Skip The Lab: How To Mount And Frame Prints Yourself

Growing up in the family's studios and labs, I learned a thing or two about mounting and framing prints, and I also ruined a lot of them in the process. In this video, I'll demonstrate a version of my process so you can skip the lab and mount your own prints, fresh from your home or studio printer.We start by creating a blemish free print on our favorite inkjet paper. In the video, I'm using a 24" wide roll of Moab Lasal Exhibition Luster which is then coated with Moab's Desert Varnish spray. The spray provides a durable top coat to the prints, which prevent scratches or fading, and protect them from splashes, spit, or whatever else may hit your image. I normally apply three even coats and let it dry overnight.

Next we pick our substrate; I typically use Gatorboard instead of foamcore for anything larger than 11"x14" as it tends to stay flat and won't warp over time. One of the other issues with foamcore is that it dimples if it's handled wrong, and those dimples will show through in your print. I precut our piece based on the size of our print (we buy it in full 4'x8' sheets) and file the edges with a straight file to eliminate any burrs or rough areas. Before applying our pressure sensitive adhesive, I always clean the surface with a rag or brush, followed by high pressure air (either an air compressor or canned air). 

Now we roll out our pressure sensitive adhesive. As I mention in the video, not all are created equal. The cheaper ones tend to leave air pockets or lift over time, while the better quality stuff gives even, uniform, long lasting adhesion. Over the years I've tried most of them, and these days Neschen Gudy 831 is the only stuff I'll use. It's quite a bit more expensive than other brands, but it's hands-down the best stuff I've found. After rolling out the material to expose the tacky surface we carefully place the substrate, making sure to align the factory edges. If you screw this part up, the whole print will be crooked and you'll have to start over. Once we get our substrate positioned, we can trim the excess and separate it from the roll.

We can use a rubber brayer to apply pressure to the adhesive material, establishing a bond between the substrate and the adhesive. Don't worry if you see small air pockets or ripples at this point, as long as there aren't any creases, it'll work out fine when we remove the release paper and attach our print. I like the wider brayers over the smaller versions, especially when mounting larger prints.

Once we've got our adhesive on the substrate, we can use a straight edge and tear off about a 1"-2" strip of release paper, exposing the tacky surface of the adhesive. I usually avoid removing the entire piece of release paper at this point to prevent dust from sticking to our adhesive. It also helps position the print just right, since we only get one shot at this!

With an exposed edge, I line up my print with the edge of the substrate/adhesive and begin to apply pressure. Next we roll back the print to reveal the torn edge of the release paper and start to peel it back about 6" at a time. While using the brayer to apply pressure (activating the pressure sensitive adhesive) we slowly continue to peel back the release paper until the entire print is in contact with the adhesive. You may see minor air bubbles at this point, but with a few passes of the brayer, they'll slowly begin to disappear and you're left with a perfect lab quality mount.

After our print is mounted, we can fasten it in a frame using a point driver and framer's points. I usually place one point every 6"-10" around the frame. You can either attach a framing wire or other wall mount to hang the frame and I like to add little rubber bumpers to the bottom corners so it doesn't scratch the wall it's hung on.

Lastly, I glue one of my business cards to the back of the print so the client will always remember who made the piece and where they can reorder.

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Paul Ferradas's picture

Hi Tony, great video. I watched the other video too on Jewelry shooting. So what's the advantage to photo stacking? How different is it than shooting with a large aperture like F16-22. Does that still not get everything in focus because of how close you are to the subject?

Tony Roslund's picture

Kevin is right. Stopping down more will cause the image to actually lose sharpness. But even at f/16-f/22 it still wouldn't be enough DOF to get the entire thing in focus. Each lens has a sweet spot, and it's rarely stopped all the way down or wide open.

John Skinner's picture

I enjoyed seeing how others tackle this mounting thing. The Gudy 831 seems like a winner for the 'forgiveness' aspect of things. Will have to try and locate that here.

I really appreciate you taking time to produce these videos Tony, many thanks.

Tony Roslund's picture

Thanks John! They're fun to make, and it gives us a reason to use our video gear. ;-)

Nice article that i can learn later on.

Slightly out of topic. But can someone share what type of printer (brand/model) you guys using for printing mostly ? i'm into Black&White.

Tony Roslund's picture

Michael, I'd suggest the Epson 3880. I have one of those I use for smaller prints (up to 17") and it's incredible for B&W.

Thanks Tony!!!

