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Making Your Own Floating Frames

by Les Picker

In our small-group, intensive fine art print workshops, I get asked a lot about framing options. My associate and I are believers in traditional framing, both for its elegance and for the fact that it enhances and does not compete with the image itself. We prefer our traditional prints to be set in matte black frames with white double- or triple-mats (such as Rising Museum Boards). Art collectors and our most discerning clients typically choose this option.

Enter Canvas Prints

But, what about canvas prints? This print option has become highly popular, both for its cost benefit for consumers as well as its wide range of display options. Of course, there is always the standard canvas display option of wrapping the print over wood braces and hanging it as a clean, simple work of art, and we do occasionally sell canvas images with that treatment. However, a few years ago we began offering our clients a framed canvas option which is generally known as a "floating frame" or "open frame".

There are many variations on the floating frame theme, but I’d like to offer those of you new to the game an idea of how to construct floating frames yourself easily and inexpensively. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find yourself developing spinoffs unique to your photography. In fact, we now offer several floating frame options, including one for traditional fine art paper prints.  Their less formal presentation is appealing to some clients.

Open frames refer to the fact that the image is not enclosed in glass or Plexiglas. Open frames also typically include a "gutter" between the canvas (or print) and the frame edge. When we first offered this open frame option, we were charged around $300 and up for a 30" x 40" frame. Now we make our own open frames in-shop for under $75, not including labor. However, once you get some experience, it should not take more than an hour or two to create a floating frame. The rest of this article is a how-to, illustrating how we create these open frames.

Stick It To Me

The key to holding down expenses is to order the framing pieces in bulk. These frame "sticks" are available from a variety of vendors and in different lengths. A careful Internet search will show you vendors near you so that you can save even more on shipping charges.

We generally buy three stick sizes corresponding to the thickness of the canvas wraps, namely .75, 1.25 and 1.75 inches. Smaller canvases would get the .75" open frames, while larger pieces get the 1.75" frames. I typically order several hundred feet at a time of mixed sizes in ten-foot lengths.

Floating frame sticks are different from standard framing sticks that you would use for prints behind glass. They do not have an inner lip to hold the glass (see ILLUSTRATION #1). They are also typically free of adornments on the frame edge facing the viewer.

Illustration #1

Also, floating frame sticks do not have a completely open back, like traditional framing sticks. Instead they include a wide "platform" that is needed for the back of the canvas frame to rest against and adhere to, whether with glue or screws.

Measure Twice… Cut Once 

The old carpenter’s maxim - measure twice and cut once - applies here. I’ll assume that you have already wrapped your canvas over a suitable frame. Depending on the thickness of the frame (.75”, 1.25" or 1.75"), assemble the appropriate thickness framing sticks. If the sticks are not painted, now is the time to do that.

I prefer to use a primer spray as a first coat, and then spray on two light coats of flat black paint. With the proper setup, this process should take 10-15 minutes for each coat for a frame that is 30" x 40". Depending on the specific brand, most paints need several hours between coats, so I sandwich the job between other chores. Be sure to wear gloves, eye protection and a breathing mask.

Once your sticks are completely dry (allow 24 hours), carefully measure the length and width of your wrapped canvas, not the dimensions of the original wood frame that the canvas is wrapped around. That is so that you incorporate that little bit extra material that is required due to the thickness of the canvas wrap itself. You want to ensure a snug fit.

For simplicity purposes, let’s assume that you have a 24" x 36" finished piece, canvas wrap included (you should first coat the canvas with a protectant). This means you will need two sticks at 24" length and two at 36" - to the **inside** dimension (see ILLUSTRATION #2). You will need to cut the pieces to allow for the 45-degree miter corner cuts to extend out from your measurements. Please note that the open frame sticks have three levels to them. The wrapped canvas will rest on the flat backing platform. So you want the inside dimensions to be measured at the second step, as indicated by the arrow in illustration #2.

