Hinging: The Transition from
Artistic Element to Masterpiece
In Bob and Paula's renovation of their mountain retreat, they wanted
to capture the essence of their surroundings in a cozy den. Bob
hired a stonemason who quietly listened as the couple detailed their
vision of the ideal fireplace chimney and hearth. And he just nodded
over Paula's formidable pile of river rock collected over the years.
"It's a work of art!" they declared at finale, awed by
the mason's skill in hiding the mortar to create the vision's blend
of natural form and function. "You're an artist!" But
the 'artist' just quietly nodded again. He knew the art was born
of the elements sealed in the supporting structure at work behind
Just as this mason's skill and masonry supplies brought a vision
to life, the artist or photographer must be equally skilled in the
utilitarian hinges at work 'behind the scenes.' The process of photo
hinging may not seem very artistic, nor does it offer the lure and
attraction of creativity. Yet it's needed for top-quality work or
images with rough edges or edge imperfections, margins or image
bleeds. So it's not a step that should be rushed or skipped.
Basically, hinging is the traditional means to mount an object
in a window mat. Still, if art as your 'form' and frame is 'function'
- hinging is a force within the hidden framework that's dual to
- Hinging aligns the artwork in the mat and frame, stabilizes
and protects it.
- The proper process and materials are essential to preserving
archival-quality work, and ensure the option of reversal or removal.
- As a working artist, your hinging skills add the professional
touch needed for excellence in presentation.
Hinging is just as crucial to artistic architecture as mortar is
to stonework. But you won't need the paste of the past or even a
trowel. Tweezers will do just fine for manipulating photo adhesives
for hinging and materials for mounting. Traditional supplies used
in the most common hinging methods should be selected according
to art, size and hinging purpose:
Casual Hinging -- Quick and easy, pressure-sensitive
hinging tape is usually the first choice for less valuable work.
Supplies vary; but you'll still want a fine, linen cloth tape
that's flexible AND strong -- a neutral pH acrylic adhesive that
gains strength rapidly. Redimat's
Lineco® Self-Adhesive Linen Hinging Tape is a favorite
for hinging window mats to backboard or attaching art.
Valued Art Hinging -- Previously, most archival
artwork was prepared with Japanese paper and wheat paste, a water-activated
process many found difficult and time-intensive. Conservators
prefer gummed tapes over pressure-sensitive tapes since they're
easily removed with water and stress-resistant to temperature
extremes and humidity. Fortunately, the introduction of gummed
Japanese papers made things a lot easier for artists, framers
and conservators. These gummed papers offer archival quality benefits
and reduce time and tedium. When this method is the choice for
original work or limited editions, choose a supply such as acid-free
Japanese mulberry paper. You'll be able to make instant
Japanese hinges easily, hinges that are thin and supple, but sturdy
and water reversible.
General Hinging -- Ideal for general hinging,
paper tape offers another easy-to-use choice. Redimat recommends
Gummed Paper Hinging Tape since its acid-free, lignin-free,
buffered paper is fast-setting and will support most artwork.
This neutral pH adhesive is also water reversible.
Hinging the Heavyweights -- Hefty hinges are
required for weighty work such as collages, large photographs
or even heavier artwork such as murals and watercolors painted
on specialty papers. When framing this type of artwork, you'll
want a high thread-count fabric for strength. Lineco®
Gummed Linen Hinging Tape.
Hinging Tips & Techniques
Once you define the hinging supply that best befits artwork and
purpose, you'll need to determine the type of hinge, design and
the number of hinges needed. As a rule:
- The classic hinge is made with two rectangles, torn from Japanese
paper such as the Lineco gummed product, which eases the process.
- When floating the photo or image in the mat window, create a
V-hinge or 'folded hinge' to keep the hinging structure hidden.
- The T-hinge technique is just fine for most framing; it's used
when there's no float -- no need to hide the hinge.
- All hinges should be attached to the back of the art.
Tear hinges; don't cut them. Torn, feathered edges are essential
to the hinging technique and ease removal if necessary.
- Match the hinge strength to the art being mounted. The hinge
should be weaker than the artwork so if stressed, it will tear
- When using gummed adhesives, be sure they absorb water before
you apply them.
Hinge size is scaled to artwork size -- smaller and more is always
better than larger but fewer hinges. Best practice is less than
a half inch wide where the hinge adheres to the to the art, image
or object with the opposite side less than three inches across.
Large hinges or long strips along the top edge tend to create rippling,
as it restricts the paper's or object's natural movement. You'll
also need to consider these techniques for placement and position:
- Generally, hinges are placed at the top edge of the work of
art. On small artwork, a hinge at each upper corner will provide
- Heavyweights or larger images will require one or more extra
hinges. Just space small ones evenly along the top edge.
- If the work is exposed or floated, add hinges at the bottom
corners or along the edges. Since large sheets tend to buckle
or ripple, you'll need several small hinges on each edge when
- When the mat covers the artwork edges, it helps to hold it in
place. So you'll need fewer hinges.
Building The Hinges - Creating the Infrastructure
- Ready to get started? Then get out your photo or artwork, your
- Choose the best position for the work behind the window of a
proper closed, prepared mat. Open the mat window -- use a pencil
to lightly sketch the intersection between the work's two upper
corners and the backing board.
- If you need a V-hinge, invert the work face down on its upper
edge. The two upper corners should rest a wee bit higher than
the pencil marks.
- If using archival materials, place water-activated hinging materials
on a clean pad or blotter. Then moisten the adhesive. Be patient;
the material must absorb the water until tacky or sticky. (Tweezers
are good for transferring wet hinges!)
- Attach a fourth of the hinge to the back of the artwork. The
remainder is applied to the backing board, using the V-hinge or
It's now time to add the final strip, or moisten the reinforcing
hinging strips on your clean pad or blotter. When sticky, center
the properly-sized strip over the hinge section that's attached
to the backing board.
Test the window fit -- of course, the hinges shouldn't be seen
when the mat window is closed. Reopen and make sure hinges dry before
closing the mat window.
Remember: Hinging isn't hard but it's not always
easy either. With practice, perseverance and the proper supplies
and techniques, you'll soon develop the skill to transform materials
See Also: Mastering the Casual
Hinge in Seven Simple Steps
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