Framing Very Large Prints

Discussion in 'Nature' started by rmi, Jul 23, 2003.

  1. rmi


    Since I'm on a roll....

    How do you frame very large prints? Say 20 x 30 and up.

    Do you use regular glass? Plexiglass? Do you mount on foam core?
    Aluminum sheets? Gator board? Plexiglass?

    Are your frames wood or metal? Thick or thin? Or really thin?

    How do you support the weight and keep the frame from bending/warping?

  2. I have 2 20x30 plus size prints hanging in my home office. One is mounted in glass with a simple black metal square edge frame. The other in plexiglass (plastic) with a plastic black round-edge frame. From a distance I can't tell the difference which is glass, plastic, or metal.

    I would assume from a weight point of view, if you use glass, you would have to use a strong metal frame. I'll assume "support" means how do I hang it. Both frames have picture wire and they are hung on screws inserted into wall anchors.
  3. Phillip:

    Speaking from personal experience, framing large pictures with glass can be spooky. I once took on the job of framing some large (roughly 30x48) posters for a friend. At that size, as I learned, regular glass can break under its own weight. As I also learned the hard way, make your support system heavy and redundant -- picture wire CAN break while the picture is hanging on the wall. The entire episode was eye-opening enough that I would defer anything larger than 20x30 to a pro, though I think I've still got the guts to try that size....

    Bob Keefer
  4. Phil,

    I have a 20x30 poster I did for the BLM's "Canyon of the Ancients" hung on foam core with a 4" double matte board, regular glass, and a 1" wood frame. Finished size is 29x39. Don't think you will have warping/bending when you put it in glass. Use heavier wire and mounting hook and try and find a stud for the mounting nail.

    I'm going to non-glare glass for the a 24x30 print of Monument Valley being made by Photocraft of Boulder, Co. They tell me their 24x30 print will lay flat enough to just tape mount at the top of a piece of foam core. We'll see.

    good luck

    The framing becomes very expensive at these sizes, as you probably know, and I've looked at ways to cut costs such as buying a mat cutter and cutting my own glass. This leaves the frame, which usually becomes the back breaker.
  5. I am presently have a 30x48 print framed and matted. The final size will be 36x50.

    The printer and some friends have advised to use a metal medium width frame with
    plexiglass. Every also is advising to mount it on gator board given the size.

    I should have it back in a week or so. If you are interested in the results send me an

    For images of 17x24 i have been framing with thin metal frame, plexiglass, mounted
    on foam core.

    To cut framing cost there is a store called framers workshop in the boston area. they
    sell you all of the material but you assemble. the cost was about 1/2 of what the
    others have quoted. I did a google search and it appears that they also have a store in
    the CA
  6. elf


    I get my frames from a place in Syosset, NY, called United Manufacturers Supply. Generally I go the circumspect route and buy the black anodized aluminum ones, the matte finish. United has quite a selection of widths in black matte, including one for shadow box type treatment and some with a molded profile. They chop and send me the parts, the hardware to assemble is included. Recently I framed a panoramic which was 39" long by 16" high. The 39" pieces cost $6.00 each.

    If the final size of the piece is more than around 26"-28", i.e. bigger than 3" around of a 12x18 print, I use plexi, but if it's a 12x18 I use glass. I used plexi for the panoramic, but the static electricity when I pulled off the plastic on the plexi caught about 20% of the cat hair in the house and it was the devil to get clean. Glass makes it really difficult to hang on horsehair plaster walls and my customers have a lot of those, as do I. I've lost frames and glass and sometimes prints to pieces falling off the wall when the plaster gave out on the picture hook. Often the nail just pushes the lathe away from the plaster, inside the wall, and the hanger isn't really in the lathe at all and studs aren't often where you wish they were.

    As for drymounting, I don't know what to do about that. I live in a humid place and people resent art works that ripple. They don't want to pay for them at all. Even Fuji Crystal Archive ripples and I've lost a piece to it sticking to the glass as well when it rippled.
  7. Static and plexi are horrible. There are coatings which reduce the problem, but don't go there unless you have to.

    20x24 and larger definitely starts to get heavy. Emily's comments about plaster lath walls are well taken. Sharp drills, multipoint hanging, and expansion bolts are a big help.