 Illustration #2

Using an electric or hand miter saw, carefully cut the first miter at 45 degrees, making sure that the sticks are oriented properly (see ILLUSTRATION #3). Once that is done, remeasure the stick to get an exact measurement to the **inside** of the miter on the opposite end of the stick so that it equals precisely 24" or 36". This ensures that your mitered corners will be exact.  If you are using an electric miter saw, I recommend using an 80-tooth blade for clean cuts. With a hand miter saw, use one with as fine teeth as possible. Sand lightly as needed. With all the miters done, you are ready to begin assembly.

Assembling the Frame

Before you start permanently assembling the frame, first take some of that black paint (or whatever color you painted the sticks) and dab some about 1/4 inch in along each mitered corner (see ILLUSTRATION #4). This will prevent any unpainted edges from showing if your frame is a bit off a perfect 45-degree angle. You can even use a black permanent marker, as shown here, but in that case use two coats.

Once the frame is completely dry, spread a thin layer of wood glue on each mitered corner and fit the pieces together loosely to ensure that the fit is good (see ILLUSTRATIONS # 5 and 6). Wipe off any excess immediately.

There are alternate ways to actually fasten the pieces together permanently. Our preferred method is to use a simple hand-operated machine available from many suppliers. This machine holds two corners tightly together to create a perfect joint. While they are being held in place by the machine, you pull down on a handle, which forces a corrugated metal wedge into the back side of the frame (see ILLUSTRATION #7 and 8). That wedge keeps the corners tight. When the glue dries you will have a joint that is more permanent than the wood itself.

There are times when we use glue and a nail gun to permanently adhere the corners, especially with smaller pieces. In any case, pick a method you like and stick with it until you become thoroughly familiar with it.

Other Uses For Floating Frames

Illustration Elephant 1Floating frames can also be used with traditional fine art paper. This open-faced display is increasingly popular (see ILLUSTRATION-ELEPHANT-1). In this case the print is first mounted on rigid Gatorboard and the entire board mounted on the frame with glue. One word of caution: make sure to first double spray the print with Moab Desert Varnish or equivalent, since the print is exposed directly to air and fingerprints (see ILLUSTRATION #9).  That double coating also gives some degree of UV protection. We love this presentation with a textured paper, such as the Moab Moenkopi line.Illustration #9

We have also developed an enlarged version of the open frame for areas where a super-large print is desired. We simply enlarge the border by using flat black mat board, as in the image of the Kalahari lion I photographed in South Africa (ILLUSTRATION # 10 and 11).

Finesse and Display

We like to finesse the final product by covering the back of the frame with a thick brown paper. We cut the paper 1/8" short on each side and then glue it to the frame. That gives the back a clean, professional look (see ILLUSTRATION #12) and protects against dust and insect damage. 

Once the entire presentation dries, you can insert metal eye hooks and wire to the frame for hanging (see ILLUSTRATION #12). I prefer to pre-drill the holes for the hooks to prevent splitting.

Our clients love the open frame display option, particularly young people just beginning to invest in fine art photographic prints. 

Why not give this display option a try? I think you’ll be pleased with the results, as will those viewing your artwork.

 

About the Author

Les Picker is a professional photographer with credits in National Geographic publications and dozens of others. He is a Moab Master and was awarded the prestigious Canada Northern Lights Award for Best Travel Photography. Les offers photo tours throughout the world. His fine art print workshops are sponsored by Moab 

The First Forty

A Show To Celebrate The First Four Decades Of Scott Barrow's Life In Photography

Opening Reception: 
Saturday, June 27th from 5pm-7pm
The show will run through Labor Day

Where:  
The NEW gallery for the summer of 2015
is right across from his current one at
26 Housatonic Street in Lenox, MA 

The entire exhibiton will be printed on Entrada Rag Bright and Moenkopi Unryu 55.

Scott has been embracing beautiful light and finding photographs for forty years and he is just getting started.  The show will evolve as he prints new work and explores his archive so please visit often.

 

Harold Davis Uses Moab Paper for Artisanal Inkjet Prints

Freedom Paper created an insightful blog post on Moab Master, Harold Davis, using Moab Paper for his own creative work. 

"To make photographic art, it’s not essential to print your own images. But to experience your full creative potential, you may want to – especially when you can easily order so many different types of Moab Paper and other top brands of inkjet photo papers from Freedom Paper.

