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Tuesday, 05 May 2015


I have two suggestions; 1. It's a lot easier to print to the size of the mat opening than precisely cutting the mat, and 2. If you tape the print to the backing board, you can't easily remove it and insert a differnet print. That cuts down on the number of mat sets you need to keep in inventory. Using the clear corners on each of the corners will allow easy changing.

The seal is a nice touch.

Thanks for the presentation, I enjoyed reading. Couldn't be quite sure how the tape was supposed to be attached, I guess I need to get back to it tomorrow.

I always figured if I wanted my work to be taken seriously by others then it should always be presented using my best efforts and highest quality materials for packaging. If I don't value a piece enough to make sure it is packaged well, then why would I expect more from anyone else?

Anyway -- it doesn't take that much additional effort. Just pay some attention to the details. However, it is also important to recognize your strengths and weaknesses. For example, I don't cut my own mats -- There are many good sources for matting materials -- including http://www.archivalmethods.com.

The polyethylene bags are fantastic innovation -- most web sites are reselling the ones from http://www.clearbags.com. Important tip for photo packaging -- don't order the bags with the glue on the flap. The glue should be on the bag itself -- I repeat, no glue on the flap. Your customer will thank you for being so thoughtful.

My studio is as much about the printing of images, as it is about the images themselves. So I wanted to be able to include a printers "chop" on any printed output -- thus the idea for using an embosser and the gold seals. These came from http://www.fredlake.com/category.aspx?categoryID=6

For those who are 4/3's shooters -- I like to use a 6x8 image size packaged with 11x14 matting (opening of 7.5 x 9.5) gives a really nice 3/4" "float between the mat and the image.

Thanks to Mike for the nice words and for running the photo contest in the first place. I'm looking forward to seeing the work of the three winners.

Oldbro (LR Jasper)

Thanks for the refresher. I learned how to cut mats and mount prints back in photography school, but I haven't actually done it in more than 20 years. Now that I'm printing again the prospect is looming, but I'm not looking forward to cutting mats. I'll probably outsource that bit and do the final assembly myself.

I used the tape T-hinge to mount prints for years. There are issues with that method. Sometimes the tape comes unstuck and the print will drop. It also requires putting tape on the back side of your print. The tape can be removed, but doing that is not foolproof. You can also just cut the hinge and add a new one if you want to remove and re-mat a print. Not ideal, though.

But one day I was at a gallery that was getting some of my prints matted for a show. They were using these:


The adhesive strip goes on the backing board. Nothing gets stuck to the print itself. Clear plastic sticks out over the print to hold it in place. It's easy to remove a print and another print of the same size can be put in. I've never had one come loose. I've used these for everything since that day.

I have found that archival grade PVA glue works fine on standard commercial inkjet papers (similar to RC paper?) I expect wheat paste would work well on fiber papers - that is, papers made out of paper! So, you could use an acid free linen fabric and cut your own tapes.

Hinges can also be made with mulberry paper, at least for smaller pieces. If your tear rather than cut you reduce stresses along edges. Tearing uses a little technique. Again, PVA glue or wheat paste for adhesive. Wet out the hinge pretty completely.

This is how you'd hinge a plate into a book, at any rate.

It's completely archival, easy, and extremely flexible.

Maybe this is obvious, but what make the linen tape sticky? I have a roll say from the mid 90s which has gum, like what used to be on postage stamps, on it. This adhesive needs to be moistened to stick.

I can't be 100% sure from the little pics on my screen, but I think the bag you're showing is not polyethylene, but polyester (Mylar), the slighly more expensive alternative. Both are perfectly archival, but polyethylene is just mostly transparent with a bit of light scattering (milkiness), visible in the package shown in the link. Polyester is completely clear.

Another reason not to use a T hinge - archival it is better to use the method which Larry chose for the bottom of the print on all four corners it allows the print to breath and move with any changes in atmospheric conditions.

Thank you Larry, thank you Mike. Another advantage of a floating overmat over one that covers the edges of the print, is that when, in time, a discolorization (however slight) of the photograph or the paper occurs, it affects the whole image and in that way will spoil the picture less.

Question: Mike, do I understand you correctly that in your storing for private use-method, the actual surface of the print is in direct contact with the bag, without any space being kept by an overmat or anything else?

Very elegant, my only worry is that the glue on the photo corners may not be archival and may stain the print in time.


I understand the main hinge and the use of T-Hinge, but any suggestions for how to fix the mat to the backing board. I submit matted images for competitions to the local camera club and use double sided tape to fix the top and bottom layers. This works fine, but means if I wish to change the image I must destroy both layers. A non destructive option would be nice.

Having just opened 20 packages of framed prints from that many photographers for a group show, a word on packaging.
Packing peanuts are a no-no and will quickly get you on the 'don't invite' list with curators. Bubble wrap and foam fillers are fine.

Don't over tape things. Five full wraps of clear tape means we have to cut through the wrap to remove it and hurts us when it comes time to re-package them to send back.

The blue type of painters tape that comes off easily works well for taping insulation/protection on glazing. Also works well for taping the bubble wrap. Use this and we can see the tape and remove it so your protective cover is reusable without problems.

If you ship with glass, the painters tape covering the entire glass sheet will help a lot if the package is hit hard enough to crack or shatter the glass in shipping. Comes off easily and does not leave residue.

