The Square, Kilkhampton, Bude, Cornwall, EX23 9QQ

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How to mount your artwork & photography

Lots of artists and photographers choose to mount their own pictures. Here is the Handmade Framing & Galley guide on how to do it properly:

Good presentation makes a big difference in terms of appeal. Isn’t that why people decorate their houses before putting them on the market and why cars get washed and polished before potential buyers come to view? It’s no different if you are an artist or photographer: the better presented your work is the more likely you are to sell it.

Why is it that many artists put hours into creating stunning images only to present their work in a way that not only lessens appeal but can actually damage the artwork itself? Incorrect mounting causes art on paper to wrinkle and distort and poor mounting materials cause acid and adhesive damage.

Below, we explain how to mount your work to Fine Art Trade Guild standards which will help conserve it and keep your pictures looking good for years.

Bird illustration mounted to Fine Art Trade Guild conservation standard with stunning treble mount.
How not to mount your artwork, photographs or pictures.
How not to mount your artwork, photograps or pictures.

What not to do

Paper is hydroscopic meaning that it absorbs moisture from the air. This means  a piece of paper fluctuates according to relative humidity. Although this is not visible to the naked eye, it means that paper based art must be mounted in a way in which it can expand and contract. If not the paper is likely to wrinkle and distort as it absorbs and releases moisture. Attaching artwork to a mount by taping it along the top edge inhibits the artwork's ability to expand and contract. This causes cockling, (rippling along the top edge). Taping along all the edges or at the four corners causes buckling, (random distortion of the paper).

The right materials

Mount board and framing tapes marketed as ‘acid free’ or ‘pH neutral’ can still cause acid or adhesive damage to your artwork. A perfect example of this is the ‘pH neutral’ mount board used by the majority of high street framers.

 

During manufacture, calcium carbonate is added to this type of mount board so that it has an acidity rating of around 7 (pH neutral) on the pH scale. However the un-purified wood pulp that this type of mount board is made from contains lignin which generates acid as the mount board ages. This acid can then migrate to the artwork and cause permanent damage.

 

The real irony of this is that conservation mount board, which has virtually no lignin and is designed to help protect artwork for up to 20 years, costs little more than standard board.

Self-adhesive tapes should not be used for mounting artwork. They can dry out and loose adhesion with age, especially if exposed to heat. Never use masking tape or sellotape. They are hard to remove without causing damage, they stain, leave a sticky residue and are acidic.

The maetrials to create a picture framing mount package

Cost

Let us stop for a minute to consider the cost implications. The only real price difference between a conservation mount package and a piece of artwork stuck to the back of an acidic widow mount with a tacky piece of yellowing masking tape, is a slight increase in mount board cost and the price of the under mount. Conservation board costs about £2 more per sheet than the very cheapest standard board. Conservation under mount is about two thirds of the price of standard mount board and conservation white gummed paper tape works out at approximately 30p per metre. So, for an A4 mount this means a cost increase of….wait for it…..75p. No need to re-mortgage the house then!

oval pitureframe mount damage by acidic picture framing materials
Etching of two dogs with acid damage caused by poor framing materials.
Damage and staining to artwork caused by masking tape.

Mounting your artwork properly

To mount your art work properly you need to construct a mount package. Although this sounds like a serious undertaking, a mount package simply consists of:

  • a window mount.

  • an under mount of the same size (with no aperture).

  • the right kind of tape to hinge the two together.

For ‘collectable artwork that is to be kept for the future’, including original paintings, limited edition prints and items of sentimental value, the Fine Art Trade Guild recommends conservation level mount board. For artwork ‘of no commercial or sentimental value’ ‘whitecore’ commended level mount board is advised.

“A professional framer will know

how to make even a modestly

priced print look its best” 

 

Fine Art Trade Guild

Peter Reading original watercolour mounted to conservation level by Handmad Picture Framing, Kilkhampton, Bude, North Cornwall

The window mount & the under mount

As well as enhancing your artwork, through the appropriate choice of colour and border dimensions, the job of the window mount is to protect artwork by stopping it coming into contact with the frame’s glazing. Likewise, the function of the under mount is to protect artwork from the frame’s back board which is often acidic or pH neutral only at the time of manufacture.

 

To offer a suitable level of protection, the under mount needs to be of the same quality as the window mount and at least 1100 microns (1.1mm) thick. You can either use the same mount board for the under mount as you use for the window mount (although it is best to use a light colour like a white or pale cream to avoid colour bleed or the under mount showing through the artwork) or to buy specialist under mount.

Normally a window mount is cut so that the borders overlap the edge of the art work by 5mm. This is to avoid the edges of the artwork catching on the mount and becoming damaged.

Constructing a mount package

To make a mount package, the window mount and under mount should be hinged together with tape joining the two along the longest edge: either the top or left hand edge depending on which is longer.

 

To do this, lay both the window mount and the under mount next to each other, with the edges to be joined butted up to one another. The window mount should be face down and the under mount face up. Hold the two mounts in place with paper weights and ‘hinge’ them together by running tape along the two butted edges with half the tape on the window mount and half on the under mount.

I use a conservation standard linen tape with a water based adhesive. You simply apply water to the gummed side using a brush or sponge, stick the tape in position and then burnish with an artist’s bone to remove excess moisture from under the tape. White gummed paper tape can also be used.

Once you have allowed the mount hinging tape to dry and adhere, run the tip of an artist’s bone along the crease in the join and fold the two mounts together at the hinge to form the sandwich which is your mount package. Take time to align the window and under mounts with each other. Then apply pressure along the taped edge of the package to ensure the taped hinge is folded in the correct position and the package will open and close into the same alignment.

The finished piece

 

You should now have a beautifully mounted and protected piece of artwork that should not warp or distort, if kept in ‘normal conditions’.

 

If you have any questions or Handmade Framing and Gallery can help in any other way please feel free to                   

Attaching the Artwork

In order to fully support the artwork, it should be attached to the under mount and not to the window mount. The simplest way of doing this is with a T-hinge.

 

Normally two T-hinges are used, each consisting of two pieces of tape. Of course, the type of tape you use for attaching the artwork is very important. I use is a pH neutral, cotton rag, gummed paper tape for conservation or museum framing and a pH neutral, smooth matt, white paper tape with water based adhesive for all other work.

 

Of the four pieces of tape, one piece forms the upright of each capital T and the other forms the cross piece. The upright should be approximately 5mm longer than it is wide. The cross piece should be about three times longer than the width of the upright.

Lightly dampen the glossy adhesive side of the end of one upright using de-ionised water and a clean brush. Attach this to the underside of the top of the artwork. It should be placed about ¼ of the way in from the side and should overlap the top edge of an A4 sized piece of artwork by just 5mm. This overlap can be increased for larger pieces. Repeat with the other upright ¼ of the way in from the other side of the artwork.

Once the uprights have dried, place the artwork face-up in the mount package between the window mount and under mount. Gently position the artwork so it sits under the window mount in the exact position in which you want it to appear. Remember to leave an overlap on all sides. Use a paperweight or two to hold the artwork in position and open the hinged mount package by lifting the window mount from the opposite side to the hinge.

Now dampen the adhesive on the crosspieces and stick them over the upright part of the hinge that is visible above the top of the artwork. These cross pieces should attach the uprights to the under mount and not come in to any contact with the artwork. The cross pieces should be placed so there is a gap of a few millimeters between them and the artwork. This is to allow for that all important expansion and contraction. Finally, allow the adhesive on the cross pieces to dry, remove the paperweights and close your mount package.