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How To Mount Art and Pictures

CHOICES GOOD AND BAD!

how to frame pictures

mounted and framed artThis article will explain the different ways to mount paper art, such as photographs, posters, prints, and other such pieces. All works of art in picture frames have to be mounted to the backboard or mounting board in order to hold the art and keep it positioned in the frame.

No matter what type of art you decide to frame, some form of mounting is required to keep the art positioned correctly and held in place in the picture frame. There are many different methods to mount art. The method you choose depends very much on what you are mounting.

There are two main ways to mount art in picture frames, archival mounting and non-archival mounting. Non-archival mounting can be permanent and that reduces the value of the art since the art cannot be removed from the backing and be returned to its original condition. Some art such as paper art that is printed on thin paper, newsprint and even many photographs are permanently mounted so that the articles will stay flat and not bend and wrinkle due to changes in humidity in the air and the art or photo's down this way are usually duplicates of stored originals.

Some examples of items I would use non-archival mounting techniques on are:
Newsprint
Posters
children's art
Magazine pages
Many cheap prints
Any other low value art works
Some Fabric art works
Things I want to stay permanently flat
Duplicate photographs
Ink jet prints

Some examples of items I would only use archival mounting techniques on are:
All limited edition prints
Original photographs
High value items
Any item I want to preserve for as long a time as possible.
Anything I would want to return to the customer in the exact same condition as it was brought into the shop.  Anything I would have to return in the same condition anytime in the future.

Below I will give you several different ways to mount works of art. Please practice these techniques once or twice, study the pictures and re-read the directions if you have questions. Some people e-mail me asking me to explain this stuff all over again to them, when it is already all right here. I really cannot explain these directions any clearer in any e-mail than I have already done right here. Nor can I answer a large volume of e-mail. In almost all of the e-mails I do get, it is very easy to see that the person never actually tried the process out. Do it! Try the process out once or twice on a small piece of art, make your mistakes, and re-read the directions and things will almost always become clear. Until you actually try the process out, all the instructions and e-mails in the world won't help you. You learn by doing. If you're afraid of trying something new, no one can help you until you learn to try and help yourself.

Mounting materials for paper art:

cardboard used in picture framing jobsNo matter which method of mounting art you choose there are some materials you will need. You will need a mounting board and various types of tapes and glues to mount your art.

It would be best for me to describe each type of mounting, and then explain the materials you need to mount the art as I describe the various ways. The one absolutely necessary item used in all art mounting is the mounting board used.

Click here to see a larger image of the
cardboard used in picture framing jobs

There are many things used for mounting boards. In low cost frame it quick places in malls and such, and using other cheap methods, just plain ordinary cardboard is used to mount the pictures on.

No work of art should ever be mounted on cardboard ever! Cardboard is full of acid and what's worse is that it passes this acid into the art very quickly and the art is soon ruined. A piece of art mounted on cardboard can be ruined in as little as six months. The art will turn brown due to acid burning, get brittle and be ruined beyond repair. I repeat cardboard should never be used to mount any art on.

So what choices does that leave us to mount art on?

There are a number of choices such as regular mat board, rag mat boards, form core board, and mounting boards made just for mounting. There are other mount boards that can be used, the list continues. The average home picture framer though will usually be left with the choice of material they can acquire locally. This is usually mat boards and form core boards.

Foam Core Boards

foam core mount boardsForm core boards come in two grades; there are regular form core boards and acid free foam core boards. Professional frame shops use acid free foam core boards to mount expensive pieces of art. The regular foam core board is used for just about everything else.

All the foam core boards and mat boards you see sold in craft stores and department stores and even in big box store picture framing departments are are regular foam core boards. This is what they sell because it is way cheaper than trying to sell acid free boards.

If you wanted to purchase archival rag mat boards or acid free archival foam core boards, anywhere!, rest assured you would see the words "Acid Free Archival" printed all over the package.  You don't see those words, you are not getting acid free archival boards.  This holds true of all packages of foam core boards and mat boards.

