Anyone know how to frame?

Started Dec 1, 2010 | Discussions thread
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Here's my framing speech...
In reply to DGF, Dec 5, 2010

Proper matting and framing are crucial. That’s because the only thing people see is the print and frame on the wall, not the camera and printer you used. Everything -- mats, mount board, adhesives, etc. -- must be acid free. Cheap, non-acid-free materials will ruin your work over time.


From front to back in your frame you’ll make a sandwich consisting of the glazing (glass or acrylic), mat (one or more, depending on taste), the print, mount board, optional backer board, and, finally (wood frames only) backing paper. Let’s go from front to back.


You can use Acrylite acrylic or framing glass. Acrylite is optically pure (no green edge like glass) and weighs much less, but scratches easily. Glass is heavy but durable. Always pay extra for glazing with UV protection. You can buy glare-free glazing, but this is achieved by micro-etching the panel, resulting in a small loss of sharpness to your image. I don’t. Tru Vue Museum Glass ( ) is the best framing glass to use, but it is expensive.


Use "rag mat" made from 100% cotton. It contains no wood pulp, lignin, or other bad acidic stuff that'll destroy the print over time. Yep, you can buy regular board (wood pulp alpha-cellulose core with an acid-free surface), but for a few dollars more, I strongly recommend that you go for true archival quality. And since you're going for rag mat, spend yet a little more and get double-thick mat, known as "8-ply." Though offered only in limited colors, 8-ply mat makes for a gorgeous presentation and will set your work apart from everyone else using standard 4-ply mat. Just ask your framer for "8-ply rag mat." Trust me: Choose 8-ply and the world will see your work as fine art; stick with 4-ply and your image will be seen as merely a framed photo.

I cut all my own mats but have my wooden frames made to order Why do I cut my own mats? Because simply getting a hole cut in a mat triples or quadruples the price -- a total rip-off. I bought a 48" Logan Framer's Edge model 655 mat cutter which cuts 4-ply and 8-ply mats. I buy mat blanks at in sheets measuring 32"x40".

For a great, sophisticated look, make the borders on your mat at least 3" wide. So, a 13"x19" print will need a mat and frame cut to 19"x25". If you want to go with a standard size frame, simply use 18"x24" for this mat and frame. It's a difference of only a half-inch all the way around. Remember that you'll cut the window in the mat to 12.75" x 18.75" providing a 1/8" overlap all around for this print.

Your photo is next in the sandwich and gets affixed to the mount board. (Technique coming up.) Use archival (acid-free) mount board, because what's behind the print is equally important. I use foamboard. Behind that, you can have a backer board. I don’t, except for very large prints, where it adds more rigidity.


Step 1: Attach mat to mount board. Set mount board face up. Put mat over it, also face up. Now swing the mat up as if it is taped to the mount board along the top. Cut a long piece of Lineco Self-Adhesive Linen Tape (Lin-533-1055) and attach the abutting window mat (now face down) to the face up mount board along its entire length. Position print on the backer board. Swing mat down into place. Move print around (you ARE wearing cotton gloves, right?) to position it. Apply weights to keep the print in place; swing mat out of the way.

Step 2: Hinge mount the print to the mount board. The only way to do archival mounting is by hinging. Use archival, acid-free hinging tissue. Mount print at only two points and let it hang from those two points (hinges). If you attach at multiple points (top and bottom, for example -- or use a spray adhesive), results over time may not be satisfactory because mount board and print may react to changes in humidity at different rates. The board may warp or the print may buckle. Use Lineco Self-Adhesive Hinging Tissue (Lin-533-1055) to mount the print to the mount board at two points.

See the "hinging" technique here:
See the Lineco linen tape and hinging tissue here:

Step 3: Insert sandwich into the frame. You removed all dust and lint, right? To hold the assembled glazing, mat, print, mount board, and optional backer board in place in a wood frame, use a Fletcher FrameMaster gun to insert framer's points:

Step 4: Apply 3M Scotch ATG Gold #908 acid-free adhesive transfer tape (NOT #924, which is not acid free) around the entire rear edge of the frame using a 3M ATG 700 gun (the yellow one).

Here’s the tape:
and the 3M ATG 700 gun (the yellow one):

Step 5: Attach sheet of acid-free backing paper to the adhesive transfer tape you've just laid down. I use the black paper shown here:

And I trim it using the trimmer knife shown at the top right of that same Web page.

Add wood frame hangers ( ) and hanging wire
( ).

To review: Use only archival, acid-free mats, mount board, backer board, backing paper, and adhesives everywhere. The incremental cost is not much.

Disclaimer: I have no connection to RediMat, Framing Supplies, or Frame Destination. These are the places where I buy some of my supplies.

This is possibly overkill for you. But for me, after spending $8,000 on just my camera body, far more than that on lenses, and another $7,000 for my 44-inch printer, this is short money well spent. After all, as I noted earlier, the only thing people see is the print and frame, not the camera and printer you used.

I hope this helps!

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