So many different tapes, so many applications. Here’s a guide to help you when comparing tapes and adhesives for picture framing.
Adhesive Transfer Tapes
Adhesive transfer tapes are used primarily for sticking double mats together, attaching dust covers, gluing spacers and fillets in place, and mounting artwork to a backing board. They are characterized by high initial tack (which means they grab quickly) and a secure, long-lasting bond. They are applied by pressing the tape firmly against the surface and then peeling off the strip of release paper, called the “liner”, that backs the adhesive. When the liner is peeled away, the other side of the adhesive is exposed, so that a second item (be it a mat blank or dust cover) can be pressed against it and stick. Because both sides of the adhesive are in play these tapes are often referred to as “double sided adhesive transfer tapes.”
A type of adhesive transfer tape where the adhesive is “reverse wound” meaning the adhesive is wound on the outside of the roll, making it cumbersome to work with manually but ideal for use in an adhesive transfer gun where the tape is threaded around the roller at the nose of the gun adhesive side out. The acronym A.T.G. stands for adhesive transfer gun. To operate the ATG gun you squeeze the trigger, releasing the roller and then press the nose against the surface to be glued and pull back. The roller rolls out the double-sided adhesive, peeling up the liner as it goes, threading it back into the gun. Clean and simple. Read more
Handheld Adhesive Transfer Tape
This tape is for those who prefer to work with adhesive transfer tape manually. With this tape, the adhesive is “interior wound” which means the adhesive is turned to the inside as it comes off the roll, making it less of a hassle to deal with. Yet, for long term economy there is no real advantage to buying handheld adhesive transfer tape except to avoid the one time cost of purchasing a tape applicator gun, because ATG tape actually costs a few cents less per yard than handheld adhesive transfer tape. Read more
Acid Free ATG Tape
Acid free ATG tape offers an adhesive that contains no harmful acids. Acid is the nemesis of artwork. Given enough time, in direct sunlight and high humidity, it can cause a hazy brown effect called “acid burn” that can devalue and ruin artwork. But remember, adhesive transfer tape is rarely used to mount artwork to a backing board because it creates a permanent bond by sticking the artwork permanently to the backing so that it cannot be removed. The very act of taping artwork permanently to something devalues it. If adhesive transfer tape is used for this purpose it should only be used to mount artwork that is unlikely to increase in value, such as posters or easily reproduceable photographic prints. Moreover, adhesive transfer tape can only be applied in long strips, which means the bond will not be uniform across the back of the item to be mounted.
For permanent mounting it’s preferable to coat the item with adhesive, creating a uniform bond to avoid air pockets and creases. This is better done with self-adhesive foam board or PMA. So adhesive transfer tape is rarely used for mounting artwork, which can only lead to the conclusion that it rarely contacts the artwork, and since the danger from acid burn occurs when the adhesive is in contact with the artwork, the need for an ATG tape that is acid free is somewhat questionable. Still, if you want to create a frame package that is entirely acid free, acid free ATG tape is the answer. Read more
Mounting and Hinging Tapes
Mounting tapes are designed specifically for the purpose of mounting artwork to a mat or backing board. They are also used to attach the mat and the backing board together along the top edge, what is called “hinging”, so that they remain aligned in the frame. Paper mounting and hinging tapes are simply those where the tape itself is made of paper, as opposed to, say, linen or tissue, which have distinct benefits.
Lineco Linen Hinging Tape
This tape is suited for mounting heavy watercolor paper and large posters. It is preferred for its greater tensile strength as it will resist tearing under the weight of the artwork. Read more
Lineco Self-Adhesive Hinging Tissue
This tape is employed on lightweight or translucent artwork, such as rice paper. Where other types of tape can be seen through the paper, mounting and hinging tissue is virtually invisible. Read more
In application, mounting and hinging tapes are typically in contact with the artwork. Because of this, to be safe, the tapes must be pH neutral or acid free, but since all mounting and hinging tapes are, as a matter of course, pH neutral or acid free, it’s a little like looking for a car with headlights. They all have that feature, so we can take that as a given and move on. The two main qualities to look for in a mounting tape are ease-of-use and reversibility, and here one quality is often traded off against the other.