For example, renowned photographer-artist-author-teacher Harold Davis can’t imagine letting someone else print his images. Printing is how he fully realizes the image he envisions before he even snaps the camera shutter or opens Photoshop.

Harold Davis signs the first copy of his fine-art portfolio, Botanique. The portfolio blends contemporary photography and printing techniques with old-world bookmaking methods. Photo courtesy of Harold Davis.

After experimenting with many different papers, he became a fan of Moab paper and was named a Moab Master in 2012.  He prints some of his HDR (High Dynamic Range) images on Moab Slickrock Metallic inkjet paper and has created floral images such as “Peonies mon amour” on the Unryu paper that is part of Moab’s collection of Japanese Washi papers.

In addition to making individual prints, Harold Davis and his wife, graphic designer Phyllis Davis, have collaborated on a series of limited edition, handmade portfolio books. Their first book project, Botanique, was a Kickstarter-funded project that featured 21 original botanical art prints on archival vellum, Moab Moenkopi Unryu Washi, Moenkopi Kozo Washi, Moab Slickrock Metallic Pearl, and Colorado Fibergloss photographic paper. Each book was hand-cut and bound by hand. The book includes three panoramic-sized prints as foldouts and ships with a signed 9 x 12 inch print of Harold Davis’ popular image, “Red Peonies.”

The floral images in “Botanique” show what’s possible with the digital workflow and backlighting technique Harold Davis invented to create luminous translucent imagery. For the portfolio pages, Davis chose the Moab inkjet or art paper that best matched the boldness or delicacy of the image. Photo: ©Harold Davis

Harold and Phyllis are currently working on his next limited edition portfolio, “A Modern Pilgrimage: Kumano Kodo.” This collection will feature a series of 13 images including a 9 x 26 inch panorama printed on a 16 ½ foot long roll of Moab Moenkopi kozo washi. The paper will be folded and placed in a signed cover that is itself a mountain panorama of Japan.

Pages for the Kumano Kodo portfolio are printed on the roll and hand trimmed, scored, signed, and bound. Photo: ©Harold Davis

“One of the most important things a printmaker can do is match the surface of the paper with the image,” says Davis. “Some images go well with some papers, and look terrible on others.” He acknowledges that it takes a fair amount of trial and error to discover the right paper for your images. But this experimentation is integral to your ability to develop a body of work that is yours alone.

For the Star Magnolia spread in “Botanique,” Harold Davis chose Moab Moenkopi Unryu Washi paper. Photo: ©Harold Davis

In a post on his blog entitled, “Making the Artisanal Inkjet Print,” Davis notes that prints created using a high-end inkjet printer go by a variety of names, including: inkjet print, pigment print, giclée, and piezo print. Like many art gallerists and collectors, Davis favors the term “pigment print.”

He attributes the widespread confusion of terminology to the incredible diversity of uses of inkjet technology: “You can buy inkjet prints at Costco, where they are honestly labeled. You can buy the somewhat pretentiously named giclee prints from companies that reproduce art. Or you can collect one-off artisanal pigment prints from a solo artist like me who makes the prints one at a time in his studio.”

While Costco, giclée printmakers, and solo artists may all use the same make and model of wide-format inkjet photo printer, the difference between a mass-produced decorative print and an artisanal inkjet print is about much more than what printer was used. Harold points out that three photographers can use the exact same cameras and produce results that are vastly different in artistic style and technical quality. Solo artists who own wide-format printers tend to craft artisanal prints one at a time and fuss over every detail.

“Quality in digital printmaking really comes down to know the quirks of the printer, understanding how to get the most out of digital workflow, how the technology is used, the vision behind the printmaking, and the care and time that is spent on each individual image,” explains Davis. “Just as much craft, skill, and artistry go into making a good artisanal digital inkjet print as ever went into a print made in the chemical darkroom.”

“If you include output file preparation, printing, and post-printing issues, an average print might take five to ten hours,” says Davis. “Sometimes I print an image 20 times until it is right and I get that one great print.”

