A great picture deserves to be prominently displayed. Framing and mounting are the tools you need to make your best photos shine. There’s more to mounting pictures than just display, however. The right mounting techniques protect your art from acidic conditions in the air and from the wall on which the picture is hanging. There are several techniques used for mounting pictures, each of which use their own materials and have different final results. The best mounting choice for each photo depends on the importance of the photo, how it is printed, and the desired display options. Knowing the different techniques – and understanding their pros and cons – will give you more options when you want to mount your work for display.
Why You Should Mount Your Own Photos
Mounting photos and framing them well gives the photographer many more display options than simply using basic frames. A well-designed combination of frame, mount, and mat forms part of the visual expression of a displayed photo, separating it from its surroundings and giving it more visual weight.
You can have your photos mounted professionally, but it’s a good idea to learn how to do it yourself. Once you have the right materials and tools, it’s less expensive than outsourcing the job to someone else.
Self-mounting gives you more freedom to design your own displays.
You can extend your creativity into the display of your photos by trying different frames, mats, and combinations to see how they affect the feeling of your photos when displayed.
Mounting vs. Framing
First of all, you need to understand some technical terms in order to explore the art of displaying photos and framed art well. There’s much more to it than stuffing a photo in a frame and sticking it on a nail in the wall. Mounting and framing are separate steps that can be used together for a great photo display.
Photos printed on paper will always be prone to warping or buckling. Mounting aims to prevent this and give photos a solid basis for display by fixing them to a firm backing. A mounted photo can be more easily handled for matting and framing with less risk of damaging the print. Mounting and matting also give photographers more options when it comes to frame sizes. Instead of being forced to make a photo fit standard frame dimensions or being limited to standard frame sizes for wall display, a mounted photo can be inserted into a much larger frame – or a frame of non-standard dimensions – by cutting the mounting board to fit the frame.
The method and materials used for mounting photos depend on multiple factors, including photo characteristics, available tools and materials, cost, and convenience.
Conservation is one of the primary considerations for photo mounting.
Conservation mounting techniques seek to protect photos from any damage and preserve them for a long period of time. Most photos do not need to be mounted and framed using the most strict conservation guidelines, but knowing the options for conservation mounting and framing can help you protect photos of great personal or professional importance. Photos that are only needed for short-term display or that can easily be reprinted for display can take advantage of faster, less-expensive mounting techniques.
Dry mounting affixes the artwork to a rigid or semi-rigid backing. It is designed to be used with photos, posters, and water-sensitive artwork. This method is rarely used with fine art. One of the many ways that dry mounting can be accomplished is by using a heat press to attach the artwork to a backing board. However, the heat press method can damage paintings. A vacuum press can also be used in the same manner but without the heat.
- Pros – The greatest advantage to dry mounting is it can remove tiny wrinkles and creases from the artwork as well as the effects of cockling. The pressure from the dry mounting process makes it possible to flatten works that might otherwise wrinkle or buckle.
- Cons – The biggest disadvantage of dry mounting is the fact that it is irreversible. This is not a method sanctioned for archival mounting. It is generally only useful when mounting inexpensive artwork that is likely to be quickly replaced, rather than something you want to stand the test of time.
Conservation mounting uses an acid-free mount board as well as hinges and acid-free tape or adhesive designed to keep acid from getting through to the artwork. Another name for conservation mounting is museum mounting. This method is used by most museums. In some cases, acid-free corners can be used to offer another level of protection to the artwork.
- Pros – Conservation mounting is perfect for protecting artwork that is to be hung for extended periods of time. It can be used with a wide variety of artwork. This method can also be used with shadow boxes to provide protection for three-dimensional works. Everything that is mounted using this system can be easily removed later, and the entire frame can be replaced without having to change out the mounting system. Conservation Mounting is very cost effective, as it does not require expensive equipment such as a dry mount press or roller press.
- Cons – The biggest disadvantage to conservation mounting is the amount of time it takes to go through the process. Everything has to be applied to the artwork in a manner that seals it off from outside air and exposure to acid from external elements. These materials tend to be more expensive because they are meant to provide long-term protection.
Pressure-Sensitive (Adhesive) Mounting
A less expensive process that is similar in nature to dry mounting is pressure-sensitive mounting. It does not require heating or special equipment that can damage the photograph. This process uses products such as Perfect Mount from Crescent, which has a special adhesive that does not activate until you apply pressure to the photograph. Once you have removed the protective paper from the adhesive and have positioned your photograph the way you want it, simply apply pressure and the photograph is fixed in place. Make sure to use the protective paper from the adhesive when applying pressure to protect the photograph.
