5 Steps to Matting a Fine Art Photographic Print

An image showing all the materials required for the proper archival mounting of a fine art photographic print from John Dunne Photography

Last week I announced my brand new Fine Art Gicleé Photographic Print options I have launched from this site. You can find out more from my Buy Original Fine Art Photographic Prints Information page. One of the key components of that announcement was that every print I sell will now come Matted, so that it can slip straight into an off-the-shelf frame.

I was very surprised when I started my research for this. While there are numerous articles that cover the preparation and printing of a photograph there was very little on proper, archival quality matting. A lot of what I did find was in fact improper mounting techniques that actually jeopardized the longevity of the print; such as using adhesive tapes to stick the actual print to the board, some even suggesting using common masking tape. Oh dear! So I decided to research how Fine Artwork and Paintings were mounted.

Below is how, after much research I finalised my method of Matting my prints. This is as much written for my fellow photographers who are interested in this topic; as it is for any of my customers who would like to understand more about how I mount my artwork.

Step 1 Be Prepared

I’m gonna go out here on a limb and say hopefully having a clean workspace should be fairly obvious. This is critical to ensure no dust or dirt reaches the print during the mounting process. Matting the print should be carried out swiftly and ensure the print is not left exposed to the elements. After printing and prior to mounting my prints are always stored in individual protective bags to ensure they don’t attract dust.

So to ensure a swift mounting process I make sure I have both plenty of room and everything I’ll need to mount the print near to hand (and nothing more). Secondly I make sure I use a pair of cotton gloves (7) throughout the process. These ensure none of my own nasty chemicals are transferred to the print from my hands. On the right you can see a complete list of the materials I use during the Matting process and I shall refer to each of these as I work through each step.

  1. Daler Rowney White Core mount board (Snow White) with a precision cut opening 1/4″ larger then the print.
  2. Daler Rowney White Core Under-mount (Snow White) pre-cut to the right size
  3. Steel Ruler for cutting/trimming
  4. Sharp knife
  5. Archival Pigment Ink Pen and HP Pencil
  6. JdP Seal of Authenticity
  7. Cotton Gloves
  8. Protective Clear Plastic Bag
  9. PH7-70 pH Neutral Acid Free Paper Hinging Tape
  10. See-Thru Archival Mounting Strips
  11. Cutting Board

Step 2 Creating a Hinged Mount Board

Hinging the Matte is a very common method used in Fine Art and offers complete protection for the print but also makes the removal of the print a simple process. Firstly I layout the Matte (1) and Under-mount (2) beside each other. I use a straight edge (3) to ensure they are lined up exactly. When I’m satisfied everything is straight I use a pH Neutral Acid Free Paper Hinging Tape (9) to tape the two boards together. Next I trim off the edges with a sharp knife (4). I use a special cutting board (11) that both protects my work surface and is also very simple to clean. It goes straight back in a protect plastic bag when I am finished using it. Once trimmed I run my gloved finger along the tape to ensure good adhesion.

Squaring the Mount
An image showing the 1st step of making a hinged mount from John Dunne Photography

The 1st step in making a hinged mount; squaring off the boards.

Taping the Mount
An image showing the 2nd step of making a hinged mount from John Dunne Photography

The 2nd step in making a hinged mount; taping the joint.

Trimming the Joint Tape
An image showing the 3rd step of making a hinged mount from John Dunne Photography

The 3rd step in making a hinged mount; trimming the tape.

Finished Hinged Mount
An image showing the finished hinged mount from John Dunne Photography

The finished hinged mount.

Step 3 Positioning the Print

This is probably the single most awkward step in the process. Accurate placement is critical to ensure the print is centred in the matte window. The first step is to open the hinged mount and place the print flat on the under-mount. All my Mattes are sized at a 1/4″ larger then the print. This larger size ensures that again nothing touches the printed surface. The print itself includes 1″ of white space (ne unprinted paper) to give the mount something to grip. It is this whitespace that can make the positioning so pernickety. To make it easier I have cut guides for each print size from heavyweight photographic paper. I have one for both the bottom and side that allow me to line up the print on the under-mount perfectly. Once lined up place a weight on the print. Not any weight though, something that will not damage the print. I use a very very soft sock, actually 2 socks one inside the other filled with coins. It doesn’t need to weigh a ton, just enough to keep the print secure. Next close over the hinged mount and make sure everything is centred and squared off. I’ll tweak the position until it’s perfect.

