Japhoto - blog

Framing prints…

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The end result is this, but this post is about how to get there.

There isn’t anything wrong with the print above by the way, only a reflection from another print can be seen on the glass…

I’ve been studying framing for a while now and if I’ve got the right impression from the forums I read, framing prints yourself isn’t too popular.

Having framed quite a few prints now, I certainly can see why people don’t want to do it themselves :)

The never-ending battle against dust for example can drive a man crazy.

But on the other hand, for reasons unknown, I happen to enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong here, it can be a pain in the backside when things don’t go your way, but when everything goes well, it’s really rewarding to see your print up on a wall.

Of course on top of that it’s going to be a lot cheaper if you can do the framing yourself.

Let’s start with the materials I use.

The mounting/hinging tape that I use at the moment is called PH7-70.

I don’t know where the 70 comes, but PH7 is quite clear since this is archival grade tape which has to be pH neutral (acid free).

An alternative to this tape is Filmoplast P-90, which is really popular everywhere besides Finland it seems.

They are actually really similar, but PH7-70 has just a bit stronger adhesive.

I try to keep all the materials as near to archival quality as I can, but I’ve done some exceptions to cut down the cost.

The frames I use are from Ikea (Ribba series) and as standard, they are nowhere near archival quality. I like how they look especially with B&W prints, but the quality is, well Ikea quality.

To make them into decent quality frames, I’ve done numerous improvements to the frame itself.

So here’s what I basically do:

Firstly as a backing board I use a foam core board instead of the original high density fibreboard that comes with the frame.

The backing board is something that will be in a direct contact with the print, so I don’t want anything that can outgas and ruin the print.

I lay the print flat on the board, center it properly and then I attach it to the backing board with two T-hinges.

The first part of the hinge is a piece of tape which goes under the print so that the sticky side is facing up.

The point here is that there shouldn’t be anything touching the front of the print except the matte board.

Another piece of tape goes on top of the first so that the sticky sides attach to each other and the second one is also bigger so it overlaps the first tape and adheres the print to the backing board.

The hinges are usually placed at about 1/3 and 2/3 of the way from the edge of the print, which leaves only a small area where the print can buckle or curl.

Next step is to put two mounting corners on the bottom part of the print.

As you can see from the photo above, they are not too tight so that the print can expand if the humidity changes.

Their purpose is to keep the print in place and prevent the hinges from breaking if the frame is not kept in its original orientation for example during transport.

At this point I sign the print (if I haven’t done so yet) with a permanent marker.

This signature cannot be seen because it will be under the mat when the print is mounted, but the purpose for it is that if the print is re-matted or re-framed in the future, it will still have the signature on it.

I do another signature with a pencil on the mat itself, which will be visible when the print is framed.

After that I put the mat on the print and check once more that the alignment is correct. The next step is to prep the frame for mounting the print.

Firstly I take the whole frame apart. They tend to be quite dusty and the glass usually isn’t anywhere near clean.

The frame itself is made out of MDF or something similar and its the “weak” point of this frame.

It isn’t too sturdy and I’m quite sure it’s the least “archival” quality piece in the frame.

I don’t know if it will affect my prints in the long run, so that remains to be seen.

So the frame itself has to be vacuumed really well to get rid of all the dust in it. If you don’t do that, it will most likely end up between the print and the glass in the end. Which obviously sucks big time.

The glass has to be cleaned on both sides with window cleaning solution to get rid of the grease and stains on it.

After putting the glass back in the frame I vacuum the frame again, because chances are that the edges of the glass have scraped a bit against the frame and there’s more dust to be found.

Next it’s time to pop the mat, print and the backing board in the frame and after that it’s really important to check if there’s any dust between the mat/print and the glass.

If everything went well, there should be no visible dust on the print and the parts can secured to the frame by bending the metal staples back down.

Then again, if there’s dust it’s re-do time.

On the photo above you can see the staples pushing the backing board down because the foam core board I’m using is about 5mm thick when the thickness of the original backing board is only about 3mm.

Ideally the parts could be more loosely attached to the frame, but I don’t own a framing stapler so I’ll have to live with that.

The next step is to isolate the print from the environment with a water activated “tape” which is called “vegetable glue tape”.

It probably isn’t called that in English, but I couldn’t find the proper name for it :D

So you run the piece of tape trough water, which activates the “glue”.

After that the tape is applied to the backside of the frame like in the photo above.

It takes a few moments to get it right, but in the end it’s quite easy.

After the tape has dried, I attach the original backing board on top of the foam core board.

This is a necessary step at least with the 50x70cm frames, because without it the frame is way too fragile and it will bend just hanging on the wall.

So again, originally the board is mounted with only 4 screws, which actually is probably ok, since in that case this board is also under the metal staples, which will hold it in place.

I use 8 screws to get a sturdier result in the end.

These are also different from the wire mounts that come with the frame.

Originally the mounts are just metal flaps that are attached to the backing board.

Again, this will probably work if the backing board itself is under the staples, but in any case it isn’t the best way to mount the wire.

Since the 50x70cm frame can get quite heavy I wanted to get better mounts anyway. Above you can see how the mount looks when screwed into place and with the wire attached to it.

Finally I attach an information sticker to the backside.

This has got the most important information about the print and it can be valuable in restoration process.

That is of course if someone will want to restore my prints someday, but you’ll never know :)

So, that’s how I do my framing at the moment, but the techniques are changing constantly as I learn new things.

In the future I’d like to change a few things, but that requires investments that I can’t afford right now.

Ideally I’d like to cut my own mats since now I’m restricted to the sizes that come with the frames.

That would also give me a chance to use different thicknesses and true archival quality boards.

Although even at the moment I do have mats cut for me for the 50x70cm frames since the aspect ratio in the original mats is way off.

So owning my own mat cutter would also give me “artistic freedom” with cropping since I wouldn’t have to crop and print to a certain standard.

Also I’d like to use Nielsen – type aluminum frames in the future (no dust and no issues with sturdiness and archival qualities).

And if possible, museum quality, non-glare, semi-matte acrylic instead of glass would be great :)

All it boils down to is money, since the “good stuff” costs a lot.

But if some day I could get prints sold, then I could funnel the money back and start improving on the materials and techniques.

That remains to be seen, but I’m sure I’ll report about framing related stuff here in the future also.

Stay tuned.


26.02.2011 at 21:57

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