Frame backing, I must be missing something


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Jul 15, 2004
Frankfort, IN
For years now I still have trouble 50% of the time getting the kraft paper backing tight. I use a sponge to get it a bit moist, then use the heat gun lightly until dry. That works for a time. (the next day) Later the backing is lack in tighness. The same thing happens when I try spraying a mist on it, then using the blow dryer. I put ATG on the frame, and slightly mist the paper before I put it on the back. Can't understand why it works sometimes and not others. Any secrets to this I'm missing or do I just have a case of stupid 50% of the time?

I have never misted my paper get mine tight I ATG all around, about 1/8"in from edge, lay paper over and press down on the rear or farthest edge, and then pull and press the opposite edge or the one right in front of me, then do the sides the same way. Then trim as usual. It makes a very tight backing problem.

Now, I can see what I'm doing in might head, I just hope you can see what I'm trying to get across, not always the same thing...
Originally posted by Rock:
I put ATG on the frame, and slightly mist the paper before I put it on the back. ...
Sorry to be obvious here, Rock, but try misting the paper after you put on the back. You shouldn't need the sponge. It should air dry tightly without the need for the heat gun (unless you're in a hurry).
1. Stop misting the backs. You are introducing unnecessary humidity to the content of the frame and putting undue stress on the frame itself. A drum tight dust cover looks good, but really isn't necessary*.
2. If you use ATG you need to burnish it to make sure the bond is good to the paper and the back of the frame.

*I used to wet the dust covers with a sponge and let them sit for a minute before applying with PVA glue. I was using some 50 lb craft paper on some small profiles and they looked great until I flipped them over to find that the tension from the dust covers had pulled open the face of the frame.
Dad-gummed, guys. You just got me to use "non kraft" paper as backing and now, we have to make the paper "tight as a drum"?

Man, my head is spinning on this back of the frame thing LOL
Julie stole my answer.

The misting and drying seem overkill to me.

Try this, cut the paper several inches larger than the frame.

ATG all around the frame edge.

Attach only a small amount of paper to the middle of one side of the frame.

On the opposite side pull paper tight AND PAST the edge of the frame THEN push down. Hint: if you push down too hard the other side of the frame (if it is a small one) should lift off the table a little.

If you did it right there will be a very tight span of paper going across the middle of the back.

Do the same to the other sides then pull and smooth paper on the side you stretched first.


Mine come out pretty tight but over time I think most backings can get a bit slack because of humidity and time.

I never thought about this, just did it.

Best of luck.
Ya know, I don't think I've ever tried not using water. Must have been taught wrong, or maybe that's the way they used to do it year ago, I don't know. I'll give the no misting a try and see how I like it. I have never had a bad frame because of backing being too tight though, so I must not have had them that tight, but I can see the point.

Like stretching a canvas or anything else. Also if you fill in the back of the frame it's very easy to smooth the dust cover. And like Wally said, a too tight dust cover is going to end up causing problems so don't worry about it.
Lay the paper out on the bench. ATG the back of the frame. Flip the frame over and place down onto the paper. Flip frame back over and burnish paper to ATG. Trim the excess paper off and remove any excess ATG with a rubber cement remover block thingy and be done with it. The only time I put the paper onto the frame and not the other way around is when it is big enough to roll the paper across the frame.

The paper doesn't need to be drum tight. On top of that, the paper will be either tight or loose depending on the expansion and contraction of the frame.

All this stuff about grabbing an edge of the paper and trying to place it just so and pulling it tight is a waste of time.

Spraying the paper is a really dumb idea and whoever taught you that little trick needs to be strung up and spritzed with water ! All you are doing is adding humidity to a package that doesn't like to have humidity added to it.
I love these threads on backing paper! They are so energetic...or maybe its low blood sugar. I haven't eaten lunch yet.

atg, stretch 'er and rub 'er down the middle of each side. Then work your way around.

save teh water misting for when you need to cool yourself off this summer

Now whats for lunch!
I agree that adding water to the frame package is not a good idea. I just recently purchased an attachment that goes on the ATG gun that allows you to run the gun up close to the frame and leave a 1/8th reveal with no tape. Saves quite a bit of time. The other thing I do with the kraft paper is to roll it up tight, start at one end and smooth as I go. This makes for a tight (not overly), nice presentation. Then I trim using a cheap hand tool made for trimming dust covers from United that takes old mat cutter blades. Don't remember what the attachment is called but it costs under 5 bucks and fits under the rollers for the ATG gun and flips back out of the way when not in use. Saves me tons of time.
3 cheese tortellini with Marinara sauce and grated Parmesan Reggiano....Oh #&%!, how did those red fingerprints get on the dust cover?

