What is Archival Mounting Board?

Written by Mark Rogers

Mount board gives custom framed photos stability and is an essential part of picture framing. Mount boards, often also referred to as foamcore, come in a variety of thicknesses, your choice of black or white, and support different mounting techniques (such as self-adhesive mount boards versus heat activated board). There’s also the option of archival versus non-archival quality. There are a number of differences between archival and non-archival mount boards, and these differences will vary between different manufacturers. However, there are a few fundamental things to understand in order to choose the correct mount board for your custom framing project.

When Non-Archival is OK

Non archival mount board means that the foamboard is not certified acid-free. Acid is harmful to pictures and artwork and can cause yellowing, discoloration and other damage over time.

A general guideline is that regular mounting boards are considered ok for temporary and/or very inexpensive framing. When framing original artwork, documents or precious photos that can’t be replaced (such as old prints that can’t easily be reproduced) non-archival mount boards are highly discouraged. However, framing things like posters and general home décor on this type of board is fine.

Before you make the decision, it’s important to understand what will happen to your art over time. When using this type of mount board, minor decay in the artwork can start occurring within 5 years. This will vary dramatically based on the type of framing components, the environment (light, temperature, humidity) of the frame package, the chemistry of the print, and the type of mounting. Although some decay may occur, it may not be very noticeable without doing a comparison with the original.

When to use Archival-Quality Mount Board

Archival, or conservation quality, mount board will better protect your picture over time. Archival quality board usually has the following characteristics:

  • Composed of acid free material
  • Composed of lignin-free material
  • Buffered to help maintain the alkaline pH

These measures help ensure the mount board doesn’t contain any properties that will produce harmful acid over time. This style will be advertised as acid-free, archival quality, museum quality, conservation quality, or may have the term “rag” which denotes a cotton base, in the product title.

Bainbridge also produces a mount board with Micro Chamber technology, called Artcare™, that goes a step further and allows their archival products to actively absorb harmful components entering the framing package. This can be especially useful in the case of foamboard. Archival foamboard will have an archival mounting surface to protect the print, but the foam in the center will out gas over time. The Bainbridge product will absorb this out gassing.

Now that you understand the differences in archival versus non-archival mount board, you can decide which is best for your DIY picture framing project.

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5 thoughts on “What is Archival Mounting Board?”

  • Katharine

    I've been reading about mounting on acid-free foam core and am quite interested for a few reasons.

    I always print on matte art paper (Aurora Natural from your friends at Red River), and my images do not need or want glass. Plus, I always crop to non-standard sizes. Always. Which presents problems for every component I have to buy, especially since the cost needs to stay down.

    I am seeking an inexpensive way to produce images saleable in, say, a coffee shop, or displayable at a library or other nice-but-modest setting.

    All this together makes me think that maybe foam core or art board or some such could be my answer, but I've read that an inkjet print will be more prone to humidity-related changes in size that may make some mounting methods not work.

    I am open to displaying/selling either without a frame or in one; willing to consider a matte but would prefer to do without; but again, the budget is on the low side.

    What would be my best bet for a truly custom sized mounting method that would work for my situation? I know you sell custom by the inch, but usually this would not get me to the needed ratio. Is there a way to cut neatly and accurately myself? Or will you cut even more custom?

    Also, what would be my best method for attaching my image to the board that will not show and will not allow the image to ripple in the weather changes? Again, using matte inkjet output?

    Of course, I am open to solutions that use your products. Thanks!

  • Mark Rogers

    Katharine, there are different options, but it depends on what you comfortable with doing and your budget. Please give us a call so we can discuss with you.

    • Michele

      I wish you had fully answered Katherine's question in order to educate the rest of us. (I can't just phone - I can barely hear on a phone

  • Mark Rogers

    Michele, well you can ask me more detailed questions here or for a faster response you can email us at [email protected]

    One option that is used in by people selling in art shows is to just display the print in a clearbag such as this:

    If the print is on 13x19 paper you can just get the 13x19 bag and a 13x19 piece of foamcore mounting board to keep the bag stiff and drop it in. You can also add a mat board and just hinge the print the the foamcore and hinge the mat the foamcore. We have picture mounting info here:

    Then you just allow your customer to take it to custom framer or buy a frame to put the print in. Most prints are fine unless the humidity is real bad. Most print issues come from improper mouting such as taping all 4 sides of the print. That causes wrinkles because the print and mounting board do not expand and contract at the same rate over temperature. Hinging leaves the print free to expand and contract.

    Higher quality thicker inkjet paper has less issues.

    The only way to guarantee the print stays flat is to permanently mount the print to the backing board. The best way to do this is with a dry-mount press or cold-press. For a permanent mounting job to truly be permanent you have to make sure the adhesive is 100% evenly applied and 100% activated. You can do this manually with a spray adhesive but as the print gets larger it gets more difficult and that is where the equipment comes in handy.

  • Len

    Hi there
    Thinking of using a self adhesive foam board for mounting digital prints printed on archival rag paper with pigment inkjet inks/ The print themselves are generally considered "archival".

    Do you think mounting them on self adhesive pvc typ board renders them "non-archival". I'm asking because an exhibition in which I am participating wants the prints to be mounted on pvpc board without borders for a contemporary look. Previously I mat mounted and framed my work in the traditional way.

    Your opinion would be valued.



  • Mark Rogers

    Len, that method will not be considered archival since their is no glass to protect the print. You can use a spray coating to provide more protection but that is medium level since it is not easily reversible (like replacing glass is as long as the glass is not touching the print). Another thing that can hurt is the adhesive on the mounting board which will touch and interact with the print. Bainbridge makes a self adhesive mounting board that is supposed to have an archival and reversible adhesive but my company does not sell it.

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