All Photos And Text ©2002 by Glenn Stewart. All Rights Reserved
This tutorial was written as a guide for members of the Intel Arizona Photography Club
This page last modified 12 April, 2002
Photo mounting using dry mount tissue is a simple process that anyone can do at home with a minimum of tools and at minimal cost. The Club rules specify mounted prints for two reasons. The first is for uniformity of the contest entries. The prints can then be judged on their merits, rather than on framing or matting styles. Second, mounting is a part of the photo craft that is required by most clubs and enhances the presentation of your art.
Clothes pressing iron (may be a used one if the platen is clean)
Metal yard stick (Home Depot tool department, $3.08, tax included, 03/2002)
A sheet of cardboard to protect your working surface
A sheet of blotter paper to protect your print surface
One sheet of dry mount tissue
Dry mounting is accomplished by placing the dry mount tissue between the print and the mount board, then applying heat and slight pressure until the adhesive built into the tissue melts and bonds the print to the board. The melt temperature is low, between 175 and 230F. This is far below the temperature that would damage the print, but be careful, RC (Resin Coated (plastic coated)) papers are much more sensitive than fiber-based papers. I don't have much experience with digital photo papers, but I expect them to react much like fiber-based photographic papers.
Remember, this process is called "DRY MOUNTING". The adhesive built into the dry mount tissue is heat activated, not moisture activated. Therefore, DO NOT put any water in your clothes pressing iron. All you need from the iron is heat, not steam. If you do use steam, expect the emulsion to delaminate from the print. Also expect the delaminated emulsion to immediately laminate itself to your blotter paper. Congratulations! You have now ruined both the print and the blotter paper. Remember, KEEP IT DRY!
Most people do their mounting with a dry mount press. These cost between $300 (used) and $1500 (new), depending on the press size. Ill show you how to do it using a clothing iron purchased from Wal-Mart for about $14. It even has a Teflon coated platen! It is important that the iron be clean. Traces of old starch will cause the iron to stick to the blotter paper, and a scratched platen can damage your prints. For the modest cost, its probably worth your while to go buy a new one. Hey, you can always press clothes with it if you quit the Club!
To begin, lay out your cardboard work surface protector. You can do all your work here.
The first thing youll have to decide is whether you want a borderless or bordered print. Our photo club has no rule governing bordered or borderless prints. Its at the photographers discretion. If you have your prints made at a commercial lab you can order them either way. The easels I use in my darkroom make bordered prints. If I want borderless prints I have to trim away the borders. I do this with an Exacto knife. Many people use a paper cutter or rotary trimmer, but the job can be done just as well and for a lot less cost by using an Exacto and a metal straight edge. I use a Home Depot aluminum yard stick. Its cheap and the Exacto wont cut divots into it that would make later print borders wavy. It takes a bit of skill to make the cut without having the yard stick slip, so I suggest you do your practice on a print that will not be entered into the contest. Below is a photo of my technique, and a couple of shots showing bordered and borderless prints.
Once you have the print the size you want it, you will need to cut the dry mount tissue to fit it. The tissue comes in nominal print sizes, but is usually just large enough to hang out slightly along the edges. This results in a sloppy-looking presentation. Therefore, the tissue must be cut down a bit so it will be within the print boundaries. I prefer to cut about ¼ inch (6mm) off the long and short sides of the tissue, leaving it about 1/8 inch (3mm) smaller than the print on all four sides. This covers enough of the print so the edges will not curl, but prevents the tissue from showing around the edges.
There are a number of techniques for keeping the tissue aligned with the print during mounting. I recommend against using your iron to tack the tissue to the back of the print. This can cause a buildup of adhesive on your iron which will then be transferred to your blotter paper. Bad idea. Since you will begin the mounting at the center of the print, you can use tape at the corners to temporarily hold the tissue onto the back of the print until you get the center of the print affixed to the mount board. At that point you can remove the tape and finish the mounting. I just line up the print, tissue and mount board, then place the blotter paper down without disturbing the alignment. This must be done carefully, but it can work. Ill leave this job to your discretion and inventiveness.
You must calibrate your iron to the materials you will be using. Dont get in a hurry. Start with the iron set so that it is just a bit hotter than you want to touch with your hand. Now, be careful! Dont get me in trouble for a safety issue by burning yourself! Start with the iron cool and the temp control set to its lowest setting. After plugging it in, wait for about 5 minutes for it to warm up and reach a stable temperature. If you can still touch it, it needs to be turned up a bit. Wait until the temperature stabilizes, then check it again. When its too hot to touch, its time to start trying to make the dry mount tissue do its job. Well come back to the details of this part of the job later later.
This photo shows my iron and the temp dial. I have made a small mark (near the Nylon setting) so I dont have to re-calibrate the iron for each job. I can simply set it at the mark, plug it in, let it warm up and Im ready to mount photos. Each iron is different, so youll have to do your own calibration and marking. Dont expect your iron to perform like mine. An iron thats too cool will not do any harm, it just wont stick the pic". But one that is set too hot will blister your print and destroy your blotter paper. Remember, start cool and work up slowly to a temperature that is just hot enough to activate the adhesive. You can do your calibration using your contest print as long as you work slowly and take care not to damage the print. This is a one-way process. If you make a mistake, you wont be able to un-mount the print and start over, so be careful and work slowly and deliberately. This is a skill-driven craft, not a race.
The next photo shows a print being centered on the mount board in preparation for mounting. You can do it this way, or you can make some light pencil marks on the mount board to guide you. These will erase easily after you have the print mounted.
At this point, you can lay your protective sheet of blotter paper over the print and place the iron in the center, applying light pressure for about 5 minutes. You must heat up the blotter paper, the print, the tissue and the mount board. It takes some time for the heat to build up in all these materials, so dont be in a rush. Hold the iron still and apply light pressure. Moving the iron will cause heat loss and slow the process, so hold it still. Be sure to mark your blotter paper so the same clean side goes against the print each time.
If the print is firmly attached to the mount board at this point, without blistering the print, your iron is set correctly. When the center of the print is attached to the mount board you will be able to lift the blotter paper any time you want so you can check the progress of your mounting job. Once attached, the print will not move. Now you can move the iron to one of the print corners and attach it to the board. Do this by sliding the iron out from the center. If you pick the iron up while moving it you may cause a bubble in the print between the iron and the attached center section of the print. Sliding the iron pushes the bubbles and buckles out to the corner where they will disappear. Again, hold the iron still until the heat can penetrate all layers of the blotter, photo, tissue and mount board.
After you get the first corner attached, slide the iron back to the center of the print and then across to the opposite corner of the print. When the second corner is attached, you can move the iron back to the center and out to the corner adjacent to the first one you attached. Then back across center to the opposite corner.
When you have the center and all four corners attached, work your way out from the center to the middle of each side. Check periodically to be sure the edges of the print are flat against the board. If not, place the iron over them and apply pressure until they stick.
This process can be speeded up a bit by increasing the iron temperature, but be careful not to blister your print.
Now attach the completed photo ID card to the back of the print, as shown in the Club contest rules, and youre ready to compete!