Time to call out the skwirrels!
Thanks for everyone's help. I guess there are many ways to tell someone what they may be doing wrong. Some just better than others.
I read about the misting thing in a framing book long ago. It must of just stuck with me. You don't know if you don't ask. We all learn something from time to time. :rolleyes:
Hey Rock, you got the right attitude thats half the battle right there. I've heard of misting the backing as it relates to using glue to adhere the paper. I was originally trained to use ATG andthe method I described, it just sort of stuck with me. No pun intended, blood sugar still off!

Wally I decided on chicken salad over greens...its lovely, but your sounds better.! Parmesian Reggiano on anything works for me, yum
I remember a time when that was the new thing in framing!
I worked in a frame shop where we used glue instead of ATG and then spritz the back with water. that owner even made us sand off the edges of the paper instead of using a razor. She saw it at a trade show, and thought it looked better.

Over kill and waste of time. She was cheap and thought the ATG was too exspensive. When a new owner came in, we were over joyed to be able to use ATG again.

Forget the water!

Wally's point if very important. The wet paper can
introduce siginficant amounts of moisture into
the frame and should be avioded.

I very lightly mist my black kraft paper and then apply one side and pull the other side taught. Then do the two perpendicular sides the same way. Don't wet the paper only a very light mist does the trick...if you have to wait for the paper to dry you've used too much moisture. When does this way I can't believe the small amount of humidity could damage the artwork any more than carrying it outside on a warm summer day.

Never have experienced any problems with either over tightness or slackening. I also sand instead of trim most mldgs. and then finish the edge with an appropriate marker. Looks neater.Of course, I'm an old dog and can sand and finish the edges as fast as most young bucks probably take to find a sharp razor blade and trim.

I started doing this technique when I was 8 years old under my grandfather's tutelage. I have given into using ATG tape and only use the old gluepot on oval frames.

It's true that it doesn't effect the function of the dustcover if it is loose, but it sure looks my opinion.

Dave Makielski
Dave... What did Hugh just tell you??

Stop that misting!! It's bad for the art.
The more I frame the more I discover that there is more than one way to do something. I am always on the look out for a newer better way. I never take any way as the absolute only way to do something.
Experiment..who knows you may come up with something better and teach us all a new way, but until then I would just follow the crowd and do it their way..must work or else they wouldn't be in the busn. right?
We used to dampen the paper, then when we switched to acid free foamcore in the early 90's we noticed that sometimes you could tell we introduced moisture into the package. The acid free foam absorbs the moisture more than the old clay coated stuff. Haven't done it since.

After atg-ing (could be a word) the back I line it up on one side then lightly pull on the opposite side, press down and then do the same to the sides. It's tight enough.
Originally posted by wpfay:
3 cheese tortellini with Marinara sauce and grated Parmesan Reggiano....Oh #&%!, how did those red fingerprints get on the dust cover?

Eating pasta with your fingers again, Wally?

Maybe you should get yourself a spork!
Originally posted by Bob Carter:
Dad-gummed, guys. You just got me to use "non kraft" paper as backing and now, we have to make the paper "tight as a drum"?

Man, my head is spinning on this back of the frame thing LOL
Relax, Bob. The dust cover does not have to be "tight as a drum". You should not moisten the back of a frame.

I do not recommend wetting or misting the back, But! For your information.

When an artist stretches a sheet of water color paper they will have the best luck if they allow the paper to sit and expand before applying the tape. The paper takes a little time to expand completely. If it is not fully expanded when taped the paper will continue to expand then shrink to a lesser degree and not be as tight as it could be. I have also found it is important to allow the tape to expand before applying it to the paper and board. Framers don't have time to watch the backing paper dry.
We don't?
Watching the backing paper dry is about as exciting as watching a chevrolet rust...ha!
Why does the paper have to be tight on the back? I never understood why framers do this. As long as it's neat, it's fine by me.

I just could not see the sense in spraying water on the back when you could just hang the framed piece on a damp cement block basement wall for a few years and get the same effect. Okay, I am being a smarty pants.

I also hated the idea of a spray bottle of water on the counter next to the giclees, photographs and watercolors.

edie the whytemptfate goddess
Misting the paper dust cover is something we used to do.

Leaving the backs open on oils so they could "breathe" is something we used to do.

Trying to control reflections with etched glass that looked like a shower door is something we used to do.

Attaching nearly any object down with silicone is something we used to do, but I would never admit it here.
I mod'ed my United trimmer to take Wizard blades.

That's all I really have to add to this thread.

Carry On.
Originally posted by Ron Eggers:
Misting the paper dust cover is something we used to do.

I guess I don't feel so dumb now Ron.
Of course I realize some of the guys on here were born with all the framing brains and didn't have to learn anything. I seem to learn the hard way at times. But one thing for sure is I won't be misting any more backing paper :D