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Articles by Chris A. Paschke, CPF GCF

"The Pros and Cons of Mounting Digital Canvases"

September 2009

The popularity of canvas art rages on with digitally generated copies being offered to galleries and customers stretched onto bars with diagonal staples; museum wrapped with the image ending at the wrapped edge fitting into a deep canvas or float frames; or as an unframed gallery wrap. But with a digital canvas these may not be the only, nor the correct solution. There are two issues that haunt digital canvas: flaking—or rubbed—ink and sagging once stretched. Numerous misnomers have been posted online about stretching in warm weather, or cool weather, or not to tightly, all in an attempt to control the sagging issues. None of these apply.


There are coatings applied to canvases that are required to receive digitals inks and prevent them from bleeding or spreading when applied. Ink on the surface splits (photo 1) when uncoated canvas is bent or folded, it is the nature of the beast. Technology has vastly improved the problem of surface inks splitting with the application of surface laminates or sealers allowing for the inks more pliable and better suited to stretching (photo 2).

200909_01Photo 1
Canvas left does not flake while canvas right has inks flaking off in pieces.

200909_02Photo 2
The crack is merely the ink splitting to expose the canvas beneath it.

Unlike traditionally painted canvases, the use of stretcher bars and keys will never solve the digital issue of sagging. Too many elements come into play from humidity to temperature, and even they are unpredictable. In a long term stretched test begun in 2008 all I succeeded in proving was there is no standard. The same canvas sagged one month in cold, the next in heat, but months later was unaffected in cold. There were no constants.


Mounting is the most predictable and easiest was to present a digital canvas—albeit controversial. It is really an ethical issue not a technical one over whether or not dry mounting is the best way to display a digital canvas. And many publishers of fine art giclées are recommending mounting over stretching. Pure film adhesives are actually museum quality because of their neutrality, inert and stable nature, though since they not reversible they have not been considered an appropriate alternative to stretching until recently. If choosing to dry mount a digital canvas first test the inks for heat sensitivity along one edge with an iron. Most pigmented wide format prints will be heat tolerant.

200909_03Photo 3
Most tissue adhesives do not have the tear strength for mounting canvases. This one allows the canvas to peel off.

In 2006 I ran an extended mounting test for digital canvases using heat and pressure-sensitive commercial boards and film adhesives. Commercial low temperature 150ºF and tissue adhesives are not the best choice because of tear strength failure (photo 3), use a film (photo 4). Conversely, all pressure-sensitive films failed both manual and roller tests. Only three commercial P-S boards held well enough to be considered, though heat applications are more foolproof. Also P-S adhesives take more time to cure under weight even when initially bonding in a cold vacuum frame. Wet glues and sprays should be avoided altogether.

200909_04Photo 4
Film adhesives and a few heat activated boards do have the required tear strength for mounting canvases. The top layer of paper must be pulled from the substrate to pass a T-peel test.

Final Words

Digital canvases are not your grandmother's oil painting, and mounting may indeed be the best option for displaying these—after all they are only digital copies. Be careful of hand embellished canvases though, they may be damaged or crushed in a press. I have been working on a more preservation sound method of mounting these gems but a report will not be available until next year sometime.

Additional information, discussions and guidelines for handling digital canvases is available in The Mounting And Laminating Handbook, Third Edition available through PPFA Bookstore, now featuring blank Condition Report forms for stretched canvas projects. When handling digital canvases always fill out a condition report, as you will not know whether it will flack, crack or rub until you are actually trying to stretch it. Consider mounting it instead.

Copyright © 2009 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
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