Self-Guided Lecture

Guidelines To Wet-Mounting Display Projects
Collage Mural Displays
You Can Do!

Part 2 — Graphic Mounting Options

Substrates, mediums, and methods used to effectively mount specific materials come in a variety of choices. Procedures stressed in this document can be accomplished locally, using materials and tools which are simple and widely available. This work can be performed in any area that has a large worktable, running water, room temperature control, and reasonable ventilation.

Mounting Substrates: There are numerous materials available on the market which can be used for display-panel mounting, including matte board, plastic panels, foamboard, masonite, and newer ultra-light fiberglass and trade-named materials. Weight, durability, mounting method used, and the materials to be mounted all play a part in selecting mounting substrates. Many of these materials are more amenable to hot or cold press mounting. As we are dealing largely with wet-mounting procedures, only mounting substrates that serve this purpose well will be covered in this presentation.

Smooth-surface Masonite makes an ideal and inexpensive wet-mount base. A fiberglass-reinforced foam board, called “Feather-board” is ultra light and very appropriate. Its disadvantage is that extra caution must be taken when working with this material with a utility knife, sandpaper and table saw. The operator must have mask protection from fiberglass dust and it is good if the table saw system has a dust vacuum system installed for further protection. When mounting processes are completed and the acrylic finish has had adequate curing time, final trimming of the displays displays can be accomplished with a fine-toothed, table-saw blade. The final dressing of the mounts can be completed with a small sanding block using a fine-grade sandpaper.

Mounting Mediums: The following liquid-mount, spray-mount and dry- mount products are potentials for use in your display fabrication:

1) Base (primer) coat Materials: A white or gray acrylic or latex paint will work satisfactorily. Artist’s Gesso is also a fine product for this purpose. A small jar or tube of artist’s acrylic modeling paste will come in handy to refine some applications.

2) Liquid Mount and Finishing Materials: Fully adequate and readily available products found in most art-supply stores, is an acrylic polymer transparent medium, usually used by artists. It makes an ideal transparent medium for wet mounting art prints and photographs with easy water cleanup. It has the consistency of very soft toothpaste, and is available in tubes and jars. These acrylic products have a milky appearance, but become clear in the drying process. One can use Artist’s Acrylic Matte Medium for the initial mounting process and Matte Varnish for the final two coats of finish. I have used Matte Varnish for the entire process with good success.

3) Spray Mount Materials: Liquid mounting provides a clean, strong bond and a potential for computability with application of a protective matte-varnish finish. There may be times when spray mounting will meet your special needs when dealing with certain delicate materials in a more appropriate manner. When this is the case, be sure the work is done in a well-ventilated environment, taking the special precautions necessary when using flammable spray materials. I have successfully used spray mounting procedures to create individual picture displays such as shown on Display Review Page 1, with follow-on treatments of fixative spray to seal the art work. This done and fully dried, I have finished an acrylic paint-decorated Masonite matte and the overlaid picture panel with liquid acrylic varnish without damaging the product.

Wet Mounting Procedures: You will recall that when you reviewed the wet-mounted illustrations, they included examples of individual mounts, multiple mounts and collage mounts. The instructions which follow take you, step-by-step through the creation of an individual mount display panel. These procedures easily translate to the multiple mount and will complement later instructions regarding collage display creation.
  • Facilities: A work space with table, running water, controlled room temperature, and drying shelves or racks.

  • Tools: A new and uncontaminated synthetic sponge; one or two l-inch nylon or polyester paint brushes (new); a brayer (hand roller); some newspaper underlayment and paper towels; a utility knife with a fresh blade and spares; small and large carpenter squares; a sanding block with fine-grade sandpaper; a hose-type vacuum cleaner; a shallow pan for water; a roll of wax paper; a roll of craft paper; a water bucket; and access to a table saw with a fine-toothed cutting blade.

  • Materials: Primed masonite panels, cut to a workable size, and liquid mount and varnish mediums


Single Photograph or Durable Art-Print Wet Mounting and Matting:

1. Trim any border or undesirable parts off the photograph or print. Your carpenter's square and sharp matte knife will do this job quickly.

2. Select a piece of masonite. (1/4-inch stock will have less tendency to warp than 1/8-inch, but either may be used with little difficulty.)

3. Cut the masonite to allow an extra 1/2 to 1-inch of border all around the picture. Prime with white latex or acrylic paint. Let dry. When dry, mark an alignment line, square with the world, 1/2 to l-inch down from the top. This will assure square cuts on the table saw when trimming later.

4. When your mount panel is ready, place your photographic print in a tray of water, and let it soak up and expand to its outer limit - approx. one (1) minute. Note: If you are planning to wet mount an art print, confirm that it is water permiable. Lay it face down on a clean cloth or paper materials (not newspaper). Dampen the back side with a sponge and cover with a damp cloth until you believe the print has fully expanded with the added moisture. Handling the damp print with care, continue the wet mounting process.)

