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Articles by Chris A. Paschke, CPF GCF

"Mounting Cibachromes"

October 1992

As framers, dealing with photographs can be a frightening experience when having to confront questions of image lightfastness, mounting procedures, laminating and conservation. Though generally presented with RC (resin coated) photos, we may also be presented with image extremes from antique daguerreotypes to twentieth century cibachromes.

In November 1991, Ilford Photo Corporation, Paramus, NJ, (originator of the Cibachrome photo processes) announced the replacement of the "Ciba" prefix to "Ilfo", renaming their direct-positive, silver-dye material previously called "Cibachrome" to "Ilfochrome Classic".

Ilfochromes are materials based on a unique silver dye bleach system utilizing pure azo dyes which are color incorporated during manufacturing rather than the less permanent conventional color dyes formed from color couplers during processing only. The azo dye process incorporates excellent color saturation, superior image stability and extreme crispness...making them the MOST stable and lightfast color photo process available.

Ilfochrome finishes are available as pure polyester based Deluxe Glossy or Brilliant photos, and it should be noted Ilfochromes are also available as a polyethylene or resin-coated paper base with a Luster finish. The high gloss, white opaque polyester based photos are the ones to be dealt with in this article. They are extremely susceptible to fingerprints, scratches, water drops and should never be stacked due to their sensitive surface emulsion. Cotton photo gloves are a must when handling Ilfochromes, and NEVER use abrasive paper towels or tissues for they will encourage additional scratches much like plexiglas. Also avoid using anti-static cloths which may deposit unwanted chemicals on the image surface and could effect mounting.

Mounting Options

There are numerous substrates available for mounting, each with varying benefits and drawbacks. The very essence of the glassy smooth, high gloss quality of an Ilfochrome is best maintained by archival mounting treatments, hinging with Japanese tissues, mounting corners or side strips. This maintains the desired glass-like surface which set Ilfochromes apart from RC photos. Spray, wet, cold vacuum and pressure sensitive mountings are all possible solutions to dealing with Ilfochromes. Though these methods are also very effective visual solutions by maintaining the desired glossy surface, since adhesives do not soak into polyester, these methods will not create the desired long term bond you may wish to achieve. For a long term bond dry mounting using heat is the most permanent.

Orange Peel

Any time heat is applied to a photograph, whether RC photo or Ilfochrome Classic, there is a reaction called "orange peel" which occurs. It refers to an uneven surface distortion created by the contouring of the photo emulsion to the substrate. Substrates which may be considered should include clean neutral pH, acid-free boards; but mat board, mount board, clay coated foam board, acid-free foam board, Chromocore, aluminum, glass and plexi would all make potential substrates. Keep in mind the textural differences of each mentioned for when heat is applied the photo will mirror that texture, the rougher the surface of the substrate the more pronounced the orange peel. Note: this occurs in the mounting of regular RC photos also.

The above orange peel effect may be minimized by controlling the elements of time, temperature, pressure and moisture (TTPM) as covered in January and February 1992. As with any mounting procedure, understanding your materials and being able to predict the outcome is of utmost importance in controlling your desired end product. Knowing plastics will warp when heat is applied must be understood.

Time and Temperature

Extensive tests have been conducted dry mounting Ilfochromes at different times and temperatures, using various substrates, release materials and adhesives. The best visual dry mounted results were consistently achieved when using Bienfang Chromocore foam board as a substrate, and Seal's ArchivalMount tissue. Clay coated foam gives a smoother finish than acid-free foam but you lose the acid-free benefit. Frequently foam board mounted in less time than 4-ply mat or mount board (probably a result of the foam insulation issue).

Removable, acid-free tissues (ArchivalMount, TM 4 or Drychival) are delicate low temperature tissues allowing a 160ºF press (temperature) and when using a mechanical press require only 1-2 minutes to mount, depending upon the overall size of the photo. By limiting the amount of time the Ilfochrome is exposed to any heat minimizes the orange peel. Although warping of the photo occurs, it takes heat extremes of 300ºF to seriously damage the surface emulsion or begin layer separation. So the bottom line when dry mounting appears to be almost any breathable adhesive will work on any good quality substrate, your selection of materials will be determined by the degree of orange peel you are willing to tolerate.


Another aesthetic consideration when dry mounting is the appearance of small starbursts or "snowflakes" which may occur on the surface or face of a photo any time a glossy photo (either RC or Ilfochrome) is dry mounted. It seems to be a reaction by the surface emulsion of the photo to the "silicon" release paper, and you should always be aware it could happen at any time. It is a somewhat uncontrollable and unpredictable phenomenon most likely a direct reaction to the surface of the release paper silica (that very thing which makes it a non-bonding release paper in the first place). Ilford Photo Corporation suggests in it's 1988 publication "Mounting and Laminating", not to use silicon release paper when dry mounting it's Ilfochrome (Cibachrome prior to November 1991) materials, though they don't suggest a plausible alternative.


For museum or gallery presentation, the most recommended method of mounting once again is using approved archival materials. This means either matting with 100% acid-free non-buffered museum boards and polyester corners or hinging with a spacer between the glazing and the photo print.

The issue of mounting Ilfochromes is something to be decided between the framer and his client. Considerations need to be made concerning the use of the photo is it for gallery presentation or advertising slick. A great way to present the options to the client is by having visual samples to help explain and illustrate. Create a sample or series of optional samples using promotional Ilfochromes cut into sections and mounted using various methods. If a picture is worth a thousand words...a visual sample will successfully stress your point and close the sale.

Copyright © 1992 Chris A Paschke

For more articles on mounting basics look under the mounting section in Articles by Subject.
Additional information on all types of mounting is found in:
The Mounting and Laminating Handbook, Second Edition, 2002,
The Mounting And Laminating Handbook, Third Edition, 2008 and
Creative Mounting, Wrapping, And Laminating, 2000 will teach you everything you need to know about getting the most from your dry mount equipment and materials as an innovative frame designer.

All books are available from Designs Ink Publishing through this website.

Chris A Paschke, CPF GCF
Designs Ink
Designs Ink Publishing
785 Tucker Road, Suite G-183
Tehachapi, CA 93561
P 661-821-2188