Mounting 30" X 40" Photos : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I've got my darkroom with 8X10 enlarger working fine now, and am printing a series of 30X40" photos of the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia. The photos are B+W, printed on Bergger Prestige FB paper (the Warm Matte), archivally processed and selenium toned. So, how do I mat/mount them in archival fashion, and yet in a way that is practical? I have heard quite a lot of negatives about dry mounting, but archival corners seem unlikely to hold a print of this size in place, let alone keep it flat. Light Impressions sells Seal Archival Mount, which they advertise as "archival" (it's buffered and removable), and also an acid-free "Archival" foam core board. This would seem like the sort of combination one would need to support a big print. I do have A Seal Jumbo 160 press that should just be able to accomodate the 32" wide board (any tips or refs on how to keep something this big flat while mounting it in sections as I would have to with the 160 press?) Or is there another (better) way? I am eager to do this archivally, ideally to do it myself, but I do want to make sure that the photo is presented attractively, if not dead flat then at least with undue distracting wrinkles.

As always, thanks in advance for your suggestions.


-- Nathan Congdon (, July 03, 2001


Nathan: I would advise against mounting a fine print directly onto foam core. Foam core is very delicate, and the slightest pressure will dent it. In addition, foam core is very easy to puncture. I suggest you mount onto regular mount board. For a print this large, I would mount two sheets of mount board back to back so the curl is equalized, then mount the print onto that. You should be able to mount the print in sections. The mounted print will be a lot stronger this way. I think you can mount the print with dry mount, but you may have to place the mounting film on the board in sections, unless you can find a single sheet that large. The other options are to find a commercial shop with pressure mounting facilities or spray mount the print. Good luck with it.


-- Doug Paramore (, July 03, 2001.

Nathan, I started making fiber prints about 25x50 a couple years ago and they absolutely have to be drymounted, as would 30x40. I tried the corner route and had 4 of them hanging in a museum - they looked flat at first but when I visited the exhibit 3 weeks later they were horribly wrinkled, which didn't happen to the ones in my own home. Humidity levels arw different in different places... I do my own drymounting on a 16x20 Seal press in sections onto 3/8" archival foam core and now have the system down where it works great. Light Impressions sells archival foam core --- it may arrive with dented corners but if it will be framed it doesn't matter. Here are my notes for this procedure, using roll of Seal Archival Mount: - get two large clean sheets of Crescent "flaw board" - SMOOTH - set press lighter pressure than what Seal recommends and slightly higher temp if using cardboard on top (180-190) - Important: pre-dry print and substrate at 170 degrees by inserting in press for a couple minutes, both together is OK (without tissue, of course) -- sandwich between the two large Crescent boards so press doesn't make an indentation in middle of print or foam core. Press for 10 seconds, open press, the press for about 3 minutes, no longer. The humidity must be dried out of the materials, or you will get stuck emulsion or weird overlap marks. - tack tissue to print at two corners and midway down side (tack through a piece of tracing paper and preferably in margins of prints) -Tack tissue to board on the other 2 corners and midway down other side - Drymount in sections at 180-190, sandwiched between the large smooth boards to avoid indentation marks. 2 1/2 - 3 minutes. - Cool down briefly under a flat weight. I use a big piece of plexi with books on top. Write me if you have any questions. Cheers!

-- Sandy Sorlien (, July 03, 2001.

Nathan, you might also want to use 8 ply archival board for your mount. Light impressions sell them, and dont worry so much about the archival process, if you are doing everything correct, good washes, double fix bath etc, your print should last hundreds of years. If you become famous, by that time it will be stored on a digital medium..:-)

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, July 03, 2001.

You probably are going to have mount these somehow, like dry alot of people (conservators etc...)dry mounting is not archival by any definiton. To be archival it must be reversible...even dry mount tissue that can be reheated to remove, can leave a residue behind, and it's true that you can use solvents to remove dry mount tissue as well, but this isn't good for the prints either...

Alright, that's my little disclaimer....back in the old days when we did murals and large prints in-house on fiber paper, we would wet-mount them to whatever substrate we were using. We do exhibit production as well, so a photo might be used as an exhibit component, not neccessarily an "archival" thing. We'd use wheat paste and wet-mount the print to a sheet of plywood, and wrap the corners around the edges of the board, tacking it. When it dried, it was tight as a drum. I've seen murals that are 20 yrs. old or so, that have survived okay, although I wouldn't say this was a good way to mount them...

