How to Frame a Print
Mat and Mounting Boards
The first two things you will need are a ‘mat-board’ and a ‘mounting board’. The mounting board is used to mount the print and hold it in place. The mounting board goes behind the print in the frame. The mat board goes in front of the print in the frame, with a window cut out of it, to ensure the print doesn’t touch the glass. The first thing to do is take both the mat-board and the mounting board and lay them together. Then you will cut to a size which is approximately 2-3 inches (5-7 cm) larger than the actual print on all sides.
Obtaining a Frame
Next, obtain a frame matching the dimensions of the cut mat and mounting boards.
Attach the Print to the Mounting Board
What you need to do next is attach the print to the mounting board. To do this, lay out the mounting board face up and center the print on it. Next, carefully tape the print to the mounting board with archival tape “hinges” at the top edge only. This is important because you want the print ‘hanging’ from the top only. This gives the print room to expand and contract with humidity, without it bubbling up or creasing under the glass. These archival tape hinges are available from any art supply store. Don’t worry, they can’t be seen. They are widely used as ‘invisible’ mounting method.
Marking Out the Mat Board
What you want to do here is cut out a window from the center of the mat-board that is approximately ¼ inch (1.2 cm) or so smaller than the print, so when placed in front of it, it overlaps the face of the print by this much on each of the four sides. To do this, carefully measure the dimensions of the print horizontally and vertically, and write these numbers down. Next, lay the mat board out face side down so you are looking at the back of it. Using a straight edge, like a ruler, draw diagonal lines across the back of the mat-board to diametrically opposed corners forming a criss-cross. Where the two lines intersect represents the exact center of the mat-board.
From this center point, measure out vertically and horizontally in four directions, a distance ½ the width less a ¼ inch of the print, and a distance ½ the height less a ¼ inch. Use a pencil. From these points, use a T-square to draw your horizontal and vertical perimeter lines which will represent the opening you are about to cut out of the center of the board. Using a T-square ensures that the lines meet at exactly 90o degrees, which means that the bottom and top lines will be perfectly parallel, as will the two vertical lines, representing the left and right of the opening. This is important because if these lines are out of alignment, you will really be able to see it when you hang up your frame, so it’s important to take your time and get this right.
Cutting the Mat Board
With these lines now carefully marked, you will use a straight edge and a sharp cutting knife to cut out the square you have made in the middle. Lay your straight edge along the line, and cut along the line in one continuous motion without stopping. Assure cleanly cut corners by extending the cut just a tiny 1/8 past the end of the corner. This means that the vertical and horizontal cuts overlap at the corners, meaning you can lift out the center window without any daggy bits being torn and left behind. The overlap cuts will be virtually invisible to the naked eye. The main thing is you want the center piece to separate without leaving any tears, or little teased bits hanging off.
Once you’ve cut around the four lines you’ve market out, overlapping each cut at the corners, carefully lift out the center piece from the mat board and discard. What you have left is a mat-board with a center window cut out, just a ¼ smaller than the print on all sides. Now, we can begin the process of framing our print.
Frame Your Print
First, lay your frame face down. Ensure the glass is meticulously clean on both sides, and lay it inside the frame. Next, lay the mat-board, display side down, into the frame, so it will be facing outward toward the glass. On top of this, place the print, still now attached to the mount board, face side down in the frame. At this point you might want to take a little peeky-poo through the front glass just to make sure everything is aligned properly. Be careful, you don’t want things moving around in there – just ensure it’s all in place.
With the frame still face down, secure the backing material into the back of the frame. The backing material should be the same size as the mounting board. Any cardboard on mounting board material will suffice. Secure, on all sides.
Your print is now framed, and ready to be displayed. Done this way, in a professional manner, your print will last for years and be secure, presenting a beautiful art piece for all your friends to admire.