In big box stores such as (you know the name) all the mat boards being sold there near the desk are ordinary regular mat boards. You can tell that at just a glance.  If you want a true acid free, archival rag mat for a mount board and are in doubt, ask the clerk for one. The ones in the store bins where customers can get their hands on them, are never rag mats. No one would allow multiple customers to continually handle expensive acid free boards. The same holds true for acid free foam core boards.

You will almost never run across acid free foam core boards unless you go into a local professional frame shop and ask for it. The reason for this is because it is a lot more expensive than regular foam core boards. There are lots of frame shops that don't even stock it, they use other materials instead such as rag mats or us other archival mounting methods I won't go into here.

Regular foam core board is a good board to use on most works of art because even though it is not completely acid free, it does not contain much acid and it is very slow to pass it onto the art. Almost all posters are mounted on regular mat board. It is a good choice for many mounting needs. Items mounted on regular foam core board will last a very long time.

Mat Boards

mat boards used in picture framingRag Mats are sometimes called museum mat boards. These boards are made using pure cotton. They are 100 % archival and acid free. They make a really good choice when you want to mount something and want it to last permanently. This is one of the best, most archival mounting materials.  To use you just turn the boards over and mount your art on the plain white side.  Not the colored side. These boards will never leak acid or harm your art in any way. You won't find these in any local store or big box store frame shop.  You would usually have to go to a local frame shop and ask for them.

The mat boards that you see for sale in stores are Regular Mat boards. Regular mat boards are made of cardboard and have a good quantity of acid in them, but they are suitable boards to mount many things too, such as children's art, newspaper clippings, anything you don't think you want around more than 5 or ten years or so. To use mat boards for mount boards it don't matter what color the mat board is, what you do is turn the board over and use the white back side of the board as your mounting surface. 

The choice between regular mat boards and regular foam core boards or Rag Mats is yours. The regular foam core board is by far the most common choice and is very much used in professional picture frame shops. Almost all mounted posters and photographs you see are mounted on regular foam core board. Mat boards are thinner and are often used in picture frames that have a very shallow rappet depth.  Even then you should not use mat boards for mounting purposes for any picture greater than 16 x 20 inches. 

Mounting Art

There are several methods to mount works of art that are available to the average home picture framer but before discussing those methods, it would be best to devote a short discussion about using professional mounting systems. It will give you a background in mounting art and allow you to make better decisions.

Large picture frame shops use what are called mounting presses to mount many works of art. This is considered non-archival mounting as I discussed at the beginning of this article. Why? Because once mounted this way the art cannot be returned to it's original condition.

The large mounting presses are very expensive and not every frame shop has them, and many do not really have much need of them as well.

The two types of presses are the vacuum wet mount system and the dry mount systems. Using the wet mounting presses the mount board (usually foam core board) is put into the press with glue applied to the board. The art is placed on top of the glue, and the board inside the press. Vacuum and heat is applied and the art is sucked onto the glued board and dried leaving the art smooth and flat and permanently attached to the mount board. Several items can be put into the vacuum mount press at the same time.

Dry mounting presses work differently. Using these presses the mount board is placed into the press, then a sheet of glue tissue is placed on the mount board and the art on top of that, then release paper to protect the press. When closed the press applies heat and pressure. The heat melts the tissue that is actually a sheet of pure glue. The glue gets hot and melts and the art is permanently bonded to the mount board. The process is quicker and cleaner than the wet mount process and is used by more shops. Usually only one item is done at a time.

Both systems above are very expensive and out of the reach of the average homeowner who wants to mount and frame a few pictures. In fact many frame shops do not use either system, they use other methods to mount most art and when they really need to have something done using the above presses they hire another frame shop with a press to mount the pieces for them.

There are other methods to mount works of art. This brings us to how you can mount your own works of art and do it professionally.