Brian Williams's picture

Have you ever tried to facemount to acrylic?

Tony Roslund's picture

Yea! It's a pain. I haven't quite perfected it yet. Once I do, I'll share the technique.

Ferhat Yalçın's picture

Quite an informative and helpful video. I'm not a pro by any means but when I listen to you I can feel that you know what you are doing. Keep up the good stuff!

Sebastian Larsson's picture

Perfect video! I just bought myself a Canon ipf8100 and was curious about the best way to mount images. Thank you for this one!

Good advice in general, however do not do a contact mount for a print that's worth anything in the long run because...

1) possibility of warpage with humidity fluctuations
the paper is not free to "breathe" as it swells or contracts with humidity at a different rate from the substract

2) possibility of acid damage - depending on adhesive. most are not truly acid free, many accumulate acid from the environment.

for better archivability it should be matted and adhere to a substrate with a T hinge method on a print border

You are absolutely correct. First thing I thought of when I started to watch the video - and then stopped watching.

Tony Roslund's picture

Good points! The adhesive we use is acid free. We use Gator so it's less likely to warp vs FoamCore. Been doing it this way for about 20 years and never had a single issue. Clearly there are more archival methods out there. This will get you lab comparable results which are suitable for most applications.

@Tony - rigidity helps prevent minor warps but if the adhesive/print material is not strong enough it will still ripple/tear. I think it might have worked for you guys because the humidity in the US might not fluctuate much, but it is a severe problem if used in the tropics where I live

Tony Roslund's picture

Grey, clearly you're dealing with extreme conditions there in the tropics. Having said that, I've never had 1/2" Gator warp on me due to humidity. I have also never had a print lift, ripple, or tear from this method. I have had matted and framed prints under glass ripple due to humidity though. I personally think this method is more durable. But again, that's only my experience.

Eric Mazzone's picture

Exactly what I was looking for a few months ago.

Tony Roslund's picture

Sorry I was late. ;-)

Eric Mazzone's picture

You're not late, I was too early. :)

Vincent Pohl's picture

Great video. It's good to know much hasn't changed since I was doing it. I have one request....would it be possible for future videos for them to be a bit more stable? I almost felt like I was watching the Blair Witch Project a little.

Tony Roslund's picture

LOL HAHAHAH! Vincent I said the same thing. My studio manager was handling the camera and when I saw the footage I thought he may have been drunk while filming (wouldn't be the first time we got hammered at work), but he blames it on the fact we were using a 115mm equiv lens (we just picked up a Blackmagic Cinema and are still waiting for our new lenses to arrive). He promises the future vids will not require Dramamine. ;-)

I need to mount a number of very large prints (30"x45") "full bleed" as in the print goes all the way up to the edge of the substrate. The Gudy is too narrow and I would have to lay two strips to get to 30in wide. I am afraid that the seam would show. Any ideas?

Tony Roslund's picture

Yea, the seam will show. I think you may be able to buy the Gudy 831 in a 48" roll. If not, you could try spray mounting it. I've had luck with that as well, and the process is similar . . . clean substrate, use a brayer to roll out the print, etc. If you're not into that, the right way to do it is with dry mount tissue and a vacuum press. We can do up to 30x40 in ours, but it's not something everyone has, or has room for. In which case, you're back to a lab.

Try calling They're super helpful and may have a wider product than the Gudy. I buy all my mounting supplies from them (except the Gudy 831).

Thanks so much for the reply Tony. I will call them tomorrow!

Tony Roslund's picture

Jeff, I tried this today with various papers. Using a thick Fine Art Matte Paper no seam was noticeable. With a thinner (Luster) paper, you can see the seam. Hope that helps.

Avrohom Perl's picture

Tony, why use the pressure sensitive sheet of sticky stuff instead of spray glue?

I know my framer and neighbor (artist) uses spray.

Thank you for the post, awesome and relevant, every time!

Tony Roslund's picture

Spray glue may work (like 3m Photo Mount), although not as good of a bond and I've had prints actually peel up over time. We actually use that when we want to tack a print in place temporarily. It's also messy as heck and less consistent coverage than adhesive sheets. Your framer friend probably mounts a lot of prints under glass with mat board over the print edge, this is less of an issue.

enjoyed both videos - is it a personnel preference not to use glass in the frame, is that why you sprayed varnish over the print ?- looks good!

Tony Roslund's picture

Yea, I don't use glass for anything over 11x14.

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