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.