Caring for Prints ...

Discussion: Archival Tape

Editor's note: The comments you are about to read have all been 'clipped' from discussions on this topic that took place on the [Baren] forum. Thanks to the members for their input!

Q: I am looking for the best type of tape to use for mounting my prints in mats. Does anybody have any recommendations?

Response: I know that they make 'artist's tape' and that sort of thing for acid-free matting, but something else I found that works even better is surgical tape. It is thinner, so doesn't separate the front and rear mat when it's hinged over; it sticks very well, yet can be removed fairly easily without damaging the print, even a long time later. It is fairly open, so the paper that it's attached to can breathe, though only a small section is really needed to hold the print to the rear mat. However I don't know where you can get it, unless you know someone who works in a hospital. It is white, comes in varying widths, and a little goes a long way. I don't know for a fact that it is acid-free, but have never seen any evidence of staining or deterioration, and I've used it for years. I believe its main medical purpose is to hold dressings onto the skin and doubt there'd be any harmful substances in it. Just a thought.

Response: Interesting idea, I haven't run across this use before, but I would wonder if it really is acid free. If its base is not paper, but some kind of cloth, then there is a better chance of it being neutral. The old standby is hinges of rice paste and Japanese paper, and you all should be able to find some of that laying around somewhere. Acid free, never unsticks, and yet it is easily removed with no residue left behind.

Response: Acid free framing tape which is made in Germany and sold by distributors of framing material is Filmolux products. The name of the tape is Filmoplast P90. Expensive but the best.

Response: I also found acid free tape in the Dick Blick catalog at

- Economy Artist's Tape Opaque, white, smooth, acid free......

Response: I think you can use surgical tape - it's 3M paper tape, which you can buy in a pharmacy - for repairing Japanese paper.

Response: In my experience with surgical tape, it's bad news over any considerable length of time. (Keep in mind that it's not supposed to be stuck to one's skin for a particularly long time, either.) Sticks to paper quite well and deposits adhesives which are difficult to remove. Filmoplast is pretty good stuff, but most custom picture framers will only use oriental papers torn to hinge size (torn so that the edges are soft as opposed to 'hard edges on paper' which has been cut and can eventually damage the paper of a print, etc.) and wheat or rice paste. Wheat and rice paste remove easily (with water) and do no damage to prints. Also, you want the hinges to give or break should a framed piece be dropped rather than having the artwork hurt. We've got pre-gummed hinges in the shop where I work. I'll check on the supplier and post it later.

Response: Stay away from surgical tape for hinges. After fifteen years of picture framing, I could only safely advise hinges made from rice paste and washi. The hinge must give way before the print does or you will have a damaged work of art. I have heard stories from museum people that would scare the ghosts from a haunted house.

Response: Choose your longest fiber handmade paper and use your regular rice paste. I always kept a box of mylar squares to place under the hinges (so that they don't stick to anything while they dry) and small squares of blotters to absorb moisture. I made weights out of small jars filled with shot or sand, but eventually, a customer gave me a set of leather pouches filled with 'something' that were wonderful. I still use those. I used to make batches of T-shaped hinges in various sizes and weights on slow days to save me time. There is a commercial type of premixed paste with preservative that costs a fortune, but in an emergency was worth the compromise. It is marketed under the name Zen paste.

Response: Filmoplast tape is a German product and I believe it is used by the Library of Congress and yes I have made the decision to use it, but I have never considered it truly reversible. Most conservation people don't like any adhesive in the frame package that sticks on contact. If that hinge moves inside the frame, it could move right onto the image.

Response: Also, I like to keep the space at the top of the T-shaped hinge (where the vertical and horizontal meet) free of rice paste, so that I can slip a small flat tool under that hinge and easily remove it at the top bar (horizontal) and transfer that print to another mat without disturbing the part of the hinge attached to the artwork. Very good for picky customers who change their mind a lot.

Response: I was trained to use rice paper hinges, but the problem with this method (especially when there isn't much of a margin to be hidden under a mat) is that the paste on the hinge can cause the paper of the print to buckle. I found that even with careful blotting and weighting, the spot where the hinge meets the paper is visible. For ease of use, I much prefer the pre-gummed linen tape made by

Lineco, Inc.
P.O. Box 2604
Holyoke, Massachusetts 01041
Tel: 413-533-4387

I have used two varieties: the water-reversible gummed linen tape (#L533-1025), and the self-adhesive linen hinging tape (#L533-1015). Both are neutral pH, strong and lay flat. The former is a little thicker than than the latter, which I've found to be just as good as Filmoplast.

Response: I especially like to use the self-adhesive tape on mulberry, because no extra moisture needs to be introduced to the paper.

(collated for the Encyclopedia by Maria ...)