Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How to mount an inkjet print onto wood panel

I've been planning to experiment with mounting my art prints for quite awhile now. So, when I recently decided to mount prints of my digitally-created art for mixed media on panel pieces, I searched for a good tutorial online. Guess what? I did not find one decent tutorial to use as a guide.

I Googled and Googled... I tried different phrases, different combinations of words... all of my search tricks... Still, I came up short. I didn't let that stop me! I decided to just try it myself, using my best judgement, and look at it as gained knowledge if successful, and a learning experience if not. Well, I'm pleased to share that it went just fine, maybe even better than fine! I'm very happy with the results, and now I have a new skill under my belt. In order to share with you, I took some photos for a demo, in case you wish to try it, too.

Here are the materials you should have ready to go: *
Artists' painting matte medium of your choice (make sure it is the kind you use during the "working" phase of a painting) or another acid-free adhesive of your choice, but nothing too thick- should be around the consistency of heavy cream, give or take.
Foam brush
•A brayer
•A self-healing mat board
Exacto knife

Wax paper, Reynolds Freezer Paper, or some type of wide paper with a waxy side
•A bone folder (used in bookmaking and for other paper products) In this tutorial, I refer to "braying", but the bone folder can be used fairly interchangeably with the brayer, though I recommend having both on hand as each of their strengths compliment one another.

*Part of why I waited so long to try this before just biting the bullet and experimenting with mounting art prints is that I was concerned that my art print would bleed ink all over the place.There was an astounding lack of information regarding this possibility online... So, by default, I became "the subject"! Happily, my first try was successful, and here are the specific materials I used: Liquitex matte medium, Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Matte paper and Epson Ultrachrome K3 pigmented inks. If you use different materials, your results may, and probably will, vary, at least a little bit. Regardless, it is a good idea to allow your art print to cure for 24 hours before the procedure. You will undoubtedly achieve better results overall if the print is dry and the ink is set before mounting.
I start with a pre-gessoed wood panel. I like Ampersand or a panel of that type, as they are clean, finished and even—and for the best results you should start with the most even surface you can get. You will also need to have your art print cut to exact size, as you would like it to fit on the finished panel.

Place your print on your panel in the position you would like it to be in the finished state. Turn both over, placed together, onto your cutting board in that position. Then, carefully cut the edges off the print around your box edges with an Exacto. Try to get the cutting as deliberate but as careful and clean as you can during this step, to avoid having to mess with touch-ups later.

Some of your materials are above. Woops—I accidentally photographed the WRONG type of medium in the original photo, so I corrected it! (Please DO NOT use the orange varnish pictured with the big "X" over it! :) )

I like the Reynolds Freezer Paper for this type of project. I don't really know how this stuff should be used in food handling, but it sure does a great job as an art tool! One side of the paper is slick and coated with plastic, and the other side has a regular, papery texture (like butcher paper). Placed over a just-mounted print before setting the print with your tools, it allows the art to stay protected from smudges, tears and trauma. The slick surface goes against the art, while the paper's tooth on the rolling/braying side gives you a little bit of resistance so that you can get deeper into the job.
Don't throw that Reynold's Freezer Paper away! You can continue to reuse it until it dies on you. It's powerful stuff!

Wax paper also works for this.
With wax paper, you do still get some of the resistance effect, but the paper is a little less substantial so you can't be quite as aggressive with your braying and bone-foldering.

(Finally, we offically begin!)
Pour some medium onto your panel. Smooth the medium over the entire surface of your panel evenly with your foam brush. Don't make the layer of medium too thick or the paper will get soggy and weaken, and that will make the job harder and messier. But don't make it too thin either, or the print won't take to the panel in thinner spots. There is a real skill to knowing where 'just enough' is... but you can do it!

Tip: Don't skimp on your medium, on the edges. You need an even coat throughout. It's probably better for the medium to be too thick on the edges rather than too thin, because if it's too think on the edges, the worst that will happen is you will push out the medium quickly and make a mess on the sides, which will need to be wiped down anyway. It won't sit with the paper too long to make the paper soggy at all. But if you don't use enough meduim on the edges, they will curl up and you'll have to endure the delicate procedure of re-meduiming the area just under the curled up edges plus a little bit farther for good measure, all without damaging the paper at all. Doable, but not a fun task, especially if you can avoid it!
(This layer of medium above actually looks a little bit thin to me. I'd go a wee bit thicker than this.)

Now it is time to quickly and carefully set up your print on the panel! Timing is crucial between the medium stage and the print mounting stage, and a lot can go awry, so you have to be on your game.

Set your print to the panel in exactly the same place as you had cut it to fit in step one. In other words, make sure that the top, left, right and bottom of the panel are at the same top, left, right and bottom, corresponding exactly with how and where you trimmed your print to fit. Since no panels are exactly the same, you want to be sure it fits as good as you can get with the least amount of error, before you seal the deal, so to speak.