For example, learning how to make perfect prints on specialty papers such as Moab’s Moenkopi Washi papers may require adjusting the pressure your printer exerts on the papers so they feed through the printer properly. The surface of the Slickrock Metallic paper is quite delicate and can be easily scratched. Yet the polyester content of the metallic inkjet paper makes it difficult to cut, even with the printer’s onboard cutter.

“A relatively unusual image is going to marry nicely with Slickrock Silver,” said Davis. “You have to be going for something that’s not a classic look.” Plus, you have to be aware of how the print will be lit. The colors in the image may look different when the print is viewed from different angles.

This HDR monochrome image of a workshop at the Fort Ross Historic Park takes full advantage of the qualities of Moab Slickrock Metallic Silver 300 paper. Photo: ©Harold Davis

Davis has been crafting his own art prints and art books for about 10 years, drawing upon his years of experience as a accomplished painter, commercial photographer, and author of dozens of books on technical subjects.

In the 1980s, Harold Davis spent a lot of time in darkrooms while supporting himself as a commercial photographer. He made his own color and black-and-white prints, and worked closely with lithographers. He says, “Making prints has always been a part of my story as a professional photographer.”

In the 1990s, Davis got married and left New York. He held a number of different jobs and started writing a series of computer-related books. When his publisher asked him to write a book on digital photography in 2004, Davis picked up a digital SLR for the first time and discovered that with a digital camera, Photoshop, and other software, he could combine his love of painting with his love of photography.  He considers his current Photography 2.0 career vastly different from his Photography 1.0 career in the 1980s.

Harold Davis’ talent as a painter is evident in this beautifully rendered photograph of the Jamaa-el-Fnaa marketplace in Marakesh, Morocco. It was printed on Moab’s new Juniper Baryta Rag 305 paper. Photo: © Harold Davis

Harold Davis describes his current work as “Digital paintings that use photographs as the medium.” With this unique style, Davis is at the forefront of an emerging art movement in which creative photographers can do far more than capture an elusive moment in time. Thanks to Photoshop (which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary), photographic artists such as Harold Davis can now create images that depict almost any type of scene or subject they can envision in their mind’s eye.

In this multiple exposure image, Harold Davis envisions image “Hekatonkheires” the three mythical Greek gods of violent storms and hurricanes. The artisanal pigment print takes full advantage of the qualities of Moab Slickrock Metallic Pearl 360 paper. Photo: ©Harold Davis

His collectors agree that Davis is doing important work. One individual who has collected Harold Davis’ work for more than five years says he is increasingly excited about the possibilities created by Harold’s unusual and effective use of technology in support of the classical tenets of photographic art: “I would compare his work to Ansel Adams’ and Edward Weston’s work during the crucial 1930s and 1940s time frame.”

To inspire other creative souls who want to push the boundaries of what’s possible with photography today, Harold Davis conducts workshops and posts instructional webinars. Some of the photography books he has written include:

  • Monochromatic HDR Photography
  • Creating HDR Photos
  • Photographing FlowersPhotographing Waterdrops
  • Creative Black & White
  • Creative Lighting
  • Creative Landscapes
  • Creative Close-ups

In his award-winning photography book, “The Way of the Digital Photographer,” Davis emphasizes that previsualizing an image should not only include how a shot is composed and lit but also how it will be processed in Photoshop and printed.

His next book, which Focal Press has scheduled for publication in August, 2015, is entitled “Achieving Your Potential as a Photographer.” The book’s subtitle is “A Photographer’s Creative Companion and Workbook.” The book presents an organized and cohesive plan for kickstarting creativity, and then taking the resulting work into the real world. The concepts are accompanied by a workbook with exercises you can use to put them into everyday practice.

When Harold Davis was selected as a Moab Master, Marc Schotland, vice president of marketing and global development for Legion Paper said, “Harold is a renowned photographer, artist and author who offers a unique vision and voice to the Moab Masters program. Harold’s meticulous printing skills are present in every print he produces, and we’re thrilled that he chooses Moab as the paper to support his images.”

Freedom Paper is proud to offer an excellent selection of Moab paper and Moab Chinle archival boxes and portfolios for protecting and presenting your work. We also sell a sampler pack that includes 2 sheets of 16 different types of Moab photo and art papers.

