Don’t forget the backing board!

February 13th, 2014


Ugly little thing, isn’t it? The yellow stain on this print is the classic sign of acid contamination of a print on Hahnemühle Bamboo paper, one of my current favorites. But what caused it? the client called and said a print done barely a year before had turned yellowish even though she used an acid-free mat board. The print had been taped on all four edges to the back of the mat board. We could see that underneath the tape the paper appeared good, but the back of the print had a slight yellowing. On the frontside the outer edge had also been protected by the backside tape, but everything else was stained much worse than even the unprotected back.

I got out my pH pen and marked the mat board, just to show what the response should look like and sure enough, the color of the mark did not change. Even the tape appeared acid free. I also checked the wood frame as best I could, but I didn’t suspect it because the front borders, in contact with the print, were clean. That left just the backing board.

This was an inexpensive frame from Ikea, the kind a lot of people use. But the backing board appears to be cheap press board and it is definitely not made of a archival materials! Sometimes these boards are very dark and hard to test with a pH pen.

The moral of this short story is simple. If you want to preserve your prints for the longest time in a frame, all elements must be acid free. Use another piece of good mat board or other archival material behind the print. And DO NOT sandwhich cardboard in anywhere-“for stiffness.” It’s definitely not acid free. And although the tape my client used appeared to be OK, it’s better to use an adhesive product made for the job. Plenty of these are available at art supply stores.

If you can’t find good materials locally, try a specialty site like University Products for a wide range of storage and print mounting materials.

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