Archive for August, 2012

Mounting A Photograph In A Reverse Shadow Box

This article was inspired and made possible by Jim Camelford, the past president of Richmond Hill Camera Club who graciously offered to mount my print and allowed me to document the entire process.


So you captured and processed your masterpiece, and now, how do you transform it into a displayable artwork?


You can take it to a framing shop and pay their price or you can mount it and frame it yourself. Here is a complete tutorial how to make an attractive contemporary reverse shadow-box-frame.

You’ll need some space, a table or two, and the following tools and supplies:
– Foam Core board (black-on-black or white-on-white), 3/16″, 32×40″ or 40×60″
– Exacto knife (ideally OLFA Cutter, Model A Precision cutter)
– self-healing cutting mats (two large ones, butted togther)
– roller
– gift wrap (somewhat shiny)
– some weights
– Glue spray can (3M Super-77 Spray Adhesive recommended)
– Adhesive for gluing the wood
– Metal ruler
– Isopropyl Alcohol for cleaning your hands, tools and work surface
– Newspaper to cover a table for applying the adhesive

You can buy most of these items in Arts Supply or hardware store

First, we need the actual print. When it comes to selection of print paper, you can choose glossy or mat paper. The glossy paper shows the colors and fine details better, but it is much more sensitive even to smallest creases, bumps and other defects on the foamboard. Personally, for this type of mounting, I would recommend a mat stock. If you are printing it yourself, size it so that you’ll have a sufficient white border around the print. This is important for later handling and trimming the print.

Decide if you are going to mount it onto a white or black foamboard. If you use a black foamboard, it is a good idea to add a black border edge around the picture, ideally about 2-3mm in width. This ensures that when you trim the picture, the edges stay black.

Examine the print in detail and make sure that the colours and sharpening are to your liking. Make sure that the print will fit onto the foamboard.

Finally, inspect the foamboard for any dust and specks of dirt, and wipe it meticulously with a soft tissue paper or a cotton rag.

Somewhere else, preferrably outdoors or in ventilated room, set up another table or stand that will be used for applying the glue to the back side of the photograph. On the table, lay down some old newspaper. I happen to like Globe and Mail or Financial Post, but in pinch you can use also Toronto Star. Main thing, the paper is clean, lays flat and it won’t curl.

To make sure that the paper stays in place, you can weigh the corners with some heavy objects, such as rocks, bricks or old hard disk drives.

Lay the print face down on the newspaper, press down the sides with a thin board (old strips of foam-core work well) and some weights, and start spraying the back side systematically from one end to another. Spray from 8-12″ above the print; coating lightly in one direction then over-spray in the opposite (ie: 1st pass is leftright; 2nd is top-bottom). You should not see any sputter droplets on your print – if so you are spraying too close or too thickly. Allow to dry (cure) about 5 minutes. The print should be tacky – not wet – this will give you some limited re-positioning capability when you start to drop it onto the foam board.

After you finished spraying, remove the side boards which held the print in place and carry the print carefully to your main working table with the foamboard. Make sure not to tranfer any adhesive to your working area and place the print with the sticky side onto the foamboard.

Use a sheet of paper to press the print over its entire length onto the foamboard.

Then cover the print with a soft paper sheet (your wife’s Christmas wrapping will do just fine), and use a roller to press the print firmly onto the foamboard.

The next step is trimming. Use a long metal ruler and a sharp trimming knife. This is where an assistant comes handy by holding one end of the ruler.

If you are working alone or don’t trust your assistant, you can use a clamp to hold your ruler in place.

This completes the mounting part.

To make a reverse shadow box frame, we need light-weight, wooden boards, preferrably already painted – we used 1 1/2″ x 1/2″ size (about 4 x 1.25 cm). First we trim the edge of the board, and then we cut two side panels.

Apply sparringly a light layer of adhesive to the piece of wood (use rather less than more of the glue, and squirt the glue towards to the inside edge where it won’t matter if it spills underneath the board to the backing)

Now, press the side board to the foam board and position it exactly along the edge.

To hold the side board securely in place, place a heavy brick on the side board and another piece of scrap wood beside it.

Repeat the process for the second side board.
Then measure the distance between the two side boards, and cut the boards for the top and bottom. Apply the glue as in above steps and install the top and bottom boards. Ideally, all four pieces should fit tightly together, but it is better to err on shorter side and have a small gap between the end of the long piece and the side panel than to cut it too long and push the boards apart.

If you have any scrap wood left, you can glue a couple of pieces inside the frame to reinforce it.

Completed frame viewed from the back

And the final look from the side:


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