On print sizes and framing

Paul Butzi got me thinking about print sizes with a recent series of posts on the topic. Over the years I’ve gradually come to a sort of comfort zone for printing and framing (when I do it myself). Tonight, as I wrapped up framing a couple of prints for a local contest that I am entering in the morning I thought I’d try and compose my thoughts on the subject, and blog it, for what it’s worth.

First off, I’m in a space now where I really don’t want to cut mats. I’ll cut mount board, but I just don’t have the patience (or the time, really) to be cutting custom mats for odd sized prints. I’ve pretty much settled on standard frame sizes of 16×20 and 11×14. Yeah, I print a few bigger and a few smaller, but when I want to frame a print, the majority fall into these two sizes.

Sticking to standard sizes, these then naturally suggest mat sizes of 11×14 and 8×10, respectively. Consequently, I buy acid-free double-mats in these sizes, in various shades of white. Lately, I’ve been preferring to leave a border between the image and the inner mat, which further isolates the image, and doesn’t feel so crowded. I’ve been experimenting with the sizes of these borders, and it really depends on the image too, but a typical border on a 11×14 matted landscape print is 0.5″ and maybe a quarter to a third of an inch on my 8×10’s.  As a bonus this leaves a nice area to sign the print, between the image and the mat.

Now I do a fair bit of cropping, usually, but my prints tend to still end up somewhere near the original 4:3 aspect ratio. I much prefer 4:3 to 3:2. With the 4:3 ratio (1.33), it doesn’t quite match up to 10×8 (1.25) or even 14×11 (1.27), but it’s much closer than 3:2 (1.5). Consequently, one dimension or the other has borders that are a little narrower than the other. The beauty of it is that the aspect ratio is close enough that I feel like I don’t really need to worry about it, since (to me at least) it’s not that noticeable. (As an aside, I even prefer 1:1 over 3:2, and that’s something I have a feeling I’m going to be shooting a lot more of now with my new camera, so it will be interesting to see where the framing goes from here…if anyone has any suggestions, I’d be keen to hear them!)

So, with the cart now firmly in front of the horse, all this translates into a print that is roughly 9.375″ x 12.5″ for an 11×14 mat plus a 16×20 frame (I really like this size), or a 9″ x 6.75″ print in a 8×10 mat plus a 11×14 frame. These print sizes actually work out pretty well for standard 8.5×11″ and 13×19″ paper sizes that are sold in the states. It wastes a little bit of paper on the 13×19 size, but I also find having that extra space around the image keeps the larger print from buckling as much over time. I have an HP 9180 printer (which I’ve been very happy with) and it does a very nice job up to 13×19. If I want to print bigger, I have to farm it out. Usually I’ll just order one of my own prints from my imagekind store, as they print on large carriage Epsons with pigment inks (and do a fabulous job framing, BTW). With printer technology changing so rapidly, and as little as I tend to frame larger than 16×20, I haven’t experienced any temptation to spring for a larger printer.

I used to adhesive mount my prints with 3M Scotch Positionable Mounting Adhesive. I still do this sometimes, especially if the print is for a direct sale, but more and more I’ve been going with T-mount hinges. T-mount hinges are quick, do a reasonable job for reasonable periods of hanging (such as shows and contests, etc.) and are actually recommended by museums, etc. as the most effective, non-intrusive mount for prints as objet d’art. The reason being, I assume, as that when the mount has deteriorated, it is possible to actually remove the print and frame it on fresh materials. Not that I view my own prints with overly much importance, but given that HP 9180 prints are rated for a 200 year life by Wilhelm, even if they only last half that, and someone, somewhere, in 100 years time wants to re-frame one of my prints…why not make it easy on them? (Or more likely me, in 20 years)

These days, 90% of the time I pick simple black wood frames. I tend to choose standard glazing (regular, clear glass) as it seems to show off the prints to their best advantage. Sometimes, on large frames, I get acrylic, as weight starts to become more of an issue in a 20×30″ and up. Finally, in go the glazier points to hold in the contents, some rubber bumpers for the corners, and small eye screws and hanging wire.

About the only thing I’m really unhappy with in my current framing scenario, is the glazier points. If anyone has good suggestions for a less intrusive, more solid way of holding the contents in the frame, I’d love to hear about it (wood frames, mind you, not aluminum).

What do you do?

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