Methods of mounting your art:

There are several common methods of mounting art that you can use. Again, these methods can be Non-archival or archival. These methods are called adhesive mounting and hinge mounting. I like hinge mounting the best.  It is easy, fast and completely archival if you use archival materials. So I will take up Adhesive mounting first and save the best for last!

Spray Adhesive Mounting:

mounting art on mat boardsSpray adhesive mounting is a very practical way for the home picture framer to mount art and lacks access to the large presses talked about before. One of the most practical adhesives to use for the homeowner is the use of spray adhesive that comes in a spray can.

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how to mount art on mat boards

The image shown here on the right shows a piece of art mounted to a piece of mat board using spray adhesive.  

If you use mat boards you should mount your art on the back side, the white side.  I used the colored sides for the photos in this story so you could see what I was doing. Keep in mind foam core board is more widely used.  It is white, so I didn't use it for this article as you would not be able to see what I was doing very well.

There are several types of sprays made for mounting different kinds of materials. Some art such as photographs have a smooth surface that requires a special spray that will stick and hold the art in place. Other materials such as prints, posters and fabric also use different adhesives. You can find the different types on this web site and find descriptions of them on the product pages.

After deciding which mount board you are going to use, cut it to size leaving it several inches wider than your art, all the way around. Next lay a sheet of Kraft paper or old cardboard on your workbench. Lay your photo or other art face down on the above and make sure it is lying perfectly flat. Using the spray can, spray the backside of your photo, wait a few seconds for the glue to set up, then carefully pick up your glued photo and place it glue side down onto your back board.

After you have the photo or print in place you need to cover the photo with a piece of clean paper and using a hand roller, start in the middle of the picture and roll the photo to press it flat against the mount board to firmly bond your picture in place. The usual instructions don't call for covering the art with a piece of paper, but I find it gives added protection to the art from some stray glue getting onto the face of the art. A much better alternative is to use the same release paper that comes with  dry mount tissue.  That release paper won't stick to the spray glue.  More about this later.

When using spray glues on photos and art prints, it is very important to not get any glue on the front side of the picture, as it is just about impossible to clean it off without ruining the picture. If the photo or print is not lying down completely flat when your spraying the glue on the backside, you will find that glue will and can sneak under the edges of your print. If you aren't careful you may create a mess of your art. Some people even go to the extreme of lying the art face down and taping all the way around the print using clear removable scotch tape. After spraying the print they peel the tape away and continue with the mounting procedure.

After getting your art glued down to the mount board, you can trim the excess mount board off with your utility knife. Don't try to make your mount boards the exact same size as your art to begin with, that almost never works.

The above directions are the same as those on the cans or what you normally read in books. At my shop I have grown tired of making a mess and have devised an alternate procedure to using sprays and glues. This procedure is also usable when using the PMA dry mounting techniques I will describe below. I find it works much better and I don't ruin any art.

Reimond's alternate mounting method

This is the method I now use almost all the time when using spray glues or using PMA dry mount papers which I will explain later. I got tired of glue getting onto the surface of photos and other works of art, your fingers, the rollers and everything else. This method is simplicity in it self. What I now do is take the photo or art and cut the finished top mat that that I am going to use first. Have the mat window hole all cut out and the mat all cut to the prober finished size. Then I cut out a mounting board several inches bigger than the finished top mat by several inches all around.

I place the finished mat on top of the mounting board and center it there with the mounting board sticking out all around the edges. Remember, I said I cut the mounting board bigger than the finished mat? 

Then I mark out on the mount board the location of the mat opening using light markings with a pencil. You don't have to be fussy and you also you should not let your pencil touch the cut edges of the mat board window.

Then lifting off the mat board I use either spray glue or the PMA dry mount tissue and  spray the glue onto the mount board first. Notice I am spraying the glue onto the mount board, not on the art.

how to mount art using spray glue or dry mounting adhesiveAfter spraying I can still see my pencil marks on the mount board where my art is to be placed. I then place the art on the board, on top of the glue, face up of course, and put a piece of dry mounting release paper over all and roll everything flat. Using PMA dry mount tissue, I will use release paper, using sprays I use the same thing as the release paper does not stick to the spray glue either. 

