Mounting Tutorial

Bil Mikulewicz

I'd heard enough stories of either the cost or the difficulty finding someone to mount one's
paintings to decide to live with my unmounted paintings or just tape each to the back of a
matt board and be done with it. The request for work to keep the large exhibit room
for our show forced me to rethink. The idea of paying a heap to get a picture mounted, the
entry fee and then maybe not get past the jury was intolerable to this cheapskate.
Hence, I was determined to learn how to mount a painting.

As in all things, YouTube is invaluable, and Google also has a lot of good information.
After viewing many videos and reading scads of sites, I began. I started on trashed paintings
and my little eight by ten studies to figure out what worked best, for me anyway, and then
went on to bigger paintings. You should also start small and on emotionally expendable pieces,
just to build up your courage.

Remember, this is my cobbled together method; try it and change where needed to make it
work best for you.

Bt 01

So here's most of the stuff, less knife and straight edge, water spray bottle and the drying
board that I use in mounting.

A sheet of glass is the traditional surface for gluing, and if I had one large enough I know I
would soon break it.The green surface you see is an old plastic cutting board my wife once used
for sewing. Any non porous surface will work.

You need about the same amount of space as your gluing surface next to it for the drying
board. Being left handed the right side felt better to me.

Let's discuss paste. Nan Rae in her YouTube video uses a clear thick store bought wall paper
paste and looks like she's having way too much fun spreading it around with her hands. I don't
know what chemicals are added to commercial vinyl W.P. paste and how it will react over time to
our art materials. I've decided to not find out, the choice is yours and will not affect what follows.

The most common glue I found in my research was rice flour or rice starch. I totally failed trying
to use this. Judy Giguere said she uses wheat paste. This is, or was, the standard and cheapest
wall paper paste I used in the theatre, back in the day. In powder form it mixes to a clear thick
consistency that you'll find will thicken after a few hours, just add a little more water. None
of the paint or hardware stores in my area carry the dry powder so I haven't tried it.

I found, on Amazon, a rice paste that
was way cheaper, $10, than what OAS
was selling and is working very well for
me. I have Prime, so shipping is free.
It works out to be one oz. of dry
to about nine to ten liquid oz. of water.
Try nine first, if its too thick then add
more water. The water for this paste
should be cold and strain the resulting
mixture. I haven't used half of my last
batch of the above amount on four
12" X 16" paintings.

Polly Chan introduced us to Alum as a
resist in her Lily class. In my readings
I learned it was also used as an insect
repellent for paintings. Seems little
buggers like to eat plant fiber paper.
Judy G. suggests 1/2 teaspoon alum to a
pint of paste mixture to make your
paintings inedible. BTW, spend a lot at
an art supply house for alum, or go to
your local supermarket spice rack and get
a five year supply for ninety nine cents.


OAS was also really expensive on backing paper. Again, I found this on Amazon, it claims to be sized
but after trying to paint on it I would say its #1 mulberry. Very strong, thick, and it's rough surface is
a good grip for your painting. And the metallic gold tube it comes in is kind of neat. In my initial experiments I
tried backing with Moon Palace paper, which I paint on, and some other thin papers, which I found rather hard to
work with. I would suggest as you're learning, use the heaviest paper you have.


bt 03

Make sure three sides of your backing paper are square to each other. Align the middle edge to the bottom of your
work space and secure it with two small tabs of tape.

bt 05

Slide your painting, face down, under the backing sheet. Be very careful that the painting is centered!

bt 06

Being very careful to not move the painting, peel back the backing paper and let it hang down the front of your
work area.

bt 07

I've found at this point it helps to spray water on the painting to help keep it in place while gluing and to begin
flattening the paper. Note the backing paper hanging down in front.

bt 08

I found a brush was better to apply the glue than my hands. It kept my hands clean for the following steps.
Start in the center, GENTLY work the glue towards the edges. You will also be working out air bubbles, pressing the
paper flat against the work surface. If and when you come to a wrinkle GENTLY lift up an edge of the paper and
GENTLY brush it out. Make sure every bit of surface is covered with glue.

bt 09

After gluing, you will have small air bubbles under your painting, normal and no problem. Now wipe away the paste
that's on your work surface. A little left is OK, most important is not removing any from the edges of the painting.

bt 10

Now swing up the backing paper and from the taped edge start laying it down on the work surface and over the
painting. Use the hand not holding the backing to GENTLY brush back and forth as you lay the paper down. It is
very important that you do not get glue onto the area that covers your painting. Now release the tape tabs.

bt 11

When the backing is down, work out any wrinkles in the backing with your fingers. The water spray bottle will be a
help, especially around the edges. Don't rush, take your time, if it becomes too dry in places - spray a bit of water.

bt 12

Place a piece of scrap paper over the backing paper, the bigger the better, and apply pressure from the center out.
You want to mash the painting and the backing together. The glue layer should, and will, be as thin as possible,
and hopefully some of the fibres of the painting and the backing will become entangled. Use any tool; breyer,
silicone scraper, rolling pin, wine bottle - anything that lets you exert maximum pressure!

bt 13

Removing the "mashing" paper, you will still see air bubbles between the work surface and the painting. Don't worry
about it, between the next step and the stretching while drying - all will work out.
Next we want to glue the very outer edges of the backing paper. This will secure the painting to the backing board,
holding it while the painting dry's and stretches. Have to be very careful not to let any glue get into the image area.
If that happens getting the painting off the drying board will be a living hell. For my sins, I've had to do it.

bt 14

Gently starting at one corner, peel the painting away from the work surface, slowing when you get to the painted
paper. Often the painted paper will stick to the work surface. Carefully pull it up and smooth it to the backing, then
continue peeling the painting up until free.

bt 15

Flip the painting and lay it flat on the drying board with the image on top. This drying board is a small piece of 1/4"
plywood. Press down and away from center where you have glue on the edges. I stretched some of my smaller
studies on the side of a metal plan file, worked fine. Now you let the paper dry for at least twenty four hours, thirty
six or forty eight hours is safer.

bt 17

When dry, the colors really sing. And, its very nice and flat. It is a wonderment, and I am very thankful that the
ink and watercolor do not bleed and muddy up on the paper. Must be magic of some sort.

bt 18

Remember you glued the edges of the back of your backing paper. Now cut within the glued area to
release the finished painting. While cutting out some of my paintings I heard the "snap" I had read
about. The paper does shrink and there is tension within the not adhered area, thus the snap sound
resulting from the paper separating when the knife releases it.

bt 19

If a little glue got beyond the edge, a bamboo knife can be purchased ($7.99 to $20) to separate the painting
from the drying board. Or, you can use a letter opener, credit card, anything thin and flexible. I have an old
Bob Ross pallet knife that works admirably well.

So there you have it.

I think the trick to the process is to start small with things pulled out of the trash bin until you feel comfortable.
Then, find small nice areas in bad paintings good enough to keep, or to contribute to the OBAG bin at the
Hammond Gift Shop - profits going to our organization. At this point, you should have enough self confidence
to tackle a bigger painting that you like but didn't want to spend the money to mount.

I hope this helps and encourages you to try. If I can do it, believe me - you can also!

My thanks to Amy Zhang who showed me what she mounted at a Tai Chi class and started my interest, then
later gave me advice. And Judy G., who took the time to answer a load of emails. Judy is much more
experienced then I and is willing to teach a mounting workshop, anyone interested? Let Garry know.

If you have hints, suggestions or corrections email me and I will update this article to make it more useful.