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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