I’ve been experimenting with options for displaying photographic prints around the house.
For one-of-a-kind prints or those you want to keep around for a long time, archival mounting and framing are still the best options. This will help protect the prints from damaging UV light, pollution, and caustic or acidic mounting materials. It’s hard to beat a proper professional frame job done by someone who knows what they’re doing and who can use the right materials. It’s also the most expensive way to go and not always cost-effective for temporary or less-valuable artwork.
Store-bought frames are an inexpensive way to go but it’s hard to resist replacing the cheap sub-standard mats and backer boards with something a little better.
In between these framing extremes there are all kinds of options available for buying custom and semi-custom frames and mounts on the Web. These range widely in quality and price but you can often find the just-right balance between cost and quality. Glazing is often a difficult choice with each of the options having drawbacks. Acrylic, such as the Acrylite® brand comes in options such as UV protection and anti-glare (which somewhat degrades the view of the print). Acrylic, particularly in larger sizes, is not as flat as glass. Glass can break in handling and the best quality museum-grade glass is very expensive.
Surface-mounted prints, such as Foam Mounted Standout prints offered by companies like Mpix, are a more modern looking presentation. They’re far less expensive than traditional quality framing options but are not considered archival and subject the print to more environmental hazards. Plus, you’re limited to the company’s printing service which may use a quality and paper you’re not particularly plased with.
I’ve tried metal prints recently, where the images are printed directly onto an aluminum substrate. This enables the prints to be floated off the wall. We put up four wildflower prints, two on either side of our kitchen window, and they add a nice decorative touch. The quality of the prints is nowhere near that of a well-made conventional print on paper but they’re suitable for decorative purposes. The cost is rather high but still nowhere near a properly mounted and framed paper print. Another plus, particularly in our kitchen, is the durability–these can be wiped off with a rag.
Obviously there are many other options for displaying art and I’ll no doubt continue to explore them but, so far, there’s no clear winner covering all criteria for safe and attractive display at a modest price.