Mounted Photographic Prints Explained
You may have purchased a fine art print, or had your own images printed.
Whether it’s fine art or family snapshots, unless your pictures are being stored in a photo album, we usually want to display them on the wall so we can enjoy them.
There’s many options for hanging & displaying photographic prints, but they will need to be mounted first.
So what is a mounted print? It’s simply a print that has been attached, or mounted, to a backing board. There’s a few options for photo mounting that allow the print to be displayed or framed & hung on the wall. It also helps protect & preserve the print.
A photograph can be printed on various photographic papers with different finishes as well as different inks.
Learn all about the various print mediums available & how to choose the best one for your images with this guide to print materials.
There’s often a choice of matte, satin, pearl, lustre or gloss. If you’re old school, you may have or still be using emulsion based papers ( remember the good old days in the darkroom? )
There’s also dye-based & pigment inks. Most print labs now use pigment inks for photographic prints.
A photograph can be printed via an inkjet or laser printer, but print labs use inkjet as it delivers the highest quality.
Canvas is also a popular medium for photographic printing & unless it’s been mounted on stretcher bars (known as a canvas wrap) a rolled canvas will also need mounting before it can be displayed.
Canvas Prints - Stretched vs Rolled
Gallery Wrap vs Stretched Canvas
Mounted Or Matted - What’s The Difference?
These 2 terms can sometimes be confused.
A mounted print is simply attached to a backing board.
There’s a number of ways this can be done, but ultimately it’s so the photograph can either be framed for display as well as offering protection from bending & damaged corners.
A matted print is where a matte, or window, is placed in front of the photograph to act as not only protection, but a visual & decorative frame.
Does a Mounted Print Have To Be Framed?
Once mounted, either with or without a matte, an unframed print can look really clean & modern.
You may have already seen metal & acrylic prints & how they work so well because they generally are presented unframed.
What the photograph is mounted on will also create a different visual appeal.
For framing purposes, Gatorboard is generally used. But there are other materials available to get creative with.
Types of Mounting Boards
There’s a number of different backing boards, as well as materials to mount your photograph & each can offer it’s own advantages as well as visual style.
Polyurethane - a popular material to use,
Gatorboard being the most recognised.
Basically it’s a lightweight but sturdy foam material that prevents buckling or warping, even for extra large prints.
Museum Mounting Boards - these are archival quality mounting boards.
Made from 100% cotton, there’s a few suppliers of these products, each with their own specifications.
These boards are acid free, trap airbourne contaminants & are ideal for limited edition & other expensive prints.
Aluminium - not to be confused with dye-sublimation metal prints, the print is mounted directly to the aluminium substrate & a clear coat can be applied to seal & protect the print.
Being chemically inert means this is also an archival method for mounting a print.
Dibond - made with a hard plastic core, sandwiched between aluminium sheets, it’s a great option for exhibiting very large prints as it offers a lot of rigidity & won’t buckle when transported.
Acrylic - again, not to be confused with acrylic prints made via the dye-sublimation process.
Sometimes referred to as Plexiglass, a print can be mounted directly to the face of an acrylic sheet, or mounted on the back face up.
This way you look through a layer of acrylic when viewing the image.
As well as protecting the print, the layer of refractive acrylic gives it extra depth & colour.
Wood - if you’d like a thicker, more chunky style of presenting your photograph, mounting to a wooden block may just be what you’re after.
Smaller prints on a thick enough wood can stand alone.
But thinner material can also be used for larger prints that hang on the wall.
Different types of wood can be used & when viewed from the side the grain is visible .. pretty cool.
A clear coat can also be applied.
Laminate - technically it’s not mounting, but it’s a simple way to protect a print & is perfect for protecting posters, certificates etc.
Available in matte, gloss & other finishes which allows for a less reflective surface.
Ways to Mount Your Print
There’s a number of ways to attach a photographic print to a backing, or mounting board.
Some will work better for certain prints than others, as well as your own requirements.
Will you be framing the print? Is it for transport, display?
Certain methods don’t require as much, if any, adhesive.
1. Wet Mounting - it’s cheap, but a difficult method to master.
As the name suggests, it’s the use of a water-based adhesive.
It’s not widely used as it can affect prints in an unpredictable way.
Probably best left to an expert.
2. Dry Mounting - a special dry mount paper is applied under a heat press or iron & the total area of the print is adhered to the backing board.
3. Self Adhesive Mounting Boards - as the name implies, it’s as simple as peeling off the protective sheet to reveal the adhesive board.
If you want your print to last, PH neutral boards are available.
4. Spray Adhesive - different brands are available from art stores, so best to ask which is best for your needs.
Some may have a reaction to certain materials or inks.
5. Mounting Corners - these are L shaped corners that hold the print in place.
Archival mounting corners are available as well as tape.
6. Hinge Mounting - these are used with a matting board.
An acid free tissue or tape is applied directly to the matte rather than the mounting board.
There’s 2 styles of hinges, either folding or pendulum.
The Cost of Mounting Prints
It’s difficult to give any exact cost for mounting as it can vary between framers.
If you’re doing the mounting yourself, then it’s just the price of the materials you’ll need to consider.
You’ll need different supplies & products for whichever method you choose.
But here’s a guide from the most expensive to cheapest backing boards.
Museum Mounting Boards
I’ve never mounted one of my own photographs, or anyone else’s for that matter.
I love photography & seeing the final printed result, but I leave it to the professional print labs.
But I can imagine it’s a very satisfying feeling doing it yourself.
Following the process all the way from capturing the image to mounting & displaying it on your wall.
I hope you found value in this article & please feel free to share .. it’s always appreciated.