How to: float-mount your art-work at home

Written by chris pink on May 15, 2014 in Picture Framing

For the most part, standard mount board – matting – takes care of all your picture framing needs. It’s an industry staple, it looks smart and all picture framers are familiar with the format.

But what do you do when you don’t want to mount your art-work, and instead like the idea of presenting it in a more simplified, less fussy way? The answer, of course, is to float-mount it inside a frame.

Heard about it but never really understood what it’s all about? This blog post will unravel the mysteries of float-mounting, explain how you can do it yourself at home, and ensure you don’t make costly mistakes that could damage your art-work irreparably.

Number 1: What is float-mounting…exactly?

If any confusion still remains about what float-mounting actually is, let’s get that sorted now!

Float-mounting means your art-work, photograph or watercolour is suspended inside the picture frame. When a piece is floated, its raw edges are visible – as opposed to mounting, where the mount covers the edges with the crisp lines of the card – and when you look at it from any angle, there is no sign of anything which fixes it in position. Additionally, there is a void behind the image.

 Number 2: What pieces are suitable for floating?

Good question. In reality, nearly anything can be float-mounted. That said, certificates and other important documents are a firm favourite for this presentation method. Watercolours, too, look great suspended inside a frame. As does any other art-work created on very heavy paper where the rough edges of the piece is just as much a feature as the art itself!

Number 3: What pieces are not suitable for floating?

I toyed with integrating this point into number 2, then thought better of it. Why? That’s very simple: you never want to float-mount art-work or certificates of any kind that are made out of very thin paper. We’ll get to why in a moment…

 Number 4: What kind of frame is suitable for floating art-work?

There are two ways of floating a piece. You can either float it so it’s right up against the glass (not true float-mounting), or you can choose a frame which has a lining – usually made of wood or high-density foam – that gives some much needed space between the art-work and the glass.

Although there is nothing technically wrong with mounting right up against the glass, there are a few reasons why leaving space is considered far more preferable. One is that having space gives an enhanced look, adding to the feeling that the piece is free and magically levitating inside the frame. Another is down to preserving the art-work in the long-term. Because glass gets hot and cold, and moisture can occur both on the outside and inside, leaving space ensures that the art-work doesn’t absorb it and get damaged.

Lastly, it would be a very bad idea for some pieces to be left up against the glass for prolonged periods of time (think glossy photographs and paintings). While it may be possible to salvage some pieces, most will be permanently damaged unless space is left between the glass.

Number 5: Different techniques for best results

There are two main methods for float-mounting (and a number more, depending on many different framers’ opinions!). You can either hang the mount with double-sided tape, enabling the edges to drift away from the base it is attached to – the more space between the glass and art-work, the better – or you can place the double-sided tape in the top two corners, or in each of the four corners.

For either method, you’ll need to first choose the mount which your piece will be attached to. This is a single piece of un-cut mount board that sits inside the frame, on the dense-foam or wood lining that is attached to the frame’s rebate.

You will then want to apply the tape to the back of the art-work, being careful to burnish it on so that it gains maximum adhesion (while still being careful to not damage the front of the piece).

About the tape. For either technique, you want to always use conservation grade, acid-free tape from a proven supplier. It’s no good using any other kind of tape! Masking tape may be fine to begin with but will perish or its glue will damage the art-work eventually, while stronger tapes may seep into the piece or be visible once the piece is finished (particularly if dark in colour, and the paper is thin).

In the first technique, a strip of tape is attached to the piece near the top, like in this illustration.

Float-mounting techniques picture framing

In the second approach, tape is attached in smaller pieces near the corners, as mentioned before.

Unsure which technique to use? Then consider the weight of the art-work and the overall look you would like to achieve. If the piece has rustic, naturally rough edges, then you may wish to hang it with just a single piece of tape. If the piece is heavier, it may be wiser to use tape in the corners.

Note: a traditionalist will always go with method number 1 (or similar, using less tape), but if the piece is in danger of becoming detached due to its own weight, it may be wiser to go with technique number 2 (or a variation of the hanging method, using another line of tape beneath the first).


Read More »