Mounts/mats serve to:
- protect your flat paper items from physical
- discourage direct handling;
- give structural support;
- allow the paper to respond naturally to
fluctuations in environmental conditions;
- enhance the appearance of your paper items,
and so are widely used to display paper items;
- buffer against acidity if you use acid-free,
alkaline buffered mount board.
The structure of a mount
Standard mounts consist of:
- a window mount with a bevelled window. The
bevelled edge prevents shadows falling on the
paper item when mounted works are lit for
- a backboard to support the flat paper item.
To give adequate support, especially to heavier
papers, both the window and the backboard should
be cut from board that is at least four ply.
Acid-free archival boards give the best protection
to paper items. Acidic boards are much cheaper;
but they will cause damage and will need to be
replaced sooner, because they can deteriorate
The window mount is hinged to the backing board,
either down the left side or along the top edge
with a continuous strip of gummed, linen tape. The
window mount and the backboard should not be
stuck together in such a way that makes the item
Items can be:
- clamp-mounted: that is with the paper held
down where the window mount overlaps the
- float-mounted: that is with the entire item
showing and with a small distance between
the edge of the paper and the window.
There are a number of stages involved in
mounting/matting a flat paper item. These stages
are outlined in the following sections.
Cutting and assembling
the window and the backboard
To begin, you cut two pieces of board of equal
size. The size of the mount is determined by:
- the size of the item;
- the size of the frame or box you are putting
the mounted item into;
- the width of the margins you want around the
window in the window mount section.
Windows are usually cut with the width of the top
and side margins equal. The bottom margin is
usually slightly weighted visually; that is, it is
usually slightly larger than the others. This visually
centres the mounted item.
Once cut, the backing board can be put aside
while you cut the bevelled-edge window.
Windows are basically quite easy to cut; but you
usually won’t find mount-cutting easy at your first
attempt. Practice, a steady hand and the right
equipment are essential for a good result.
Mount-cutting equipment ranges from simple hand-
held tools such as mount-cutting knives and the
Dexter which are run along a straight edge, to
expensive table or wall-mounted machines. Wall-
mounted machines should really be considered only
if you need to cut lots of mounts over a long
period of time.
Instructions for cutting the window are not given
here because they vary according to the equipment
you have. For more information, consult a
Once the window and the backboard have been
cut, they can be hinged.
- Lay them down flat, side by side. The inside
face of each should be facing upwards. Their
longest edges, either the top or the left-hand
edge of the completed mount, should abut
- Cut a strip of gummed linen tape, just a little
shorter than the longest edge. Wet the gum
and put the linen tape in place as a hinge.
Don’t use too much water.
Close the mount and align the backboard and the
window, and lightly weight it while it is drying.
Once dry, the mount/mat is complete. It is now
ready for the paper item.
When large quantities or complicated mounts are
required, it may be more efficient to have mounts
cut by a framer; but make sure that you specify
archival-quality board if that is what you want.
Very few framers use archival-quality board unless
they are asked to.
Mounts can be modified in various ways to suit an
item. For instance, a sink mount with a deep
window would be suitable for an item lined on
thick board and a double-sided mount with
windows front and back for an item with images
on both surfaces.
Hinging and mounting, especially of fragile items,
is often better left to conservators or conservation
framers, who can be relied on to use archival
It is recommended you attach your flat paper
items to their mounts by hinging them to the
backboard. The item should not be attached to
the reverse side of the window mount, or stuck
of the Ian Potter Art
with adhesives or self-adhesive tapes directly
to the backing board. These methods of
attachment can be very damaging and very
expensive to reverse.
shows clearly that
the watercolour is
not attached to the
back of the window.
It is hinged to the
of the Ian Potter Art
Hinges are made from high quality archival
papers—usually conservation-grade Japanese
papers, which are:
- durable, lightweight, long-fibred and
- available in a range of weights from art
The most common types of hinges are the T-hinge
or drop hinge for clamp-mounted items, and the V-
hinge or fold-under hinge for float-mounted items.
Japanese paper can be water-cut to produce hinges
with soft, feathered edges: so avoiding ridges
showing on the upper side of the paper item.
To water-cut Japanese paper, place a ruler on the
paper parallel with the grain and run a brush
dipped in water along the ruler edge. Keep the
ruler on the paper and tear the paper along the
wet lines to make hinges of the desired size.