We encourage all photographers to continue to experiment and see what’s possible with Photography 2.0."

 

Making the Artisanal Inkjet Print

Moab Master, Harold Davis, was recently asked by an art gallerist he works with to help educate some clients regarding his printmaking. Essentially the issues come down to exploring how his prints differ from mass-produced inkjet prints, since largely the same equipment is used. In contrast to those you get from Costco or giclees from an art reproduction company, Harold's prints require a great deal of hand labor. Harold's FAQ: Prints by Harold Davis covers much of this ground, and the following discussion helps put things in perspective.

Harold Davis answers many questions frequently asked by printmakers such as:

What printer do you use? How long does it take you to make a print? Are your prints limited editions? Do you hand sign your prints? Is a certificate of authenticity available? And our personal favorite: What papers do you use?

Discover Harold's printmaking insight and perspective. 

Jonathan Morse uses Colorado Fiber for FABRICATIONS

Jonathan Morse, a lifelong photographer and printmaker who uses Moab papers extensively ranging from Entrada, Slickrock, Moenkopi Unryu and others, will be presenting a new body of work entitled FABRICATIONS opening on May 10, 2014 at Byzantium Lofts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  His work weaves photographic and drawn material into wholly new images, celebrating 21st century mark-making made possible by the incredible range of substrates now available to the contemporary artist who wishes to use digital imaging as an original printmaking medium.  For this exhibit he has chosen Moab Colorado Fiber Gloss for its brilliant color rendition, rich blacks and its ability to capture detail with an almost three-dimensional ink deposit.  For more information about Jonathan and the past decade of his printmaking, please log on to his website www.jmorseart.com

The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt is Live!

The World's Biggest Egg Hunt has begun on April 1st! Moab Master, Robert Farber, used Moenkopi to create his outstanding egg shown above. With hundreds of eggs to find, the city is your very own hunting ground. Seek them high, seek them low, but get cracking because you’ll find them in the most unexpected of places. Get started because the Fabergé Big Egg Hunt closes April 25th!

 

"Botanique": Harold Davis's Oragami in a Box

A mysteriousl package arrived in our office the other day.  After carefully unwrapping the paper, the most beautiful portfolio of images was unveiled.  Botanique, is a project conceived, designed, and fabricated by Moab Master and master photographer Harold Davis and well-known book designer Phyllis Davis.

Botanique is such a gorgeous collection of images, meticulously printed on a variety of Moab papers, that it's hard to describe in words. So, we'll use both pictures and words.

Acclaimed as “origami in a box”, Botanique is a hand-made, limited edition artist book that astutely blends old craft and cutting edge new technologies to create an exquisite limited edition art book and art object that is completely unique.  Holding a print of a delicate floral image printed on Moenkopi Unryu felt as though I was holding the actual flower. The portfolio shipped with white cotton gloves, which reinforced the book's museum-quality.

Originally (and successfully) funded and crowd-sourced via a Kickstarter projectBotanique contains twenty-one luscious floral prints that emerge delicately and seductively from the hand-assembled presentation box

Botanique has been hand printed on an Epson 9900 StylusPro printer using archival Ultrachrome inks. Within the book there are twenty-one prints on archival substrates including archival vellum, Moenkopi Unryu Washi, Moenkopi Kozo Washi, Moab Slickrock Matallic Pearl ,and Colorado Fiber Gloss photographic paper. Each book is hand-cut, and hand-assembled in the artist’s studio. Bonus features include three foldout prints in over-sized panoramic format.


The books have sold so well, that there are only two remaining.  Each book is hand-signed and numbered by the artist, and presented in an archival box measuring approximately 9.25″ X 12.5″ X 1″ deep.

 

The gift that keeps on giving

As we round the corner into holiday chaos we thought we'd make one decision easier for you during this festive season: There's a Moab Paper for every type of photographer (and image).  We'd like to think Moab is on your year-round list of photo gear, but we found a few independent voices to present their faves.

