framing and matting : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello all,

It looks like the last step of photography is framing. Is there some web site where i can find more informations or instructions.


-- Martin Kapostas (, June 19, 2001


The framing of works on paper is a complicated subject, but here are a few suggestions. For a through background, here is a good PDF file you might want to download and print: mpres.pdf

For many years, I've used a firm in Minneapolis, Metropolitan Picture Framing, to frame drawings and works on paper, and they have an extremely fine web site:

The Metropolitan site is quite good at showing internal relationships of the framing such as the way that the depth of the frame, and specifically the rabbet, is dependant upon the materials and presentation you choose. For materials, I'm quite fond of their lacquered maple frames, and they make matching spacers which are thin slats of identically finished wood which hold the matboard and work to the back of the frame, and force the glazing material away from the surface of the work. Under "purchasing options" you see the "spline joining" technique which locks the mitered corners together mechanically (it's much stronger than a simple glued/nailed corner), and which can also be quite handsome.

One of the most complicated choices is what material to use for glazing. The routine choice for a large piece is clear acrylic (plexiglas), which has the advantages of optical clarity, unbreakability, and low cost, but is inherently soft and therefore scratches easily when cleaned. Plexi can also be had in an ultraviolet filtering grade, which is tinted very slightly yellow to protect the work from the bleaching effects of short wavelengths of light. Both standard glass and plexi have the problem of being highly reflective, a problem that is only exacerbated, in my opinion, by applying cheap "anti-glare" coatings. On glass, this means acid etching the surface to roughen it, and thereby making it impossible to see anything beneath it clearly; something comparable is sometimes done to plexi. The best solution, by far, is of course also the most expensive one, which is to use the new German glasses that have a vacuum-deposited series of layers laid down in precisely the same way as the coated optics for photography. These glasses are low-iron, which makes them clear "white" (not green when seen in cross-section), have low UV transmission, are nearly invisible because they reflect nothing but specular light sources (this can be almost eerie as you think you can touch the work, but then find that there is something there!), and some are now even laminated for strength. See the brief discussion of types at:

One of the best brands of this museum grade glass is considered to be: ml

Good luck!

-- Christopher Campbell (, June 19, 2001.

If you go into a framing shop and they are not familiar with 'conservation framing' turn around and leave. They are not the type of people you want to deal with or purchase supplies from.

Mat board is a big part of the finished art just as the frame itself is. If you scrimp at any step you pay for it later. I prefer, use and sell Bainbridge Alpharag Artcare board in my custom framing business. I photograph and frame both and my framing seldom goes beyond photography for the simple reason I like photography and it is what I do best. So, I specialize in it from alt processes to Giclee' prints.

The Bainbridge artcare boards are excellent and have the added advantage of actively protecting the image even from their own outgassing as they age. It cuts easier than Crescent board and many I have sold prints to have come back asking specifically about the matting when they want their own work framed. It really looks nice and cuts cleanly. I use it for mats and backing both for added protection.

For frames I do not recommend wood unless you are going to seal the rabbit with aluminized mylar or metallic tapes. The outgassing from the wood will/can attack the image, even with the Bainbridge board for protection. Metal frames are a much better alternative *most* of the time. You can 'nest' them, one inside the other, for creative possibilities. Nielson frames are one of the premier brands that seem to hold up well and have many choices to fit your image, decor and taste.

Glazing is as mentioned in the post to first answer your question. But purchasing Denglas Water White is a good way to go. It is clear, multicoated glass that will help protect the image and allow its beauty to show without the green tint of normal framing glass.

Dry mounting or hinging or corner pockets are your main options with most photos. If you are using Ilfochromes you have a whole other set or problems to face with the first being do NOT use buffered matboards. Ilfochromes are acidic and buffered board will shorten the life. Dry mounting perplexes some with Ilfochromes as the orange peel effect shows up too often & heat mounts may melt the print if you are not very careful. One nice option is a 'static mount'. This is easy to do & the print will lie flat in the frame.

Get some mat board & cut to various sizes to lay a print on and see how it looks in presentation. If you go with the standard 2 inch matting so many seem to use you will often find yourself looking at the prints & sensing something wrong but not be sure what it is. With small matting you often crowd the print. Try a layout with matting larger than 'normal' and see if it works. You might be surprised.

Good luck.

-- Dan Smith (, June 19, 2001.

Martin: For supplies order the Light Impressions catalog (free, available on line, I think it is Their prices for Nielson frames are terrific. For a basic course in mounting prints and cutting mats and framing, try "The Print" (book 3) from the Ansel Adams photo book series. There are as many ways to do this as there are photographers, but you can make a professionsal matted print yourself with some archival board, dry mounting tissue, a press, a tacking iron, a handheld mat cutter, a straight edge, a clamp, a decent paper cutter, a sheet of glass and a Nielson frame with a sheet of glass. If you measure carefully and use the mat cutter carefully with a heavy straight edge clamped at one end the results don't look amaturish. And change the blades often on the mat cutter if you don't want trouble, they dull quickly.

-- Kevin Crisp (, June 20, 2001.

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