Custom wood cases with foam protection inside and inserts for the frames are excellent. Simple screws on top, phillips type, work well. Provide protection and look good in shipping.

Part of many shows that is overooked is unpacking and repacking artwork. It takes time and your attention to detail to protect the artwork as well as make it easy to re-pack is worth it.

I’ve often wondered about signing prints. The trouble with signing prints on the back is that, once framed, no one can see, or verify, it without taking the framing apart. Also I think that a short title indicating what or where could go on the left bottom border, e.g. “Smoke Lake, 2008.” It’s maybe easier and neater to print this description and signature on the print border when making the print, but I guess this is considered “tacky.” The reason, I suppose, is that this would be non-traditional since with darkroom prints it was not possible, and it would make the print seem less “original.”

Very impressive work and attention to detail. Thank you for sharing the details. I have often wondered how some prints can be "packaged" so well.

How much of the print border should show, and how wide should the mat border be? For a 12x18 print, for example, would I allow 3/4 inch relief and a 3 inch border? I realize it may boil down to personal taste, but a suggestion as a starting point would help.

Thanks for this most educational post. I don't float my mats, though I do cut them myself. I usually overlap approx. only 1/8-inch of the image area. I also sign with a thin silver paint pen on the image lower right corner. Because of my training as an artist more than photographer and because I usually heavily manipulate my images (anathema to you, I know!), I don't necessarily consider them photographs. As a painter would do, I sign on the image itself. You have opened my eyes to alternatives that I will have to consider, and for that, again, I thank you!

Very nice presentation. What size is the print and what size is the mat, just curious. I have been doing the floating reveal for years but I use an archival natural museum board that has a non-white coloration, similar to the background color of this site. I find that the difference between the print stock color and the mat works nicely. All mats have to be cut precisely so cutting a mat with a 1/2" reveal is no big deal. The problem I find is cutting straight and 90 degree with inexpensive mat cutter. To do this well and stress free you need an expensive mat cutter ($750 plus). The linen tape along the edge looks impressive but doesn't it add space(it is double folded over itself) and no space on the other side. I remember linen tape being a bit thick. i use a p90 tape that is super thin. I find the gold seal a bit much but as an authentication device, its a good idea.

Sorry, I did want to also mention that I have been reading your posts for years and have always enjoyed them. I have only commented perhaps twice in all these years but that is only due to the fact that I had nothing to add. I have agreed with your every observation save one--many years ago you wrote a rather disparaging column on infrared photography. Curious, has your opinion on this topic softened over the years? Thanks once more!

Posted yesterday about linen tape needing to be wetted to adhere (still in process ???) . Anyway just got this off the b&h website:

"Note! Linen tape should not be used directly on artwork. The thickness of the linen and the strength of the adhesive make this type of tape a poor choice for hinging artwork. Unfortunately this product was recommended for hinging artwork in some literature in the past."

I'll testify that it is beefy and it's first use is in bookbinding where you want it rugged.

Although slightly more expensive, 8-ply mattes (twice as thick) such as appear to have been used, really set off images beautifully.

Wow, flashbacks to photo school. Two years of doing hinged mattes with photo corners, but we had to do overhang. I really like the extra room around the edges though, a very nice look.

Excellent precut mats and backing are available from a number of sources at reasonable prices. Jim Witkowki is right: with the near infinite variety of size possible with inkjet printers, printing to fit is a lot easier and saves money and frustration.

As to the T-hinge, archival tape made specifically for this use is the only way to go. When used properly it is removable even years later without damage to the print.

What an informative article about print presentation. I will be making use of some things I've learned. Thanks, Mike!!

Hmm, I hope you don't take the lack of comments to imply a lack of interest. This was actually a very useful and interesting post.

Taping prints is a no no for me. I don't trust tape adhesives. I do use linen tape to hinge matts though. For the print I use paper corners, or a small amount of wheat or rice starch home made glue in the top corners. I always sign on the back of the print with a place/date caption, edition number and print number. I additionally attach a print certificate that gives some additional info such as the materials used to manufacture the print. This paper is sleeved and taped to back of the frame usually.
From what I can see in the pictures in the post, the platic bags are mylar, please correct me if I am wrong, is the best material to store negatives and prints. Polyethilene is the second best choice for archival purposes, but it is
milky to see thru.

Another reason for the floating mat (or to take prints out of mats when no longer being shown), as humidity/temperature changes the mat will move. I have seen work where this has actually caused the mat to abrade the surface of the photograph.

A possible point of confusion regarding your correction from polyethylene to polypropylene: The link you provided to Archival Methods bags at B&H are most definitely labelled as POLYETHYLENE, as are the poly bags at Archival Methods' own web site:

I'm skipping reading the rest of the comments, as it's late, so pardon me if anyone else has covered this; but I had to say something.

Plastic photo corners are crap, but you can make corners of high quality with scrap photo paper and linen tape. Fold the scrap paper into triangles (photo paper from test prints is still archival) and tape over them with the linen tape. You can put them in all three corners, leaving one loose to allow for expansion and contraction in changing humidity. this way, if the mat is damaged, it can be replaced.

I must admit I was a bit aghast at the thought of sticking anything to a print; I know for floats and some framing it's unavoidable, but for overmatting, it isn't required, and everything I know about making archival work recommends against it.

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