings, and humidity should be between 40-60 percent. Drastic changes in temperatures can cause artificial expansions and contractions in the canvas or wood, which can affect the colors and strength of the material. Galleries usually have temperature and humidity control systems to minimize damage to paintings. If the work of art is displayed in your home, try choosing an area that has the least amount of environmental fluctuations.
Not only is temperature damaging, sunlight or artificial light can be detrimental the color and canvas of a painting. Instead of placing your work of art directly in front of any light source, indirect light is the ideal lighting method, minimizing the damage while still allowing for optimal viewing.
Paintings, done on canvas or a flexible medium, typically require framing. Most commonly by stretching over stretcher bars which, unless you have experience in this area, is usually left to a professional—Since it is relatively easy to damage the painting without the proper knowledge and tools. A nice tool to help minimize environmental damage is to attach a backing board to the stretcher bars. This board covers the entire backside of the bars, which prevents any particles from touching the canvas. But again, just like the canvas stretching, this procedure is best left to a professional to avoid damage.
Handling and storage of fragile works of art is also an important factor. Before transporting a painting, moving any potential dangers can reduce the risk of damage.
When storing paintings, avoid places with large fluctuations in temperature or that have high humidity. This includes attics, basements, garages or anywhere where large amounts of sunlight are transmitted.
As a precaution, it is a good idea to have a high quality professional make a digital copy of your work of art and have a fine print made—assuring the digital scan is color matched and does not change the format. Keep your prints in an environment similar to where you would have your originals stored, with constant temperature and humidity, and covered by a pH neutral plastic cover. This will minimize any damage to the copy and increase its longevity.