- Pros – Pressure-sensitive mounting is very affordable and easy to accomplish for beginners. Because you can purchase the mounting system in different sizes and cut it to scale, it can be formed to perfectly fit any size photograph. As long as all the air is removed from beneath the photograph, you receive a perfectly mounted photograph.
- Cons – Pressure-sensitive mounting is only intended for temporary mounting because the adhesive itself is not very strong. This is not a very good mounting system if you are using photographs with heavy papers because the adhesive may not hold up.
Wet Mounting Technique
If you prefer not to use pressure mounting but want to avoid using heat, wet mounting is right for you. A wet glue or paste is applied to the mount board before the photograph is put in place. Use a piece of glass or some other solid surface to apply pressure to the photograph as you wait for the glue to dry, which could take anywhere from four hours to 24 hours.
- Pros – The mounting process is inexpensive and the glue can completely set within 24 hours. You do not require any special equipment or any matting boards if you do not want them.
- Cons – This mounting technique is also non-archival, so it should not be used for anything that will hang for years. It is possible for the glue to get on the front of the photo if you are not careful in the application or use too much paste.
Sizing Mounts for Display
When choosing photos for display, one of the key considerations is how much space is available. The only option for displaying a photo in a small place is to make a small print or crop a photo to size. When considering larger display spaces, however, mounting and framing become important considerations. Balancing the size of the picture and frame against the display area is critical for the best view of the photo and also to make the whole display space attractive. For example, a framed picture that is too small for a large wall simply looks unbalanced and awkward. Mounting a photo on a larger mounting board and then giving it a larger frame makes both the picture and the display space look better, keeping the focus on your art.
The cost of materials used for different mounting techniques is a significant part of the cost differences from one mount to the next. In general, mounts that follow strict conservation techniques will be more costly than those that do not because of the cost of the conservation-friendly materials needed to protect photos. Ordering frames in custom sizes can also be more expensive than buying ready-made frames in standard sizes. But if you do your own mounting, you can also take advantage of bargains when you find an interesting frame on sale. Even if it is an odd size, you can use a custom-cut mount and matting to fit.
You can also control the cost of mounting photos by buying your materials separately.
This enables you to choose the most appropriate materials for every individual mount, whether you need basic foam board or conservation-quality, acid-free mount board. Each of the materials needed for mounting photos is available to purchase separately, and you can often buy items in greater quantity to get a discount.
Top Sources for Premade Mounted Frames
If you don’t want to undertake all of the steps of mounting and framing a picture yourself, you can outsource some of the work by purchasing a premade frame and mounting materials. You can also order standard-sized frames or frames in custom sizes with mounting board and matting cut to fit. Other framing kits include all the hardware you will need to hang your photos.
Frame Destination is one of the top online sources for picture frames and mounting materials. Frame Destination offers a wide selection of frames, mount boards, mats, mounting supplies, and hanging hardware, making it easy for you to mix and match materials and options to meet your needs. You can order a basic framing kit in standard sizes or order a completely custom frame with specifically chosen mounting materials. All of the individual components are available for separate purchase as well as complete frame packages, so you can take on as much of the work to size and cut custom mounts and mat boards as you wish.
Modern Frame Options
One of the benefits of properly mounting your photos is that you can trade out picture frames for new ones more easily. This means you can update frames to match new decorations in a room or switch a photo to a more appropriate frame if you display it in a new location. The frame is a big part of the look of the finished artwork, so give some consideration to the style of frame and the material you want to use for your photos.
Canvas Floater Frames
Canvas floater frames are an interesting style of frame for canvas prints where the photo appears to “float” inside the frame without touching it. No matting is used, and the entire surface of the canvas is visible. These frames have a subtle three-dimensionality which gives a touch of visual interest while keeping the main focus on your artwork.
Metal provides a clean, sharp look for your photo display. Metal frames can be narrower than wooden ones because of the strength of the material. If you want a minimalist or modern look, a metal frame is a good choice.
A wood picture frame is a classic choice. Wood frames offer a great variety of different looks, from clean modern lines to intricately textured borders.
Mounting and framing pictures well is an art in and of itself – one that you can use to perfectly complement your photography. Learning the basics of mounting and framing will give you more freedom and control over the display of your photos, allowing you to show off your best work in beautiful and eye-catching ways.
Photo credit: Peter Marfleet Photography