Print laid Flat
An image of the print laid flat on the under-mount from John Dunne Photography

The print laid flat on the under-mount

Centred using Templates
An image of the print after it has been centred in the mount from John Dunne Photography

The print is centred and secured with a weight.

Checked with Matte Closed
An image of the print after it has been centred in the mount from John Dunne Photography

Position is double checked with the Matte closed.

Step 4 Securing the Print

Now that the print is perfectly placed in the Matte I need to secure it. As mentioned at the very beginning though I don’t use any adhesives on the print itself. So how do I overcome this? I use See-Thru Archival Mounting Strips (10). The strips are made so half their length contains a 2-ply conservation board and acid free adhesive and the other half a clear archival polyester. Firstly I cut 5 to 6 (depending on print size) strips of about 1/2″ in length. Then I reopen the hinged Matte to expose the print. Peeling of the protective plastic from the adhesive I place the strips around the print to secure it in place. The adhesive edge sticks to the under-mount while the clear archival polyester edge secures the print in place against the under-mount. As I include an 1″ border around all my prints not even this archival polyester edge touches the printed surface. Its important to leave a small amount of room, say 1/32″ – 1/16″ between the the 2-ply board of the adhesive strip and the print to allow or expansion. I use this method to affix all my Companion, Artist and Studio Prints. Given their size my larger Gallery & Master prints are dry mounted to an archival quality board.

Centred and Ready to Fix
An image of centre print ready for fixing to the under-mount from John Dunne Photography

The Print is centred and ready for fixing to the under-mount

Mounting Strips Cut
An image of the print ready for fixing to the under-mount with the fixing strips from John Dunne Photography

Mounting strips cut and ready to fix.

Print fixed to Under-mount
An image of the print affixed to the under-mount with the fixing strips from John Dunne Photography

Print fixed to the under-mount

Finished Matte
An image of the finished matted Prints ready to be signed from John Dunne Photography

The Finished Matted Print

Step 5 Sign the Print & Bag it

So the print is now securely mounted within the hinged matte board. The entire process was done swiftly, in a clean environment, wearing cotton gloves and using only archival quality mounting products. I carry out a final inspection to make sure I am 100% happy, ensuring everything is still spotlessly clean, print is positioned correctly, etc. Time to sign. I sign both the print and the matte. The print signature is hidden beneath the Matte so as not to distract from the print itself. I use an archival quality pigment ink pen (5) to sign the print and a good ol’ HP pencil (5) to sign the mount. Once complete the final matted print is placed in a protective clear plastic bag (8) and sealed to protect it before its packaged and shipped to a customer.

Ready to Sign
An image of the finished matted Prints ready to be signed from John Dunne Photography

The finished matted Print ready to be signed

Signing the Print
An image of me signing one of my original Prints from John Dunne Photography

Me signing the Print

Signing the Matte
An image of me signing the Matte from one of my original Prints from John Dunne Photography

Me signing the Matte

Complete and Protected
An image of the finished Matted Fine Art Print in a protective clear plastic bag from John Dunne Photography

Print safely Matted and in a clear plastic protective cover

Seal of Authenticity

Every one of my Matted prints are finished off by affixing my unique Seal of Authenticity (6). This gives my customers peace of mind that the print is an original piece directly from me. It also allows me to offer my 4 unique warranties.

An image of the Seal of Authenticity affixed to the back of my original Prints from John Dunne Photography

Every Matted Print is finished off by placing my unique Seal of Authenticity on the back

  • http://twitter.com/MelJD46 Mel D

    What a useful article, thank you for sharing your method of working. Not that I’ve progressed that far yet but its on the agenda & its always interesting to see how other people operate.

    • http://www.johndunnephotography.com/ John Dunne

      Thanks Mel, glad you found it useful. You can always bookmark it and come back when you’re ready to start Matting your work ;-)

      • http://twitter.com/MelJD46 Mel D

        I already did, thank you :) 

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  • http://www.johndunnephotography.com/ John Dunne

    You are very welcome Gerard. For images above 16×20 I dry mount. They would be too large to use this method.

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