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Materials and Methods of Mounting Art


how to frame pictures

This article will discuss various ways to mount works of art. Before any art can be framed and matted the art has to be mounted to a backing board. Let’s examine some of the materials and methods used and discuss some of their pros and cons.

Kinds of Mount Boards

mount boards for artThe most logical place to start would be to talk about the board the art is mounted upon. The most popular mount board today is foam core board. There are a number of manufacturers making this board and all of them are of good quality.

Foam core boards come in many sizes and thicknesses. Other than the various sizes, what you really need to know is that there are two kinds of foam core board. One is just plain regular foam core board and the other is acid free, archival foam core board.

Regular foam core board is very widely used as it is cheaper. Acid free costs quite a bit more. The kind that you see in department stores is almost always plain regular foam core board.

When you mount a picture or a piece of art, it quite often comes into direct contact with the foam core board. If you have an piece of art that you want preserved for a very long time, you would want to always use acid free, archival mounting boards.  This includes Foam core boards.  If you have just a cheap poster to mount than it is fine to use just regular foam core board.  Even regular foam core board takes quite a while to leach out acid into your art.  The time would be measured in a few years, compared to say mounting a piece of art onto Cardboard which can ruin your art very fast, in just a few months.  Never let any art come into contact with cardboard is a safe rule to follow.

art mounted on cardboardCardboard is one of the most acidic materials that could ever be used to mount a picture on. Cardboard should never be used to mount works of art. Cardboard will burn though a print in a short amount of time, completely ruining the art. I have seen lots of cheaply framed department store art mounted this way. People have come to us to have these pieces remounted and many times I have taken the art out only to find the prints already burned around the edges and ruined.

The picture shown here is a piece of art mounted on a piece of cardboard.  Never do this as the cardboard is full of acid and will destroy the print in a very short period of time. Also the art was mounted using masking tape which should never be used and the tape was used wrong.  This picture is a perfect example of what not to do! 

Click here to see a larger image of
How not to mount art

Sometimes art is mounted to mat boards for various reasons. For example, maybe the depth of the frame is shallow, or the art is too thick. One of the best mounting surfaces available for this kind of work is to use acid free, archival Rag Mats. These mat boards are thin and work fine as a mounting surface for smaller pictures when necessary.  You shouldn't use regular mat boards for this purpose as regular mat boards have quite a bit of acid in them and will ruin your art in time.  Anytime a mounting surface comes into contact with your art, and that mounding surface is not acid free, that surface will seek to leak acid into your art.  In time your picture or art will start to fade and turn brown.  If you don't want that to happen you need to be aware quality of the surfaces you are mounting your art and pictures upon.

dropping mounted art into a picture frameMounting The Art

After deciding on which board to mount pictures onto, the art must be mounted. There are several ways to accomplish this task. Again, many of the techniques used only your framer really needs to know, but there are several things that customers should know. You need to know about Dry Mounting, Conservation Mounting and Junk Mounting.

Dry Mounting

Simply put, dry mounting involves putting some form of glue on the back of the artwork. Then, usually using either a vacuum press or a heat press, the art is pressed and permanently glued to a mount board. This process results in a wrinkle free picture that should never warp or buckle.

There are methods of dry mounting which do not require a press, but for all practical purposes, the results are the same. Your art is permanently mounted to the mount board. Dry mounting is fine for artwork that has little or no value. It is used a lot on posters. This process should never be used on limited edition prints or other works of art with value because it seriously reduces the value of the artwork. Collectors of fine art would never accept dry mounting of their artwork. Dry mounting is quicker and cheaper than conservation mounting.

Some frame shops have these presses that dry mount art as above.  It is used extensively for mounting posters that are to be sold in big box stores, poster shops in malls, and other places where finished art is sold cheap. Dry mounting is also used a lot for pictures for motels.  Some motel chains buy lots of these and keep a frame shop really busy. 

dry mounting a pictureYou can do your own dry mounting for your children's art, old papers, pictures, or other items you don't place a lot of value in.  And you don't need a big press to do it either.  You can use Positional Mounting Adhesive or PMA for short.  Using this material you can easily dry mount many items using just the PMA and a hand held scraper blade.  It is fun, fast and easy.  I give full directions on how to do this right on the page where I sell PMA on this web site. Just remember, any kind of dry mounting is not considered archival because once an item is dry mounted the process is not reversible, nor can the art be restored to it's previous state.  That is why it is not considered museum quality mounting. To get this top quality of mounting for expensive, or special pieces you need to use conservation mounting methods.

burnishing down the hinges on a conservation mounted photoConservation Mounting

Conservation mounting is accomplished by hinging the work of art to an acid free mount board using acid free hinging tape and hinges. Sometimes acid free corners are used. There are also other ways of doing conservation mounting. Conservation mounting is also called Museum Mounting. They are one and the same.

