Picture Frame

Mounting Techniques

One of the more daunting picture framing tasks to the unseasoned framer is the actual mounting, or hinging, of the artwork onto the mounting board. Most people know better than to use Scotch tape, but beyond that, the average hobbyist is unsure about how to properly hang artwork and is often overwhelmed with the variety of hinging products.

There are several artwork hinging techniques. We will cover three of the most popular, which are 1) hanging, 2) corners, and 3) strips. Often more than one technique works for a given project, while at other times one method works best. Generally this depends on the material the artwork is put on, and the geometric space available within the picture frame package. For example, rice paper, which is very light, requires a different hinging material than a heavier canvas. Also, a frame with a large mat will have more space for hinging while one without a mat will require that the framer be a little more clever with concealing the hinge.

Some good news: unlike when discussing matting, there are not really any conservation or pH-value considerations to make with the various types of hinging materials. This is because as long as one is purchasing from a reputable company, all the hinging material will be free of lignin (chemical compound usually derived from wood), and therefore safe to use on all types of artwork.

The Concept of Reversibility

Before we jump into the hinging methods, we should probably understand the concept of reversibility. The goal in any framing project is to do as little damage to the artwork as possible. In conservation framing, this concept translates to ensuring that anything done to the artwork can be undone (or reversed) without harming the artwork in any way. Perhaps the best way to understand reversibility is to understand its opposite: when a process cannot be undone. The best example of irreversibility is probably the gluing of a poster onto mounting board. The poster cannot be removed from the mounting board without significantly damaging, if not outright ruining, the original. Of course the more precious an artwork is, the more attention that should be paid to reversibility. While replacing a damaged poster is simple (going on the internet and purchasing another), the same can not be said for heirloom or other precious items.

Mounting Method #1: Hanging

If at all possible, the best method for mounting artwork is to attach it from its top. This effectively hangs (or vertically hinges) the artwork from its top. Hanging it from the top, as opposed to taping all sides, give the artwork room to contact and expand with change of humidity. This prevents wrinkling inside of the frame. Any organic compound will be subject to changes in humidity; paper, canvas, and rice paper all fall into this category.

Hinging material comes in two broad categories: tissue and tape. Both are cotton based and therefore acid free, and are pressure sensitive adhesives. The adhesive is chemically stable and will not get brittle or yellow over time. Hinging tissue is very delicate and will tear easily; white tape is stronger and generally used more often. It’s called hinging tape because it is used to make hinges, just like door hinges.

Hinging tissue is best used for very delicate, light or translucent pieces such as rice paper or other works that need to have the tape be invisible. The idea in conservation framing is to use a hinging material that will tear more easily than the artwork. This way, if the artwork is put under any stress, the tape will tear before the artwork because it is the weaker link. This means that the glue in the hinging paper is activated when pressure is applied to the tissue. It will hold most all papers, but not all. Occasionally, it may be necessary to double up on the rice paper hinges to make them strong enough for heavier artwork. Just be sure that the hinge is always the weakest link and that it breaks first.

Hinging tape is a stronger alternative to hinging tissue. In fact, it is used much more often when hanging artwork because the tissue paper is only needed for really delicate items. It serves two purposes: to hinge the artwork to the mounting board and to hinge the window mat to mounting board. Figure 1 shows this. It is strong and acid-free (cotton based). It has a textured woven look. It is very strong and does not tear, but can be cut with scissors.

Whether using hinging tape or tissue, there are two basic hanging techniques; the T-hinge and V-hinge.

The T-Hinge

The T-hinge is a good all-purpose hanging method where one piece of tape is applied to the backside of the artwork and the other crosses over the exposed tape perpendicularity and attaches to the mounting board. This type of hinge is the most popular because it is simple and strong. It’s major disadvantage is that it can not be done if there is no matting available, though this is seldom the case.

The V-Hinge

The V-hinge is somewhat more complex and requires more lifting and handing of the artwork. However, it can be used when there is not a lot of matting available. The box will have directions for how to use it. A V-hinge is concealed behind artwork so it works well with glass frames, which are gaining some popularity. And it allows for the edges of the artwork to show.

Mounting Method #2: Mounting Corners

Next on the list of hinging techniques are mounting corners. Mounting corners are used to mount artwork that needs to be supported by all four corners. This includes items such as photographs, documents, diplomas, and certificates. Like hinging tape, mounting corners are safe on the artwork and easy to use. They are made with a non-yellowing acrylic adhesive and the adhesive is pressure sensitive. A great advantage over hinging tape is that the adhesive never comes into contact with the artwork. Their disadvantage is that since they support the artwork on all four sides, there is a risk of the artwork folding and/or buckling as the paper expands and contracts with humidity changes over time. There are two types of corners: those that are full and those that are hallowed out.

Mounting Method #3: Mounting Strips

Mounting strips are pieces of adhesive plastic that have a small non-adhesive lip. These are applied by putting the sticky side of the strip in contact with the edges of the backing board. Inside the frame package, the frame’s lips will hide the strips. The purpose of strips is to avoid the artwork from coming into contact with the glue. These are great a great option where matting is not desired, or on larger pieces for which matting is not available.