What is Dry Mounting?

Mounting, in our frame of reference, is simply a method of displaying graphics so they can be viewed and enjoyed. There are many ways to accomplish this. Placing an image on a rigid backing has been done since cave-man times. Today we find it accomplished using tapes, pins, clips and glues. For our interests we will review the more professional method of using adhesives.

The whole idea of mounting a graphic is to provide a pleasing look to artwork and to help protect is while it is displayed. Mounting adhesives generally accomplish this result best because, if used correctly, the adhesive remains invisible, keeps the image flat and it does no harm to the graphic. Common tapes, pins and clips cannot make this claim.

How many times have you attended an event that has welcome or directional signs in a lobby? Often these graphics are mounted to substrates such as foam boards and if they show bubbles or wrinkles it demonstrates a lack of care and devalues the wonderful artistry that made that image.

There are many choices of adhesives to accomplish a more professional display of a graphic. By and large they break into three general categories:

  1. Wet glues
  2. Spray adhesives
  3. Dry mount adhesives

Each system has its merits and disadvantages. Wet glues can be inexpensive but messy. Sprays are also messy and then there is the issue of breathing the overspray. Dry mount adhesives are inexpensive and neat, but generally require pricey equipment to properly apply them.

Dry mount adhesives further break into two general categories: thermal and pressure sensitive. In each case the adhesives are “dry” completely avoiding the messiness of wet and spray adhesives. In the case of thermal dry mount adhesives the glue is most often available in common sheet sizes and rolls called “tissue”. For these products manufacturers coat a thin tissue on both sides with a special heat activated adhesive. When applied in a dry mount press (or possibly with a hand-held iron) uniform heat activates the glue and the pressure of a press ensures complete contact with the image and the substrate – therefore no wrinkles or air bubbles. Pressure sensitive adhesives are also “dry”. These are commonly known as “peel and stick” adhesives whereby a release sheet that protects the sticky adhesive is removed, the graphic is applied to the adhesive and then to the substrate. As a rule of thumb pressure sensitive adhesives are more expensive than dry mount tissues but often in smaller sizes the graphic can be applied by hand potentially avoiding the purchase of an expensive applicator.

Whatever the choice of adhesive the ultimate goal is to display a sign, artwork, poster, photograph and any other image so as to enhance and protect the image.

Important Note

Dry mounting is an ideal way to mount most graphic images. Posters, signage, photos, and other images are often mounted in this manner.

Dry mounting is not recommended for archival or conservation applications. Original art, signed or numbered art, or art of value should not be dry mounted.

Dry mounting alters the original condition of the artwork which may impact its value. Ilfochrome (Cibachrome) images should not be mounted with thermal products.