Backing material for fine art mounts

Sherry Lee

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jun 25, 2002
Phoenix, Az.
This subject came up on another thread. I think a poll on it would be great, but for now I'll toss it out as questions.

Example: A customer wants you to mount and frame a s/n fine art print, medium size. The customer picks out a Bainbridge Alphamat Artcare and a TruVue (now Crescent) Classic White matboard. Granted they are not RAG, but the customer doesn't like the available colors in RAG, so this is not the end of the world! ????

QUESTION 1: Do you hinge it to:
1) Rag foamboard
2) "A/F" foamboard
3) RAG matboard
4) Alphacellulose matboard

I was taught to put it onto "A/F" foamboard. I've read it should go onto rag but it seems that's more for "museum type" conservation. Also, I've opened up many previously framed fine art pieces and I think it's safe to say that 100% of it is on "A/F" foamboard only.

IF you hinge it onto a type of matboard, that adds a significant charge. Is it THAT important to not put it onto "A/F" foamboard?

Everyone should chime in here and share which method they use! And any other comments so we can all learn together!! I suspect FACTS has it all laid out but again, is it necessary to go the "whole nine yards" in EVERY case????
Sherry, I want to emphasize again that rag IS alpha-cellulose - it's just from a different source.

For best protection, fine art should be hinged to an alpha cellulose board. This, in turn, could be backed with ArtCare fome, Coroplast, acid-free corrugated or other appropriate filler. (Not everyone would agree that fomecore - even acid-free - is appropriate even as a filler in C/P framing but I'd say most of us are comfortable with that application.)

Do I ever hinge directly on ArtCare fome or even regular fome? Sure. That's what I'll do for most decorative art, but not for fine art or collectibles.

Yes, an alpha-cellulose backer adds expense, which is one reason c/p mounting is more expensive.

I use the white side of discontinued or "surplus" AlphaMats or some of the larger drop-outs for this though, for no logical reason, I'll use solid rag (maybe 8-ply if I'm feeling extravagant) for hinging the finest fine art.
The way my shop does it, we hinge the face mat to the back mat (both rag boards) the long side always has the hinge. The the artwork is hinged, cornered, edge strip, or what have you to the back mat. The glazing is then put on the artwork and it is sealed with J-lar around the outside. Then we put a slice of coroplast behind the work when it is fit in the frame, if coroplast will not fit we will use corogated conservation board be it blue/grey or off white. We primarily use Rising board, then crescent, we do not do too many color combinations (mostly museum type of work).

As you were typing your response to this question, I found & read the thread on "alpha-celluloe quandry" which you said "rag IS alpha-cellulose". I must say I'm surprised by that. I thought rag was supreme, alpha-celluloe was so-so. How do you like that for scientifc terminology??

How does J-lar compare to 3M's 888 "Conservation & Preservation Tape"? That's what I use to seal up conservation packages.

I appreciated your 'layout' - thanks for sharing!
The confusion shown here is exactly why I think it is so important for correct terminology to be used, especially by educators when it comes to preservation framing and why FACTS is so crucial. I just posted this under Alpha Cellulose Quandary, but will repeat it here.

It’s preference, not mandate that determines whether a cotton pulp board is used or a purified wood pulp board for preservation framing. It is generally agreed that both are interchangeable in use if the boards have been made properly. As has been pointed out, they feel and cut differently, but any board that meets FACTS PMMB-2000 can be used for preservation framing, regardless of the pulp. Go to to see what those specifications are and I think you will be surprised at how extensive they are.

Some people think cotton pulp boards are naturally white and need no processing which is not true. Cotton requires less processing, washed only 3 times versus 5 times for wood pulp but both have impurities and both are bleached. I hadn’t thought of the wood pulp being less hydroscopic, but it makes sense they would be.

Cotton pulp boards have been pushed because some say they have been tested by time. Most if not all scientific sources will verify that the purified wood pulp and the cotton pulp boards are interchangeable in use, if both are made properly because they have been tested extensively and it has after all been at least 20 years since Alphamat were introduced to the market. Is 20 years not enough? I've only heard framing purists cling to the "rag" board as the only board for preservation framing, some conservationists, old school ones and people who really don't understand the technology of mat board making, they have just heard that "rag" is better. A cotton pulp board is more expensive to produce, it gives a different board than a purified wood pulp, but the question to ask is not the pulp but rather does the board meet FACTS PMMB-2000 standards for preservation framing.

Also, zeolites do work (Artcare) and should be considered when the boards are being chosen for preservation framing because they do protect against pollutants in the atmosphere and the art itself.

Nona Powers, CPF
QUESTION 1: Do you hinge it to:
1) Rag foamboard
2) "A/F" foamboard
3) RAG matboard
4) Alphacellulose matboard
Generally speaking, I tend to avoid mounting onto mat board, not because of its cost, but because of its flexibility. I generally wish the backing to give more support than I believe can be given by a sheet of mat board alone.

Of course, as noted, you can back it with another, stiffer material, but I believe that that is redundant. If more rigid materials such as “Rag” or “A/F” foam board are available in the first place, my inclination would be to use those.
I always use a "conservation" 4-ply board. I buy some "discontinued" Rag from my distributor at reduced price (I get random colors, but pay less than $4 a sheet) and I keep a box of Bainbridge 8734 for when it HAS to be white.