Guide to Adhesives in Picture Framing

Written by Mark Rogers

It may be tempting to use any household glue or adhesive tape for all your picture framing, but each type of picture framing adhesive is specially made for its own specific purpose.

Using other multipurpose glues or adhesive tape can result in discoloration, deterioration or even damage to your art or frame. Nobody wants that! Instead, here are a few tips that can help you prevent an expensive or irreversible adhesive mistake.

Photo Mounting Adhesive

The most common place to use adhesive in picture framing is attaching the photo to the mount board or mat board, depending on the method you choose. There are many different photo mounting techniques, each using a different type of adhesive: hinging tape or tissue, spray adhesive, and wheat or rice starch paste.

Hinging Tape and Tissue

Hinging tape can serve two purposes: it can be used to mount your photo to a mat board and to hinge the mat to the mount board. Hinging tape is thicker than hinging tissue, the latter of which is a transparent, thinner version that is used on translucent or lightweight artwork. These often use either a pressure-sensitive or water-activated adhesive.

Lineco’s Self-Adhesive Hinging Tape, Tyvek Tape, and Self-Adhesive Hinging Tissue all use a pressure-sensitive acrylic adhesive that is considered archival quality. Lineco’s Gummed Paper Hinging Tape and Gummed Linen Hinging Tape, which are made for heavier prints and artwork, both use a water-activated adhesive made with carbohydrate and protein, which features a neutral pH and is deemed safe for photos.

When I'm framing prints, Lineco’s Self-Adhesive Linen Hinging Tape is my personal favorite. Because it is a pressure-sensitive tape, it's quick and easy to use. I use it for both hinging the mat to the backing and for hinging the print. For museum-grade framing or when mounting artwork on very thin paper, the hinging tissue should be used instead of hinging tape to hinge the artwork.

Most household pressure-sensitive tapes — office tape, masking tape and duct tape — should never be used in picture framing. The adhesives used in these products vary but can contain synthetic or natural rubber. Rubber-based adhesives can become yellow, oily and sticky as they age, damaging your artwork. Acrylic adhesives, on the other hand, are much more stable over time and do not significantly discolor.

Spray Adhesive

Spray adhesives are used in wet mounting applications and are irreversible. There are many different types available, but one of the most common is 3M Super 77 Spray Adhesive from Scotch, a multipurpose adhesive made with synthetic rubber. Incredibly strong, it's ideal for scrapbooking and other framing projects where the longevity of the artwork isn’t a consideration.

Starch-Based Adhesives

Some of the oldest types of adhesives — used by ancient Egyptians to bind papyrus — are starch-based pastes. They're made by cooking either rice or wheat. Starch adhesives are often used with special Japanese paper in conservation framing; the Lineco Museum Mounting Kit contains wheat starch adhesive, Japanese mulberry paper and linen cloth hinging tape.

The benefits of using starch adhesives are that they're reversible (meaning the artwork can be removed from the mount or mat board) and considered safe to use in preservation framing. On the downside, starch adhesives are weaker than acrylic or rubber adhesives and shouldn’t be used with heavy artwork. They also may be a little fussier to work with, especially for someone who does not mount a lot of art. But the sophistication of the end result may be worth it.

In conservation-style framing, you can also use non-adhesive techniques. These methods involve photo corners and strips, where the adhesives never come in contact with the artwork.

Dust Cover Adhesives

In my article titled How to Attach a Dust Cover to a Picture Frame, two types of adhesives are discussed: ATG tape and liquid PVA glue.

Adhesive Transfer Tape

ATG tape, aka adhesive transfer tape, uses a special dispenser gun to apply a thin layer of adhesive. The three Scotch adhesive transfer tapes carried by Frame Destination — including Gold 908, 924 and 969 — use a pressure-sensitive acrylic adhesive. Scotch Gold 908 is acid-free, but none of the adhesive transfer trapes should be used in direct contact with artwork.

Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA)

PVA glue is a versatile adhesive used in all types of projects, not just picture framing. Other names for the same product include "wood glue", "school glue" (Elmer’s Glue, known all across the U.S., is a type of PVA glue) and "white glue" due to its color before drying. Liquid PVA (if formulated for use in conservation projects) can be used for attaching dust covers or items in a shadow box. It's also good for scrapbooking. Lineco’s archival adhesive is one such PVA glue, and it is safe to use in framing projects.

Summing Up Adhesives

The right adhesives play an important role in picture framing. They can help you avoid damaging your art and preserve it for years to come. Whether it’s a photo-safe liquid glue or a roll of ATG tape, professional and amateur framers alike have their favorite adhesives when framing their art, each ideal for a specific purpose.

For a deeper dive into the world of adhesives and mounting, check out the "Mounting and Laminating Handbook" by Chris Paschke, sold right her on our website.

Do you have your own favorite picture framing adhesive? Let us know below!

Last Updated November 2, 2020

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8 thoughts on “Guide to Adhesives in Picture Framing”

  • Kathleen Sipple
    Kathleen Sipple October 29, 2018 at 6:39 am

    3m photo Mount spry has been my favorite for 30yrs. It cant be beat!!!

  • Tom Smith

    Gudy V is great for pressure mounting although totally irreversible - It's meant for book binding and is archival. I also like Jade PVA adhesive with a linen tape when the artwork is very heavy. Again it can't be removed but its archival and holds weight very well.

  • Giuseppe

    What's your suggestion to avoid that when a photo is glued to a rigid mount it may not remain perfectly flat ?

    • Laura W

      Hi Guiseppe - there are several mounting options outside of the glue as well. If you absolutely need to use the glue, you can apply it to the mount board and then then use scrap sheets or cardboard to spread it evenly across the board before you place the art down. You can also use an adhesive mounting board or a spray adhesive to create a more even application.

  • Shade with rice paper?
    Shade with rice paper? July 14, 2020 at 8:52 am

    What is the best glue to use to cover a metal light Shade with rice paper?

  • Amy

    We have a large canvas print that is laid over a 1 1/2” thick styrofoam piece and has a backing board adhered to the canvas on all 4 edges. I’m assuming they did it this way so it wouldn’t be really heavy. The backing is peeling off causing the picture to slant off the wall. What could I use to re-adhere the canvas to the backing?

  • Matt

    I am trying to mount a foam mat board which has artwork printed on it to a shadow box that will be hanging on the wall. Unfortunately the foam board has warped and so is no longer completely flat (it bows slightly in the middle). I tried using hinging tape but that didn't work as the foam board fell down. What adhesive would you recommend? I don't know how strong the PVA type glues are if something isn't flat and so would naturally be pulling away? Thanks

    • Laura W

      Hi Matt - I'm not sure how warped it is. I would suggest possibly trying to flatten it before you attempt adhesives. Possibly lay a sheet across the art (or something that will protect it) and then apply weight on top for 24-48 hours (ex. a coffee table book).

  • Ronna

    I’m mounting a silk scarf on archival foam core. What frame tape should I use to just support it. Can I just sandwich between the plexi and the back in the frame?

  • Peter

    Hello. The product I am looking for may not actually exist! So I want to put some photos in albums. I think "sleeves" are boring so I want to use white background pages. Traditional "magnetic adhesive" pages apparently can damage the photos. But I can get white mat backgrounds (no adhesive on the page) with a mylar page cover. The challenge is how to affix the photos so they stay in place. I don't want to use a permanent glue as I am then stuck with that layout forever and the photo cannot be moved. Is there a tape or some other adhesive that does not damage the photo that would keep it in place but allow the photo to be removed down the road? Any ideas? Thanks.

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