Understanding the material composition of paintings is crucial for developing appropriate conservation treatment plans, especially when the hidden paint layers contain mixed media. The optimized methods for preparing paint cross sections developed by Jia-sun Tsang, Elle Friedberg and Dr. Thomas Lam at MCI advances the understanding of the structure of multilayered modern and contemporary paintings. Conducted in micrometer scale with nondestructive characterization, this method of sample preparation preserves the morphological integrity of the paint layers while achieving a high-quality surface suitable for inorganic mapping and imaging studies. The preparation begins by positioning the paint cross section face down on a restickable, double-sided silicone tape affixed to a glass slide. A molded nylon ring is then placed around the sample and filled with Bio-Plastic® resin. After curing, the sample is released from the ring. The paint layers are fully exposed because the silicon tape does not bond with the resin. The sample required minimal dry polishing for a high-quality surface. These samples can be prepared in one day. The method established in this study can accommodate a variety of artist materials, minimizes mechanical post-embedding polishing, and can be completed in a few hours. Moreover, it is easy to learn and uses materials available in stores and online.

For details of the publication, see Tsang, Jia-sun, Elle Friedberg, and Thomas Lam. 2019. An easy-to-use method for preparing paint cross sections, Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 58(3).