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how to mount are using spray adhesive or dry mounting adhesive

You can also just use a clean sheet of paper. The paper will stick to the glue that is left exposed along the edges of the art. If it doesn't peel off when I am finished rolling the art I leave it there and just remove the paper from off the face of the photo. Then I put ATG tape on the back side of the finished top mat, around the outer edge and place the mat onto the photo exactly where it should go and press that down to lock it in place. When this is done it is very simple to trim the excess mount board off around the finished mat and your photo or art is now mounted, matted and ready for glass, and I have never gotten glue on the front of my art using this technique.

Spray mounting sprays are useful for many home picture framers because you can buy a can of spray and it can be used for doing quite a number of pictures without much waste. The can also be saved for use for another time. It works great on photos as well as the glue holds real good. But, I think you will really like using PMA better!

PMA Dry Mounting Adhesive

art mounted to rag mat using dry mounting adhesivePMA stands for Positionable Mounting Adhesive. This is a form or glue, applied as a thin sheet (it's real easy) and it allows you to mount the art and usually you can remove the art before the glue sets up and move it a bit if you got it placed wrong the first time. (in my experience it it best to try to get it right the first time.)

Click here to see a larger image showing
art mounted to rag mat using dry mounting adhesive

This method of mounting works of art using a product called PMA or repositionable dry mount tissue. This glue tissue works very nicely, but wasn't used much by home owners due to the high cost because you were limited to buying a big roll at a time. Now we are selling this tissue in smaller quantities on this web site making it possible for anyone to try it out.

PMA dry mount tissue works great on all paper products such as prints, paper, newsprint and what not.

Repositionable tissue or PMA for short, is named as such because it is possible to lay your glued art down and if it isn't in the right spot you can reposition it. This is true if the paper has not been pressed down any, but I find that in using lightweight papers you better get it right the first time.

The directions for the use of this product are as follows. You take the PMA paper, place it flat on a bench, and then place your art on top of it. Then you place a sheet of release paper over the picture and squeegee or roll over the art using the squeegee tool and this forces the glue to stick to the backside of your art. Then you slowly peel your art away from the paper containing the glue and the glue should remain stuck to your art.

After you remove the art from the sheet of PMA tissue, place it onto the mount board. Then you again place the release paper over the art, you press the art onto the mount board using the squeegee or a roller.

I don't like doing photographs using this method because when the photo was lifted off the tissue, many times there would be spots left on the photo where the glue did not stick to it. This could cause a bubble later. The glue on the PMA does get stronger as is sets up.

I no longer use those directions above.  Those are from the manufacturer. There are problems with those directions.  For one thing you are handling the art too much and when doing slick smooth photos the glue sticking problem is too real.

I have found a way to make photos and all other art stick real good using dry mount tissue. It is simple. I just always use my alternate mounting procedure as I explained above using the sprays and again below.

how to squeegee the PMA glue down onto the mount boardWhat I do is use the my alternate procedure. I cut the mats first, including the window cut out, then cut an even bigger piece of mount board just as I described above using the spray glue.

I place the mat on the mount board and mark the window location. Then I cut a piece of PMA adhesive slightly bigger than the photo and laying it on the mount board in the right spot, glue side down onto the mat board. 

Next I place a sheet of release paper over all and squeegee the glue that is on the PMA down right onto the mount board. It causes the Glue to stick perfectly every time to mat boards and almost always to foam core boards. Using this method, When I peel away the PMA carrier paper, I am left with a really nice layer of glue on the mount board as seen in the photo above.

The picture above shows the PMA glue stuck onto the mount board. Again, remember I am using the colored side of a mat only so you can see what I am doing.

art being mounted to a mount boardThen I lay the photo or art onto this glue, face up of course, and put the release paper on top of everything again, and squeegee the photo or art down onto the glue.