The size of the hinges depends on the size of the
item; but for small items an oblong hinge of
approximately 30 x 15mm is appropriate.
When hinging an item which is to be clamp-
mounted, adhere small hinges along the top edge
of the paper.
The number of hinges used depends on the size of
the item, but one hinge at either end is sufficient
for smaller items. More hinges are recommended
for larger items and for thick papers. Additional
hinges can be required at the bottom of the item,
if it is being float-mounted.
- Place the item face-down on a clean surface.
- Brush adhesive onto half the lengthwise side
of each hinge. Allow it to almost dry. Place
the pasted part of the hinge on the reverse
side of the item. The unpasted part of the
hinge should extend beyond the edge of the
- Cover the hinge with a piece of release paper
and rub a bone folder lightly over the area,
then press the hinged area under the release
paper and a blotter with a small weight until
it is dry.
- The item should then be positioned on the
backboard in relation to the window, and
- The other half of the hinge is then brushed
with adhesive, allowed to almost dry and then
attached to the backing board.
- A second, slightly larger piece of Japanese
paper is often stuck over the upper half of
the hinge to provide strength, forming a T
shape. The hinge is then bone-folded and
- The adhesive used for hinging and other work
on paper items should be water-based and
reversible; starch paste or methyl cellulose
paste are recommended.
- Flat paper items in study collections are often
hinged to sheets of heavy-weight archival
paper, which are in turn hinged into mounts
to facilitate handling.
One hinge is weighted
while it dries, the
other is being stuck
down to the backing
of the Ian Potter Art
Making starch paste
Starch paste is the adhesive most widely used by
paper conservators. Starch paste from various
sources—for example, from wheat and rice—has
been used for centuries to stick paper to paper and
textiles to paper. It is recommended for use with
flat paper because of its strength, durability and
purity. Aged starch paste does not discolour and
Many commercially available adhesives are starch-
based but may also contain preservatives,
plasticisers, fillers and other unwanted additives
which can damage the paper item. Starch paste
does not keep well in its wet state. It should be
made fresh and can be covered and stored for two
weeks in the refrigerator.
You will need:
- 10 grams or 3.5 level teaspoons of Silver Star
laundry starch, which is available from most
- 100ml of water, preferably distilled or
- a stainless steel double boiler, or Pyrex beaker
in a saucepan;
- a stove or hot plate;
- a wooden spoon.
- Add about 10ml of the water to the starch
and mix to a smooth slurry.
- Add more water if required to produce a
smooth paste and leave to soak for about half
- Heat the remainder of the water in the double
- Add the starch slurry and cook for 20–30
minutes, stirring constantly.
- Leave to cool.
- If the paste is lumpy, press through a Nylon
sieve or some fine cloth for example, terylene.
- The paste can be thinned by adding water
Alternatives to hinges
A fast but less desirable alternative to Japanese
paper hinges and starch paste or methylcellulose
are tabs of archival paper tape with a gum
adhesive. This is known as archival hinging tape.
Photocorners are an excellent method of attaching
paper items to mounts without using adhesives.
They can be used:
- if the item is appropriately rigid and stable;
- if there is an adequate margin to hide the
corners behind the window mount, and as
long as they do not damage the medium; for
example, abrade the paint;
- for holding encapsulated material in mounts
or on board for display purposes.
Photocorners should be made from polyester film,
for example Mylar, and can be bought or made in a
variety of sizes. To make photocorners you will
- strips of polyester, 100 or 125 micron Mylar D
or Melinex, cut to whatever size is required:
for example, for smaller items, a strip
measuring 15 x 45mm is appropriate;
- acid-free, double-sided tape 6 mm wide—
3M double-sided tape #415 is commonly used;
- a bone folder.
To make up the photocorner:
- fold in each end of the strip as shown on the
diagram to form a point in the top centre
edge of the strip. Make sure the ends butt up
to each other;
- use a bone folder to form sharp creases. To
avoid scratching the polyester, place a piece
of release paper; for example, Glad Bake paper
or Reemay, over the photo corner when bone-
- apply a strip of double-sided tape across the
protruding ends of the photo corner.
In this way, the photocorner can be stuck down to
the backing paper and no adhesive touches the
items being mounted.
When using photocorners to attach items to
mounts, the item is weighted in place on the
backing board and its position checked by closing
the window mount. The photocorners are then
slipped onto the corners of the item, and the
corners attached to the backing board using acid-
free, double-sided tape.