Slickrock Metallic Pearl is one of our most popular papers that makes all types of prints shine, but it seems that B&W photographers have a special place in their hearts for Slickrock. PDN published this article last month.

Lasal Dual Semigloss is the newest paper in the Moab family, and Rangefinder Magazine included it on its annual Buyer's Guide. The article also features a 'Specialty Paper' section, which includes Moenkopi Washi and Entrada Rag.  

Photo Techniques magazine also did a double-take (sorry, couldn't resist) and included Lasal Dual Semigloss in the December Gear App article.

Digital Photo Pro lists five Moab papers in their 2013 Pro Buyer's Guide, including the Lasal Exhibition Luster, which is an ideal paper for gallery and exhibition prints.

Experience Moab at PhotoPlus Booth #446

We attend a bunch of trade shows throughout the year, but we aim to make each experience unique for our Moab fans out there.  Next week we'll be exhibiting at PhotoPlus Expo in NYC (booth #446) and we guarantee to deliver on this Moab Experience.

If you haven't seen our new Slickrock Metallic Pearl paper, then you're in for a thrill. We've pushed the envelope to deliver a metallic pearl paper that will transform your image into something stellar.  Our metallic gallery will demonstrate the power of this paper that you've literally got to see to believe.  Be sure to grab the printed samples that we'll be giving away.

Another new paper that we'll be showing off is our Lasal Exhibition Luster 300.  This is not your mama's photo luster.  Lasal Exhibition Luster is a hefty 300gsm paper that produces images that will blow you away.  Thanks to the latest state-of-the-art, fourth generation coating (4G anyone?), you'll see stunning details in your images that only your photo sensors were privy to (until now).

We'll also be featuring our Moenkopi Japanese Washi paper at the show. Photographer Geoffrey Agrons printed out some stunning images on the Moenkopi Bizan that will make you drool.

Speaking of drooling.  We'll be featuring original photographs from Enzo Beretta, Andy Biggs, Robert Farber, Jim Graham, Joshua Holko, Ryszard Horowitz, Christian Lalonde, Jim LaSala, Michael Soluri, Salvatore Vasapolli and Michael Zide.

Oh, and the free passes.  Click here and fill out the online form and you'll be good to go.

 

Framing your prints

We (naturally) spend a lot of time talking about paper's contribution toward the final print, so we thought it high-time to post an article about what happens after you've printed on Moab.

Tim Holten, of Holten Frames, is a Master Framer. His blog features numerous articles on his craft with the sole intention "to revive the art and craft of framing pictures."

Tim's latest series of articles focus on framing photographs - specifically, framing photos printed on Japanese paper - specifically, framing photos printed on Moenkopi Bizan.  OK, that last part, albeit true, is not a prerequisite (or focus of the article). 

We think you'll enjoy the information that Tim reveals in the article highlighting numerous examples of choosing the right frame to match each unique print.

The Imaging Buffet

From Andrew Darlow's popular site The Imaging Buffet listing some highlights from PhotoPlus

Moab Paper (Booth #630) Moab recently unveiled some great looking portfolio books named ICE NINE, in 8×9 and 12×13 inch format. Also, the company has a great sample rack with their entire photo line. I made a print for their booth this year, and the company printed up a card with one of my photos and a partially excerpted tip from my book, 301 Inkjet Tips and Techniques. I also recommend checking out the Moab Somerset Photo Satin 300 paper, as well as the amazing botanical image by Barbara Bordnick printed on the company’s Moenkopi Japanese Washi. Very impressive.

Green Day

I've been fortunate to have been able to tag along with Andy Biggs this week as he gave some lectures on "Digital Printing: What Your Mother Never Told You."  One question that kept popping up is "what's the most eco-friendly paper you have?"  To me, the "greenest" papers in the Moab family are the Moenkopi papers.  They're made from mulberry (kozo) fibers that are harvested from the bark of a living mulberry tree.  The tree isn't cut down and the bark renews itself quickly.  The Moenkopi Bizan takes it one step further.  It's handmade, which means it's made with a minimal amount of electricity and is dried by the sun.

A lot of the folks around here are partial to cotton as being just as eco-friendly.  We'll get to that next time.