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 when stocking up on your supplies, but each type of picture framing adhesive is 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. Learn tips from the experts that may 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 Linen Hinging Tape and Gummed Paper 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.

Personally, Lineco’s Self-Adhesive Linen Hinging Tape is my favorite when framing prints. It is quick and easy, as it’s a pressure sensitive tape, and I use it for both hinging the mat to the backing and 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, such as 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 the artwork to which it is attached. 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, which 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. It’s incredibly strong, making it 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, which are 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 to using starch adhesives are that it is reversible, meaning the artwork can be removed from the mount or mat board, and it is 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 use, especially for someone who does not mount a lot of photos — but the sophistication of the end result may be worth it.

Other photo mounting techniques to be used in conservation-style framing are non-adhesive techniques. With these methods, you use photo corners and strips, whose adhesives never come in contact with the artwork.

Dust Cover Adhesives

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

Adhesive Transfer Tape

ATG tape, also called adhesive transfer tape, uses a special 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. Also called 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 to attach dust covers, attach items in a shadow box and in scrapbooking. Lineco’s archival adhesive is one such PVA glue, and it is safe to use in framing projects.

Whether it’s a photo-safe liquid glue or large roll of ATG tape, adhesives play a big role in picture framing. Professional and amateur framers use a number of adhesives when putting together a picture frame, all ideal for their specific purpose.

The right adhesives play an important role in picture framing, as they can help you avoid damaging your art as well as help 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 their specific purpose.

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

Share This

5 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?

Add a Comment: