Paper is a finicky thing. Unless you take great care to store it neatly, it can be quite easily damaged. And so many of the important keepsakes in our lives are on paper. Photos, diplomas, art prints, special articles – there’s a long list of paper items we may be especially interested in preserving. So what happens when we go to frame something of this nature and we realize it’s in bad shape? Maybe water damage has caused rippling, or a lack of proper storage has caused dents and dings. Today I’ll discuss how to flatten wrinkled paper, and the benefits that can be achieved by something called dry mounting.
What is Dry Mounting?
Dry mounting is a method that framers use to adhere paper down to a surface. Very simply, the five main elements involved are a dry mount press, a backing board, dry mount tissue, release paper, and of course, your artwork. It’s called dry mounting because it doesn’t involve any wet glues or liquid sprays. This is how it works:
The dry mount press is plugged in and turned on, causing it to heat up. Depending on the press, it takes about 10-15 minutes for it to reach the appropriate heat, which for most projects is a minimum of 150 degrees.
A piece of foam core is laid out. It must be large enough to fit your artwork with room to spare.
Dry mounting tissue is rolled out onto the foam core. The artwork is place on top of the tissue, and then the tissue is trimmed with a blade to fit behind the artwork almost exactly, with very little excess tissue sticking out. Dry mounting tissue is soft and dry, but when heated acts as a strong adhesive.
The artwork is tacked in place so that it will not slip out of alignment while being moved into the press. A tacking iron (with a small piece of release paper in between) can be used for this, but actually all I do is use a tiny piece of framing tape on two corners of the artwork to hold it in place. I cover only about 1/16″ of the art’s surface and then immediately remove the tape when it comes out of the press so that it leaves no residue behind. This is a method that I developed over the years and have found works the best.
The foam core with attached artwork is moved inside the press, in between sheets of release paper (which should already be in place from previous use) and the lid closed. Release paper is a thick, silicone-treated specialty paper that protects the artwork from the hot press. The time it takes inside the press depends on the type and thickness of the paper, but is generally 90 seconds – 5 minutes.
*Note – if your artwork is larger than the press itself, it will need to be rotated and the process repeated until the entire surface is evenly adhered down.
And voila! The end result:
What Things Can You Dry Mount?
In addition to paper, you can also dry mount all sorts of things including:
- Photographs – Photographs should almost always be dry mounted when framing, especially large ones. It keeps them looking nice and flat and prevents any waves or ripples.
- Posters – The same principle applies to posters as to photos. Unless the poster is valuable or rare, dry mounting is usually a good idea.
- Newspaper – If you’re framing a newspaper article, dry mounting always makes it look a lot better. The paper is so thin it tends to look a bit crinkly otherwise. Make sure it is dry mounted onto black foam core though, not white. This prevents the writing on the opposite side from showing through.
- Canvas – Yes, canvas can be dry mounted too! Although the proper way to display a canvas is to stretch it around wooden bars, there may be some situations where dry mounting is preferable. It may be a cost issue (dry mounting a canvas is significantly less expensive than stretching it) or it may be because the canvas is in such poor condition that stretching is no longer an option.
- Fabric – Dry mounting fabric could work well for many kinds of crafty projects. Maybe making a fun bulletin board, or creating decorative fabric panels for your wall.
- Puzzles – If you’re interested in framing a puzzle, there are products such as special glues and sprays that you can buy to do this yourself. Or, you can take it to a framer and get it professionally dry mounted. It’s a little more expensive than the glue but it’s by far the cleanest method.
What Things Should You NOT Dry Mount?
While dry mounting is a very useful technique for many things, it shouldn’t be used for everything. It does decrease the value of artwork, so if you have a valuable piece of art and you care about the resale value, you should definitely not dry mount it.
Original artwork and fine art prints (etchings, lithographs, screen prints, wood block prints, etc.) should typically NOT be dry mounted. I also do not normally dry mount diplomas, as most of them have an embossing or a seal that would lose its integrity in the press.
However, if your artwork is damaged, wrinkled, rippled, or any of the like, and you care more about it looking nice and flat than you do about the value of it, then dry mounting is always an option. There are no rules that you absolutely have to follow, just guidelines. Also, you can always ask the framer if they can try putting your wrinkled artwork into the press for a while to try to flatten (without the tissue, so as not to actually dry mount.)
Where Can I Get Something Dry Mounted?
You can get things dry mounted anywhere that does custom framing. If you don’t have access to a local framer, you can mail your artwork in to a company called Framebridge. As part of their framing process, they examine your artwork when you send it in and dry mount items that call for it. And if you know that you definitely want it done, you can make a note in the special instructions area when you send it in to be framed. To read more about Framebridge, check out an article I wrote about the company here.
I hope this has been helpful! Let me know if you have more questions about dry mounting – I’d be happy to help you out.