    How do I frame? I buy 10 foot lengths of frame moulding and 32 x 40" sheets of 2mm green glass at a local frame shop (price is around $3.75 a foot for moulding, $8 a sheet for glass), along with frame hardware. 32 x 40" matboard and foamcore come from art stores, usually Utrecht. I cut the moulding to size with a mitre saw and cut the glass, mat board, and foamcore on a Logan Simplex 750. Print goes in with paper tape V hinges to the matboard. Mat, foamcore, and tape are all acid free. I've done 8x10 up to 24x30 prints this way.

    For 20 x 24 and up I have problems with the print rippling. With regards to presentation, drymount is the way to go. However, it's not archival as there's no way to transfer the print to a different support. Also, in no way can I afford or justify the $5k+ a drymount press this size would cost; I keep meaning to look into iron on drymount but haven't gotten around to it.

    I've looked into various types of glass. If you have a business license, it's not hard to get TruVue AR or museum grade glass from local distributors or places like M&M Distributors. However, that's going from cheap low iron, lime soda float glass to multicoated water glass and the price jumps from $8 a sheet to $125+ a sheet. Not something I can afford to frame with.
  8. Recently I have begun mounting large prints by a method I am sure will not win any friends at professional gallery and framing shops. There are of course many books and web sites with framing advice, most of which don't vary much in what they recommend because they follow acceptable advice of art preservation experts and what is considered professional.

    Years ago I archivally framed many 13.75x20 prints from 35mm images at 20x28 frame sizes using conventional drymounting etc. Those frames weigh 8.5 pounds. Others I've had similarly framed by galleries are of similar weight. With larger sized prints weight becomes even greater. The glass thickness may need to increase to support itself. The last few years I have been shooting 6x7 with resulting print sizes conservatively at 24x30 inches. The resulting frames are 30x38 inches which if scaled from the weight of my old 35mm frames above would weigh 17 pounds. Since I am currently framing several dozen different large prints for exhibition purposes, the weight for logistical issues also becomes awkward.

    A second issue is keeping the print flat. Since the glass doesn't touch the print due to the mat, prints that are not glued in some way behind the print must be kept flat by some attachment mechanism at the edges. With larger prints that gets more difficult due to gravity. With time a print can sag even more if temperature and humidity vary.

    So what I have done is for my 24x30 inch prints is create a frame of 30x38 inches that reduces the weight from the 17 pounds above to a mere 3.0 pounds. My 20x28 framed prints for old 35mm now weigh about 1.5 pounds. So how am I cheating? Of course I've occasionally seen LF photographers in the past mount large prints with just a moulding and no glass. But of course that will not help to preserve a print which is part of the reason for going to all the trouble.

    What I am doing is replacing the glass not with plexiglass which is the lighter material preferred for reducing weight when mounting large prints but with clear archival 5 mil polyester sheeting (aka DuPont Mylar-D or Mellinex). The stuff art preservationists make considerable use of. I'm still using ordinary Nielsen Bainbridge metal frame sections so that weight remains the same. Instead of a mat plus backing board or drymount board, I am simply using Hunt black foamcore. The foamcore board is not archival because such is only available in white. So why am I using black? My opinion is simply a black mat background looks better for photography than white. In Photoshop I create a pseudo mat "cut" edge to my drum scanned then processed digital files which are printed to Lightjet 5k. I cut the print to the pseudo mat cut edge. The print is then mounted directly to the black foamcore. I use a little double sided and removable, Scotch 2002 archival photo mounting tape near the edges underneath. The tape is very thin so is essentially not noticeable. The polyester cut to the metal frame size is placed right atop the print since airspace is a non-issue. Due to consistent static attraction, there is no airspace so it acts as a contaminant seal plus provides mechanical rigidity reducing possible sag. The metal frame spring clips clamp the edges of the sandwich of polyester/print/foamcore so I need to make sure that result is taut.

    One major issue is that polyester scratches even more readily than plexiglass so I need to deal with that. Since dust readily collects one must use a soft material like soft fleece. Replacing the polyester sheet is simple. A second issue is there is much greater chance of the mechanically weaker than conventional frame becoming less than flat. So by starting with flat and straight materials, and being careful during storage and moving, I am hoping not to have problems.
  9. Phil,

    The 24x30 Fuji Crystal Archive print did not lay flat and had to be dry mounted. I'm somewhat un-impressed by the paper.

    The frame/non-glare glass cost is $600.00

    This size is still somewhat manageable, (I can transport it in the truck), I used a 4" matte width but felt after seeing it that a 6" border might have been better.
  10. db.


Share This Page