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Framing Your Print is Easy!

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I remember the first time I framed a print on my own. It took months to muster up the guts to try it. But I had no regrets because everything went off without a hitch. It was so easy to do. I get asked questions about framing all the time, so I hope someone will find the article helpful.

There are many options to framing and they cannot all be covered here, so the focus will be on the most typical framing style. No matter what style is used, always use acid-free matting, ultraviolet resistant (UV) Plexiglas or glass and use only Mylar Framer's Corners or Japanese paper hinges to secure the artwork. In this example, a metal frame has been chosen from AmericanFrame.com along with the rest of the supplies. The art about to be framed is an original ink-only self-portrait from famed artist Justin Hampton. On a side note, the mats in the example were cut by the author to save more money, but the mats at AmericanFrame.com are very professionally done as well.

The Basic Supplies

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  • Frame purchased from AmericanFrame.com and usally includes assembly hardware along with the frame border, but does not include the hanging wire.
  • UV Plexiglas purchased from AmericanFrame.com. Glass is optional but would have to be bought at a local source.
  • Acid-free Backboard goes in back of the print and can be purchased from AmericanFrame.com.
  • Acid-free Matting goes between print and glass. Can be purchased from AmericanFrame.com.
  • Hanging wire can be bought at AmericanFrame.com, but does not come by default in the order.
  • Mylar Mounting Corners used to hold the print in place on the backboard. This must be purchased seperately. It is NOT included in the AmericanFrame.com package. We have used both the small photo corners and large framer's corners depending on the appliciation. Some seem to really like the mounting strips alternative to corners. Optionally, Japanese paper hinges can be used like museums do, but they take about an hour longer to do.
  • Acid-free Linen tape used to hinge the mat to the backboard. This is optional. Never use linen tape on the print itself.
  • Tools include a flat blade screw driver for frame assembly and a pair of scissors to cut the hanging wire.

Ordering A Frame

Ordering the frame must be done correctly. Read this and save some headache. When ordering from AmericanFrame.com, it is critical to get the frame measurements right. If ordering a mat then the dimensions entered must be the part of the print that is to be visible, not the whole print. The remaining edges will be hidden under the mat. If not ordering a mat, the dimensions are the outside actual paper dimensions. Next make sure the frame choice has a deep enough rabbet depth to fit all the layers plus leave at least an 1/8 inch for the spring. In most cases for posters, a 1/2" or better rabbet depth is needed for one or two mats but may be tight. I prefer 5/8" on most things I frame. For example, the demo print has 1/8" backboard, 3/32" Plexiglas, 3-1/16" mats which total to 13/32". Adding the print thickness of 1/32" brings it to 7/16". Adding at least an 1/8" for the spring, a minimum of 9/16" rabbet depth is needed. A 5/8" rabbet depth is being used which is a perfect fit.

Ready, set, go!

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Error creating thumbnail: Unable to save thumbnail to destination
Error creating thumbnail: Unable to save thumbnail to destination
Error creating thumbnail: Unable to save thumbnail to destination
Error creating thumbnail: Unable to save thumbnail to destination

With all the supplies in place we are ready to frame in only 15 minutes. The first step is to mount the print on the backboard. The easiest way to do this is stack them all together and place a weight on top of the print to hold it in place. In the picture, a tuna can wrapped in plastic wrap serves as a weight. Then remove the mats and secure it with framers corners or other hinging material. Remember that the hinging material does not come with the AmericanFrame.com order. The example is using photo corners because the print is small. The down side to corners is that they may be visible in some cases where the Japanese paper hinges are not visible when the mat is placed on the board, but it takes a bit more work to do. Many museums use Japanese paper hinges. The reason why Japanese paper is used is because it is acid free and it tears easily which is really important since one should want the tape to rip before the artwork. Also, if you do it right, it is completely reversible.

Optionally, the mat may be attached to the backboard using an acid-free linen tape which makes assembly a little easier. Notice the linen tape in the picture is used to hinge the mat to the backboard and even hinge the mats to each other.

Once the art work is secured in place, stack all the layers together and top off with the Plexiglas, then set aside while the frame border is assembled. On the metal frames the border is simply screwed together using pressure clamps, as shown in the picture. Leave one side open to slide the artwork into the rabbet, and close it off with the final side. Wood frames come assembled already, and the layers are dropped down into the rabbet from the back.

Next, press and slide the springs into the rabbet grooves to keep the layers pressed forward in the frame and attach the hanging clamps and wire. On a wood frame, the springs and hanging hooks are screwed to the back of the wood frame. A completed back view of the metal frame is shown in the last picture.