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art being mounted to a mount board

Then I remove the release paper and place the finished cut top mat on top in the correct place, the extra glue around the edge of the art holds it there after I press the mat down a little. If not I use some ATG tape around the outer edges.  Then I use a sharp knife to trim around the edge of the mat board cutting off the excess foam board and everything is automatically done, simply, neatly and with no glue mess. Studying the pictures will explain this procedure easy enough once you also try it out. I also have another story about this method on my Dry mount glue or PMA page that shows exactly how I do this.

how the mat goes on over the artNote: The release paper we supply looks the same on both sides and both sides are usable, but I strongly recommend that you mark on one side of the release paper and make sure this side always stays "UP". It will keep your art cleaner. Release paper can be used over and over. Only a small piece is required for a whole roll.

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how the mat would go over the art after the art has been dry mounted to a mount board

My above method for using PMA reposition able adhesive should be tried by every home picture framer. It works great! Once you try it out you will fall in love with mounting works of art this way. After a couple of tries you will find the method almost fool proof!

Hinge Mounting

The last way I will discuss mounting works of art is by a procedure called hinge mounting. If you use rag mats or foam core board and acid free hinge mounting tape this method is completely archival. The art is always removable, is not damaged or harmed in any way and preserves the full value of the art. I use this procedure on much of the works of art I mount. 

The PMA method above is great, but remember it is not considered archival.  Hinge mounting is completely archival.  You just need to use archival mount boards, mat board and archival hinging tapes.

Or for non expensive art you may wish to use the hinge mounting method in a semi archival way. That is you can use regular mounting boards, regular mat boards and use just a good quality hinge mounting tape.  The choice is yours, but keep in mind, the hinge mounting method is a very, very good method for beginner or pro alike and is very much used.

To do hinge mounting you need to mark, cut, and have your top mat board cut and done. You can place it over your art and make sure the hole is correctly cut as well.

Next you need to cut a backing board and this time make it the exact same size as the top mat board you are using. This is also the glass size, because it is also the size of the piece of glass you will need. It is also the size of the picture frame moulding you will order. The glass size as you can see is a very important size to understand.

mat board taped to a mount board along the topAfter cutting out the backboard, lay your mat face down on top of your bench. Place the mount board on the bench lying next to the mount board and then tape the two together as shown in the photos, using hinge mounting tape or professional framers tape. (you might want to check out the next photo below to make this more clear) 

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mat board being taped to a mat board

To do this you will have to lay your mat board face down on the bench and place the piece of foam core board next to it and run a bead of tape over this top edge.  You need to end up having a sandwich looking like the photo above.

Then close up the mat board and backing board up like a sandwich and place your art in between the two in the proper place. Next line up the edges of the mat board and the mounting backboard, if it isn't already lined up. And while holding the two in the proper position, line up the art in the correct position under the mat. It has to be in there perfect with the mat covering the face of the art, all around about ¼ of an inch.

how to mark the mount boardWith everything in the proper position, lay a small soft object on top of the art. Carefully lift the mat up and lay it up and out so it is out of the way as in the photo. Then using a pencil mark the top and bottom edges of the mounting board where the art is laying, so you can remove the art and later bring it back to the exact same position.

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how to mark the mount board

Once the board is marked you know exactly where to place your photo later on. This makes the process go more easily and exact.

Picking up the art, turn it face down and on the backside place a small tab of hinge mounting tape, or professional framers tape. This piece of tape should be about 1 inch long. Leave about ½ inch sticking out above the art. (See the picture)

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photo with two hinges placed on it

When you do this make sure you don't use masking tape which is full of acid and will quickly ruin your art.  You should always use really good archival mounting tape for this process.  Good tape is expensive, but you don't use very much for each picture so a roll of it will last most people a life time.