5. Place the mount board and the wet picture side by side on the table. The mount board should be face up, and the wet picture should be face down on paper or cloth to soak up the water drips. DO NOT lay it directly on newspaper or you may transfer some of yesterday’s news to your picture, with unhappy results.

6. Wring out the sponge and wipe both surfaces - the back side of the picture and the smooth face of the masonite.

7. Brush some clear acrylic gel on both surfaces. Don’t use too much, but fully cover all surfaces.

8. Lay the picture, face up, on the masonite. Make sure it is installed square with the alignment line. Starting from the center, with brayer or sponge work any excess mounting medium or air bubbles out toward the edges. Do this slowly and carefully, or you may have lumps and bumps in your finished product.

9. Mop up all acrylic gel that has oozed out around the edges. Rinse the sponge often, so it doesn’t become laden with acrylic. You will note that the picture has become slightly larger due to expansion from the moisture.

10. Paint a thin coat of acrylic matte varnish over the wet surface. Use delicate, even strokes, in either a horizontal direction or a vertical direction. When the finish is dry to the touch, paint on an additional coat of acrylic matte varnish, with your strokes at a 90 degree angle with those of the first varnish coat.

11. Set aside to dry. Wait at least 24 hours to permit the acrylic to harden. 48 hours would be even better.

12. Trim the masonite to picture size on the table saw. Feel free to cut through the photo paper to achieve the desired size. Clean up the edges with fine-grain sandpaper. Stroke downward lightly from the picture with the sandpaper. Vacuum with care.

13. Select and mark off another piece of masonite for the matte surface. Make your bottom matte edge a bit wider than the top and sides to give a sense of weight and balance.

14. After checking to be sure the working corner of the masonite panel is square, draw lines along the top and one side which are inset by the amount of space you are allowing for the matte edge. For example, if you wish a two-inch matte border at the top and two sides, measure, mark and draw the lines at two inches from the panel edges.

15. Set the mounted picture into that inner corner, making sure it is positioned to allow space for the wider bottom matte border. Complete the inner box by tracing a line around the other two sides.

16. Mark the matte width for the other side of the picture, and the wider width for the bottom matte exposure. Draw in the outer box.

17. Trim to size on the table saw. Carefully sand off all rough edges and vacuum carefully. You are now ready to join the picture and the matte.

18. Place the picture on the matte. Do you like what you see? Is the balance and use of space pleasing? If so, you are ready to join the surfaces.

19. Mounting the picture on the matte may be accomplished with either water-based glue or contact cement:

    a. For a water-based glue mount: Paint a thin coat of glue on both surfaces. Press in place. Mop up edges and wring out the sponge. If you wish to place a light weight on the picture surface to hold it in place during the drying process, be sure to insert a layer of wax paper between the picture and the weight. Use a weight with a flat surface to prevent denting of the still-curing surface of the acrylic mount.

    b. For a contact-cement mount: Lay the picture mount face down beside the matte board. Paint two successive coats of contact cement on both surfaces, allowing adequate drying time between each coat. Dry contact cement will feel tacky and appear glossy in about 15 minutes. When the surfaces are dry, join them and press together at all points of contact. Be sure you are pleased with the alignment before the surfaces make contact. Contact cement does not permit a second try. You may wish to lay a sheet of brown wrapping paper or wax paper between the two surfaces, sliding it out after alignment is checked.

20. Let mounts dry overnight. When you get back to the project, run a bead of white or yellow glue along each of the four joined edges so it can fill any gaps and provide added strength. Brush or wipe the joint to eliminate any excess. When dry, this will provide a better surface for the final decoration process. Artist’s modeling paste could be used as a substitute for the glue.

21. You now have a matted photograph, but the matte lacks color. Although you could eliminate this next step, we recommend you paint the matte surface and edges with a coat or two of gesso. This provides an excellent bonding surface for the painting to follow, and will also further blend the joint between the mount and the matte. A light sanding after each coat will add further refinement. Be sure to paint the outside edge of the matte board, if you intend to hang it without a frame.

22. Continued use of acrylic paint is recommended for the matte decoration to assure compatibility of materials. There is a wide selection of colors available or, you can mix your own special color. As you gain confidence, you can add textured brush strokes to enhance the character of your matte finish. For example, criss-cross brush stokes with a narrow brush create an interesting textured finish.

23. When the painted matte is thoroughly dry, the entire surface (matte and picture) may be painted with the same clear acrylic matte varnish. Paint any added varnish finish coats at 90-degree angles with the previous coat.

Wet Mounting Multiple Photos on a Single Matte: To help you visualize this, Click over to Page 1 of the Display Review Section. Use your back button to return to this page. You will note that a number of pictures may be tastefully arranged by using the procedures outlined in the previous paragraphs. Careful measuring, use of the straight edge, and observing the rules of design will assure a photo presentation of which you can be proud.

This completes the section on wet-mounting individual or multiple individual pictures and art prints. You are invited to move on to Part 3 which will deal with collage creation, using these same materials.

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