I would avoid spray mounting at all costs...unless you have a spray booth and feel like wearing a it's permanent, and really a mess to work with.

The thing I would worry about with the foam core would be in dry mounting it. Unless you're using a vaccuum press, it may be tricky...and then if you did decide to reheat the board to remove at some point, you have to do it at a higher temp., so I'd worry about the foam core as well.

This other post about humidity brings up some good points, another reason why people don't like dry mounting is because as the print & mount board acclimate to cycling humidity, they can expand & contract, and can cause damage to the print itself. In general, photography is about the only place where dry mounting is considered okay, with all other paper items, if you dry mounted them, they'd be considered ruined.

A 30x40 is going to be tough to get flat though...but it's really not as big as mural...if you do use tissue, you can buy it in wide rolls as well.

-- DK Thompson (, July 03, 2001.

Hi all, Just to follow up, I agree that drymounting is not truly archival because of the expansion differential. You should only drymount one set of prints for exhibition. When selling them or donating them to a collection, give umounted prints and let the recipient decide what to do with them. And to clarify about the Crescent board, you can use any very smooth mat board for the purpose of sandwiching the print and substrate. My framer just happens to have Crescent "flaw board" (flawed on the colored side, not good enough to sell full price) around which he sells me very cheaply. Actually, only the top one has to be smooth because otherwise it will imprint on your emulsion.

-- Sandy Sorlien (, July 03, 2001.

Nathan, If you decide to dry mount, consider heating the foam core before drymounting by placing it in the press for about 10 seconds or so. This will release any gas from the board that would otherwise get trapped between your board and your photographs leaving an annoying air bubble.

I've learned that lesson one too many times the hard way.

-- dave anton (, July 03, 2001.

Top hinge-taping is the only way to go with large gallery prints. Forget any kind of mount that makes even semi-permanent contact unless you don't particularly care what its lifetime would be.

-- Matt O. (, July 04, 2001.

Following up again, since we all agree that drymounting is not archival it is probably a waste of money to use archival foam core. Use the regular stuff.

Matt, you might get away with that for a short time with RC paper but most very large fiber prints for exhibition are not going to stay flat that way. (See: embarrassing museum experience I describe above.) My 20x24s are small enough, however, to do OK with just corners and/or hinges, if the window mat is held very tight against them.

-- Sandy Sorlien (, July 04, 2001.

Just because a product says "archival" doesn't mean it is. Seal "archival" mount is removable so they call it archival. Archival Fome-Cor may be just as acidic as regular Fome-Cor except for the alkaline-buffered paper laminated to the face. Consider wet-mounting the prints to linen using Jade or PVA adhesive (wheat paste is archival but it attracts bugs). Prints can then be hinged using Japanese mounting tissue and PVA or Jade. Richard Avedon's massive prints were mounted this way for his "Evidence" exhibition tour and withstood a great deal of travel, handling and climate changes. Check out Henry Wilhelm's book "The Pemanence and Care of Color Photographs" for lot's of info on this subject (it also deals with B/W prints). Also, a better source than Light Impressions for archival stuff is Talas (

-- Steve Wiley (, July 04, 2001.

Some other good sources are Gaylord Bros., Conservation Resources Int'l., Archivart, University Products, and TALAS...maybe Hollinger, Metal Edge, etc. CRI carries a pretty extensive line of materials including the Artcare boards and their own Microchamber papers/boards which are pretty good & unique won't find too much in the way of dry mount tissues with these folks though....

The Wilhelm book is a real good source, and so's Dennis Inch & L. Keefe's "The Life of a Photograph". The problem with dry mount tissue, besides it's permanence, is that there has been very little testing of it done, or at least made public. To go to all the trouble to make an "archival" print and then dry mount, is sorta pointless in a way. The only true standard for safety with regards to photo materials is the PAT test, and to my knowledge (I could be wrong here) there is no dry mount tissue that passes....

-- DK Thompson (, July 04, 2001.

Additional remarks on archival mounting photographs: Advise: do not mount the photograph at all. Tape the photograph on the four edges during the drying proces on a piece of glass of at least six or eight millimeters and it becomes so flat as it came from the factory and there is no need to mount it when you put it behind a passepatout with enough overlay. The system that gives absolutely the best presentation result is putting the print behind perspex. Expensive but you should try it ones! More details: kontakt me (I have no commercial interest in the system)

-- Albert Visser (, October 15, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