Place your print on the panel. This part is a little nerve-wracking. Once your print is perfectly aligned to your panel, lightly, gently press it—just like, sweep it a little with your hand—to see that it stays in place before you place the paper over it. Once you feel comfortable that it is positioned and not going to move without force, place the paper over the print, and start braying and/or bone-foldering. Start in the middle and move outward. Do not go gangbusters at first. Do it a few times on the gentler side. Then, check your print to see that it hasn't moved around. Lift the paper and check. If your print has hydroplaned a tiny bit, it is probably fixable at this point. Gently and carefully realign the print, then do the step again.

Once you feel confident that your print is staying put, go ahead and use the brayer with more pressure! (You can go a little nuts here is you want as long as the print is protected with the paper.) Continue to do the "center out" method until you are confident that air bubbles are eradicated. Then, just continue to bray your print however you see fit. (I like to pay special attention to the edges at this point.)

Once your print is mounted, let it dry overnight before further work. Wait you are not done yet! Check the sides of your panel and wipe any errant drips, being careful not to disrupt your hard work.

Tip: During drying, you may see a very light buckling in a spot (if you look at your panel in a certain light and angle). This happened to me, and it alarmed me quite a bit. I quickly grabbed my Reynold's Freezer Paper and my brayer and roll, roll, rolled again! I did not see any changes with my air bubble at that moment, and boy was I unhappy about that. I was stuck, there was no recourse but to simply let it dry and see if there was something I could do about it the next day. But you know what? The next day, when the panel was completely dry, the buckle was gone! In retrospect, I think it is just a case of simple science: the paper expands when wet, and shrinks when dry. Why should it be any different if it's stuck to a surface? I have since noticed this same situation again and again, and I will be honest and tell you that I still get alarmed every time! But, now that I've seen miracles happen (a.k.a. the disappearing buckle) I'm a little more relaxed about it when I see it happen now, and if I'm confident that I did a good job braying out all the air earlier, I just wait for it to dry. :)

If you care to paint the sides of your panel box instead of leaving them raw, you can do this now, or in the next step, if you wish to further embellish your new mounted masterpiece.

Tip: Please know that it's a lot easier to mount a smaller panel than a larger one. The largest panels I mounted (above, Spooky) were 12"x12". Even though that does not seem large (and it's not, in the bigger spectrum of things) it still took a considerable amount of quick-acting and elbow grease in order to mount the panels.

Now your print is mounted and ready for whatever you care to throw at it—paint, ink, glitter, buttons, toothpicks, sand, plastic googley eyes... or just some plain old finishing varnish! However, If you do plan to further embellish your print with mixed media, I recommend forst applying an even coat of medium and letting it dry first. After that, go crazy!

Below are a couple of my mounted-art print mixed-media works, just for fun. Thanks for reading!


Chris Chun said...

Hi Kathy,

Thanks for the step by step. Have always wanted to try this with my own artwork but hadn't been able to find out what to do until now. Found you via Holly's Blogging Your Way Course. I've signed up too.

Also, noticed you are friends with Ellen Crimi Trent and Carol Eldridge. Small world. Looking forward to chatting soon. Cx

Kathy Weller said...

Hi Chris! How nice to "officially" meet you! Ellen has told me about you and your beautiful art work in the past. I admire your work! :) Great stuff! Thank you for commenting. How cool that you are also in BYW- I look forward to chatting with you over there!

See you soon,


http://monicalee.typepad.com/monicaleestudios/ said...

This is awesome Kathy! Thanks for taking the time to explain it! I went to the RISDI art show today and a girl had done this to some of her fine art-and it looked great but i had no idea how it worked-now I do!!

Carmen b. said...

Love this post Kathy. You are such a great instructor and I always enjoy reading the knowledge that you share! :-)

andraswhimsies said...

This is excellent!! I have been trying to find more info on this process. Thank you for sharing your experience =). YAY!

Karen Haring Art said...

Thanks for sharing!
I suppose if I use wood from my husband shop,I should gesso it myself so the acis frommthe wood don't eventually bleed troughthe print.Is that so? I googled this too and nor everyone included this step.

Kathy Weller said...

Hi Karen!

Yes I agree. Id gesso it, sand it with a fine grain sandpaper gesso again and sand it again. So you can get a nice smooth, primed surface. :D

I used a pre-gessoed, pre-primed wood cradle frame and the finish is acid free and the smooth surface does not encourage bumps. But if I went for raw wood, I'd do the above.

Thank you so much for your comment!!



Christa said...

This is so very timely and very helpful. Thank you for taking the time to test this out and post the process. One more question, what do you use to protect the top of the ink jet print? I have spray matte varnish, hoping that will work. Off to gesso my wood panels now :-)

Kathy Weller said...

Hi Christa! I use more varnish to cover the entire piece. I use a workable varnish during the painting / glittering phase and then when the piece is finished, I use a non-workable, final varnish.
Have fun!