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 uses 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.
For more inspiration on ways to display photos in your home, Redfin’s article on creative ways to display photos is a great resource.
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 strictest 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 or image 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 shadowboxes 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 of 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 – Pressuresensitive 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. 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.
Spray Adhesive Mounting
If you are looking for a cleaner alternative to wet mounting, then you can use spray adhesives. Simply place the photograph upside down and spray the adhesive onto it.
You want to be sure to spray the sides, tops, and bottom edges of the photograph before you position it onto the mount board. Once in position, you can smooth down the edges very carefully using your hand.
- Pros– This mounting technique can help minimize waste because you can control the amount of spray you are using. They are also a much more portable option because they are packaged in either large or small cylinders.
- Cons– It may be hard to reposition the photograph once it is in place and you may also find that this mounting technique isn’t as permanent as dry or wet mounting. You also need to make sure to have a very well-ventilated area when using spray adhesives.
Sometimes you may find that float mounting is an easier option. With this mounting technique, the image appears to be hovering over the mat rather than peaking.
It is especially useful for images with a textured edge that you don’t want to hide. This technique uses gummed hinging tape on the back of the image. It holds well and can be removed later.
- Pros – This is a good mounting option to use when you have textured paper or edges, worn documents, or other older photographs and watercolors. It will not damage the back of the artwork or image. You also have the choice of easily removing the image later if you want to choose a different mounting method.
- Cons– It is very similar to conservation mounting and the process may take a bit longer for you to do when compared to some other mounting options.
Photo Corners and Archival Hinging Tissues
Some photographs may begin to buckle after being framed because the photo, the mat, and the mount board may all begin to expand and contract differently with temperature changes.
When hinging mat to mount board, you need to be sure to use an acid-free linen hinging tape. When you use the gummed version, you will also need water activation and will find that it may be much more difficult to work with; however, it is recommended for more valuable artwork.
You lay the mount board, so it is face up and the mat board is down. They should then be placed next to each other so the tops of them are touching. If one is thicker than the other, you will need to do something to even it out.
You can then cut the tape, so it is as long as the mat board and then place it along the seams of the two boards. You then fold the mat board up to position it on top of the mount board.
For more support, you can use photo corners. However, for this to work, the image should have some kind of border around it because this is what allows the mat to cover the corners. It is a good archival mount because it doesn’t require that any chemicals come into contact with your photograph.
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 photographs 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.
When You Should Consider Framing Services
Professional framing services can definitely be costly, which is why we have given you the information you need to mount and frame photos yourself. However, there may be times that you want to consider professional framing services for your artwork.
If you are ever unsure of the materials and tools you need to frame your image yourself, or you are unsure about what the best frame would be to highlight your art, rather than compete with it, then you may want to seek framing services.
Also, if you find that you just don’t have enough time right now to dedicate to mounting and framing your photos, you can go with custom framing services so you can get the frame back into your hands as soon as possible.
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