Now turn your photo or art face up again and place it back on the mount board exactly where it was, using the pencil marks you made as a guide. Your picture will now have two hinges sticking up with the glue side also facing up.

how to hinge mount a photograph onto a mount boardUsing another two pieces of hinge mounting tape, or professional framers tape, place these over the top of the tape you left sticking out on the picture. When you do this you should make sure none of your tape touches the face of the photo or art. Nothing should ever touch the face of the photo.

Click here to see a larger image showing
how to hinge mount a photograph onto a mount board

This makes your first hinge mounted picture. All you have to do now is close the mat board and mounting board sandwich, place glass on top and your done.

I use a piece of clear tape placed around the glass and mat board sandwich to seal and hold everything together while I am building the frame. When you seal a picture this way no dust or bugs can ever get into it.

Please notice that in hinge mounting, the photo or art is held to the mount board by only the two top hinges. You do not want any other tape or glue on your art to help hold it to the backing, or mount board. Don't put anything on the bottom corners that actually sticks the art to the board. By only using these two hinges, your art can breathe and expand with changes in the humidity level in the rooms and your art will usually stay flat and smooth. If you stick the art to the mounting board in any other place, other than the two hinges on top, your art could eventually wrinkle.

Another thing, please notice that the art is hinge mounted to the backing/mount board. You never, ever want to hinge mount your art to the mat board. The mat board is only to cover your art. Nothing is to get hinge mounted to the mat board. Doing so will again cause your art to eventually wrinkle and get damaged. Following the procedure I have outlined above will give you great looking art that will be around long after you are gone, even if you're young.

Any art that is mounted, in any way, to the finished top mat with the window cut out in it, is the mark of a unlearned beginner.  It should never be done.

Hinge mounting is very popular now that they have come out with so many good acid free tapes that are self-sticking. It wasn't many years ago that in order to hinge mount art and get archival tape, you had to mix up special glue and apply it to special tape. Those days are gone. Almost everyone uses archival, acid free self-sticking tape now.

Archival Clear Photo Corners

how to mount art with photo cornersAnother way to mount works of art is almost exactly the same as I have stated above. Except that instead of using hinge mounts, you use archival clear photo corners.

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how to mount art with photo corners

These work excellent on photos or other heavy weight paper like photographs. You just place one on each corner of your art, then position the art on the mount board and press down on each corner so that the self-sticking corners stick. I would encourage you when doing this to leave the self-sticking corners slightly loose on your artwork. If you make them too tight, your art won't have a chance to expand and your art will eventually wrinkle.

ATG tape mounting

You should never ever, repeat never, use ATG tape on any art to glue it down to a mount board. Not even the new Gold ATG tape that is acid free. ATG tape is a fast quick way of mounting art used by frame it quick places. It is the surest way I know of to ruin works of art. It is not even suitable for a child's drawing.

Art mounted this way I consider ruined. All art mounted this way eventually wrinkles very badly. The strip of ATG glue used holds that glued area of art firmly stuck to the board. The rest of the art expands and contracts due to changes in the atmosphere, the glued area can't move and it isn't long before the whole piece is all wrinkled.  Hinge mounting does not do this, hinge mounting allows the art to expand and contract at will so the art stays flat.  ATG tape mounting is non-reversible. It is just plain bad. You can do better than this! Use hinge mounting or dry mounting instead.

ATG tape is very useful. It is one of the most useful tapes in the picture framing industry. My shop wouldn't be without it. But it is never used in mounting works of art, ever!

ATG tape is used to stick the backing paper to the backs of frames, and sometimes to tack the top mat to a mount board, as long it never comes in contact with the art. And is very useful in sticking mats together when making double and triple mats. Since they came out with the Gold ATG tape some people are now using it to stick art down to mat boards. This is a big mistake. The art can't breath and it always eventually wrinkles causing great dissatisfaction later on. Use the proper materials and procedures and you will never regret it.

Thank You for visiting www.GrignonsArt.com
Sincerely, Reimond Grignon