Framer’s Tape II
Best when it comes to ease-of-use, Framer’s Tape II comes off the roll ready to stick with no annoying liner to have to peel away, but it is only reversible with heat. Reversibility is the ability to release the adhesive bond, making it unsticky so it can be peeled away from the artwork without tearing it. If you have to put the mounted artwork in a heat press to reverse the bond, you cannot effectively release it unless you have a heat press. Nevertheless, if the artwork is relatively inexpensive and you cannot foresee the need to reverse the bond and you just want a quick, easy way to mount it, Framers Tape II is a good choice. Read more
Gummed tape is just the opposite of Framers Tape II in terms of its qualities. It is not terribly easy to work with but it reverses easily. It’s a water activated tape which means it won’t become sticky until you moisten it, and in this way it’s very much like a postage stamp and shares some of the same drawbacks. A moistening bottle typically applies too much or too little moisture, so you end up licking it for best results. After you have licked mounting tape for awhile, self-adhesive tapes that come off the roll ready to stick have an obvious appeal. On the other hand, gummed tapes can be released easily with water. Just take the head of a Q-Tip, dip it in water, then work the head of the Q-Tip in under the tape and the adhesive will release easily, letting the tape lift away and leaving no adhesive residue on the art. Read more
This tape combines the thinness of paper tapes, so it won’t deboss through lightweight paper, and the strength of linen tape. It’s a self-adhesive tape made from the fibers of the Abaca plant which is similar to the thin fibers on the inside of a banana peel and are extraordinarily strong. Read more
For more on proper framing using mounting tapes, and what to avoid when applying them, check out Vadim Makarov’s article How Not to Ruin Your Picture By Improper Framing.
Acid Free Stitchery Tape
This is a double sided tape with a release paper liner for the quick and easy mounting of stitchery and needlework. It is applied to a mounting board and the release paper is peeled off to expose the other side of the adhesive so that the needlework can be pressed against the adhesive and stuck down. Adhering needlework to tape is not the best way to preserve it over the long term since needlework benefits from air circulation through its fibers, but for needlework that is unlikely to increase in value over time, it’s a much faster and easier method than stretching and pinning the needlework to the substrate. Many professional framers recommend the use of needlework tape to their clients when the clients balk at the high cost of stretching and pinning, which is so time-consuming to the framer. Well over half the needlework you see mounted is mounted with needlework tape. Read more
Self-Adhesive Frame Sealing Tape
This is an aluminum backed tape used to seal the inside of a wood frame’s rabbet to prevent acid migration. Acid can migrate from the wood into whatever the wood is in contact with, and given enough time, can cause acid burn in that material. The stack of matboard, foamboard and glass that you place in the recess (the “rabbet”) at the back of the wood frame, contacts the wood along the edges and is therefore susceptible to acid contamination. By using Frame Sealing Tape along the rabbet, an aluminum barrier is put in place to contain acid migration and prevent the contents from falling victim to acid burn. Read more
White Artist’s Tape & Acid Free Masking Tape
These are best used to seal the edges of the stack of matboard, foamboard and glass prior to placing them in the frame recess. When you place the stack in the recess and press downto insert points or brads, the pressing and releasing of the stack can create a bellows effect which can suction lint and dust into the frame space. By sealing the edges of the stack with white artists tape or acid free masking tape, you prevent debris from entering the frame space and avoid having to remove the contents to pick out dust and lint from the inside of the glass. Read more
Mending Tissue & Document Repair Tape
These are used to repair tears in art on paper. The mending tissue is applied to the face of the art, whereas the repair tape is used on the back. Read more
This is an overview of the available tapes and adhesives you’ll find at Framing4Yourself. Remember, nobody does more to keep you informed and lead you to the best possible decisions by comparing products like tapes and adhesives in articles like these. At Framing4Yourself we’re your partner in framing.