Click here to see a large image of art being properly mounted to a mount board

Conservation mounting is used on works of art that are meant to be preserved for as long as possible without doing any damage to the art. When a work of art has been conservation mounted it should ALWAYS be possible to remove the art from its mounting surface. Also the tape used for hinging should be acid free and completely removable in the future.  If an object cannot be removed from where it has been mounted, and be restored to it's previous condition, it has not been conservation mounted.

shadow box of moneyNot only can art prints and photos be conservation mounted but also objects in shadow boxes. At Grignon’s Art and Frame we have developed ways to mount objects in shadow boxes so that the objects can be removed at any time. At no time will the mounting process harm the art. Conservation or museum mounting means mounting your art work on acid free backboards, using only acid free materials to mount the work of art. Conservation mounting means your artwork is always removable in the future.

Grignon’s Art and Frame uses conservation mounting on every piece of art we mount. That includes all prints, posters, photographs and needlework. We mount all objects in shadow boxes using these methods. We have developed ways to mount arrowheads, baby shoes, cross-stitch, guns, and anything else using conservation methods. We feel that anything that deserves custom framing deserves the use of these methods. Conservation framing is not a frivolous expense if you value the art that is being framed.

The good news is that conservation mounting is one of the best and easiest ways for you to mount your own pictures and works of art.  I am going to show you how in the next article I have on right here on this web site.  This is your ticket to mounting success and I will demonstrate just how easy you can mount your own pictures, and put your own pictures together using conservation mounting methods!

junk art mounting methodJunk Mounting

Junk mounting is a phase I’ve coined up for some of the quick cheap ways to mount works of art that I have seen and come across over the years. I have already described mounting art on cardboard. That is one type of junk mounting. Another is using masking tape to hold works of art on anything. Masking tape is full of acid, which discolors and ruins your art very quickly. For this purpose it is completely "junk". Those that use masking tape inside any framed picture for any purpose are not professionals.

Click here to see a larger image of the Junk art mounting method shown in the photo

Not only is the art work in the above photo mounted using masking tape.  The tape has not been used the right way to mount the art.  Also this art shows the picture taped to the mat board, this is something you never want to do.

There are other tapes that are almost as bad, such as many brands of clear tape. Nothing should ever be mounted using anything other than pure "certified acid free mounting tape, and/or other acid free products". Anything else is just plain junk.  I also consider any kind of acid free masking tape junk.  Why?  Because anyone else opening up your nicely mounted piece in the future is going to see masking tape.  They won't know it is an acid free type and they will take one look and consider the fellow putting that project together stupid, dumb or both.  Do you want your name on that piece? 

Everyone should be required to put their name on the back of the finished pieces.  They might then be very compelled to use top quality materials in their work.  You might want to check the backs of a few pieces in your local frame shop just to see if they value their work enough to put their name on it.  If not, I would go elsewhere to have your work done.  Or have fun and do it yourself!  You can buy all the materials and tools needed right here and I assure you it is easy and fun.

how not to mount works of artAnother way to quickly ruin art is to mount it using double sided Adhesive Transfer Tape known as "ATG" Tape. I’ve seen framers in frame it quick shops mount art by slapping on several strips of ATG tape and pressing the art down upon it. This ruins the art. Not only is the art permanently glued to the board, but also the artwork doesn't’t have a chance to breathe and flex due to changes in temperature and humidity. Because the art hasn’t been mounted correctly, the art usually bends and buckles over time. I’m certain you’ve seen art mounted like this. Another problem I’ve witnessed over and over, is the method of running a bead of ATG tape RIGHT OVER THE TOP OF THE ART, and then pressing a mat board down onto the art. What a waste! I have to rate this as the number one worst way to ruin someone’s art. This is being done by many of the poster frame shops that sell art cheaply, usually using plastic frames and Plexiglas.

The picture above shows a work of art mounted to a mat board by the use of ATG tape run across the top of the art.  This is the correct way to distroy art. The method works every time to make a piece of art worthless in short order!  Also the art was mounted to the mat, that is something that should never be done.

Click here to see a larger image of the wrong way to mount works of art

Adhesive Transfer Tape, or ATG tape should never come in contact with any art. This includes the acid free brands of ATG tape. This tape is not meant to mount art. It is meant for other uses such as putting paper backing on frames and other gluing jobs that do not come into contact with the art, pictures or posters that are being mounted. 

Customers have brought us many such pieces to be re-framed and it is almost impossible because the art has been ruined. It is a shame to say that some people have been trained to mount art this way in order to speed up production. I cannot condone such practices. It is totally unfair to the customer. When buying a piece of art for resale, or to put in your home or office, it will be unknown to you how the art was mounted. Did the framer use acid free mount boards? Did he use conservation materials and techniques? Are the mats rag mats? It can be difficult to tell just by looking at the picture. You should never buy any art without asking these questions. At Grignon's Art and Frame you can always be assured that we use only conservation materials and techniques at all times, on all art that we sell on this site.

Thank You for visiting
Sincerely, Reimond Grignon