How to frame concert posters without "ruining" them?
September 15, 2013 10:36 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend collects posters from the many concerts he attends. He is averse to using store-bought poster frames because he thinks this will ruin the poster. Is this true? If so, is there a cheaper method to protect the posters than custom mounting and framing for over $100 apiece?

My boyfriend collects posters from the many concerts he attends. He probably has about 50 of them, if I had to guess a number. (Maybe more.) The problem is, most of them are rolled up in his closet because he can't afford to get them framed yet. He has probably 4-5 of them framed; he had them framed and matted at custom frame shops with UV-resistant glass and they cost well over $100 apiece to have done.

I've suggested many times that he simply buy plain and cheap poster frames and use those, at least for the time being, so he can actually display these posters on his walls that he spent who knows how much money on! But he balks at the idea. He thinks it will ruin the posters to expose them to light. My experience with "framing" is limited to the Target/Michael's variety, and the only posters I've ever owned are the ones of Hanson and the Backstreet Boys that I tore out of magazines when I was 12. So I'm in no qualified position to argue, but it seems a little ridiculous to have such high standards for a poster that probably cost $40. It's not like he's framing Monets here.

I'd really like to be able to frame some of them for him as a gift for Christmas, birthday, etc. But I'd only have the budget for MAYBE one at a time, and I don't want to spend that much money on one poster and run the risk that he wouldn't like the mat color or the frame. Does anyone have any insight as to:
1) if there's ACTUALLY a risk that a $40-$50 concert poster could be ruined by putting it in a regular store-bought frame, as long as it's not exposed to direct sunlight?
2) more inexpensive ways I could frame a couple of these for him that maybe wouldn't be as "permanent" as having them custom mounted at a frame shop?

posted by alysonagain to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
You can get DIY custom sized frames from Great quality and because you assemble yourself it's much cheaper than taking it to a framing shop.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:39 AM on September 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

The major risk of using the cheapo frames is if you buy a frame that's too small and try to make the poster fit, damaging the edges. Get a frame that's large enough to fit, even if it's got extra space, and turn over the paper backing (it will be plain on the back and can work as a mat), center the poster on the backing, slap it all together and there you go. It's less damaging than keeping them rolled for years.

And yeah, avoid direct sunlight. You'll likely be just fine with standard indoor and indirect lighting.

If you buy at Michael's or similar, make sure to wait for the 50% off coupons that apply to poster frames -- they're very frequent and you will be paying too much if you buy at full price.

The order-what-size-you-want kind are very nice, but again, be sure to overshoot on the size slightly if necessary. It's not like you're going to trim these to fit.
posted by asperity at 10:50 AM on September 15, 2013

Yeah, the UV is key, even out of direct sunlight, if he wants to keep them for a long time. He could get UV film to put over cheap frames as a stopgap. I like Frames Direct for inexpensive assembled frames. Less than 100, but probably still more expensive than the poster itself.
posted by supercres at 10:51 AM on September 15, 2013

Yeah, framing big things is expensive. I've used these Posterhangers for years. They don't offer any UV protection, but they're a great, sleek-looking way to enjoy posters without the expense of full-on framing. Maybe he could hang a few with those (out of sunlight), and rotate a selection out after a few months or something.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 11:28 AM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I assume these are screenprinted posters? I have a large collection (used to own a print shop). Sunlight isn't quite as big of a deal with posters as it is with something like a photographic print, which is super sensitive. Some of the common colored papers used (ie. French Paper Co) will fade if exposed to direct light but this has never been a huge issue for me - only seems to be effect the darker paper colors, and the ink is not susceptible to this kind of decay. If we're talking about inkjets (carbon pigment / giclee / etc) then yes, the UV protection is going to be a much bigger deal.

As long as they're not in direct sunlight, I would be more worried about the pH of the framing materials. Cheap frames are going to have crappy, acid filled mats and backed boards that WILL slowly eat away at your prints. This is why custom framing tends to be so much more expensive than a cheapo Ikea frame - the materials are "archival" (acid free) quality. is the cheapest you're going to get away with.
posted by bradbane at 11:30 AM on September 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

If framing them in cheapo frames, be sure that you have enough backing behind them that the poster is pressed firmly against the glass all over its whole surface. It's easy to forget this and end up with a wrinkled poster.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:31 AM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

For reference, I've had this poster hung with Posterhangers in my various offices since the mid-1990s. Also this poster since 2008 and this one for the past few years. As long as they're not in direct sunlight, the worst that happens is that they get a little dusty.

On preview, per bradbane, my 3 posters are all screen printed.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 11:38 AM on September 15, 2013

How do you define "ruined"? Is it ok if it looks good but can never be removed from the frame without damage? That will guide your framing methods somewhat.

In a similar vein, having the poster pressed firmly against the glass is also a good way to end up with a poster permanently fused to the glass after a few years. I speak from experience. This is one of the reasons mats are good -- they keep the object from touching the glass. It may look flatter and smoother, but it's not good if you ever want to be able to remove the poster from the frame.
posted by primethyme at 12:02 PM on September 15, 2013

Hi, I'm a professional custom framer, and I've worked in galleries. Here's the deal with framing a work on paper:

1) UV-protective glass: screens UV, which is a component of light. If your poster is visible, it is exposed to UV, even if there is no direct sunlight. Even if you don't care about the poster now, you might grow to love it and care about it the longer you hang it. We get a lot of people trying to frame cheapo posters they put a cheapo frame on ten years they have to deal with fading on a thing they love and wish they'd spent money on. Your call, though - some people legit don't care about their art or grow to hate their art, so.

To save money, put the good glass in a cheap frame. Michaels and chain frame stores can do this for you.

2) Acid transfer: cheap frames and their backings are not acid - free. The acid will leach into the poster and either leave and imprint of the backing on it or it will yellow/embrittle the poster. Takes a few years to be noticeable, so once again, try to determine how much you care about the poster or how much you will care in the future. You can change out the backing of the frame with acid free board yourself or let the store.

3) directly against the glass: there is a strong likelihood that the natural fluxuations of humidity and condensation will cause the poster to stick to the glass over time. It can also lift pigment from the surface. Anything shiny or glossy is particularly at risk. One way to deal with that is at least two mats depth (through adding a mat or adding a plastic spacer, both of which can be added to most cheap frames.)

I'm sure you are also running into sizing issues (posters are not always the size of the frame) where your choice is custom matting or cutting to fit...cutting is forever, so think twice cut once. You're probably alsso finding that cheap frames often look cheap, which is not ideal for a thing you want to show off in your home.

My suggestion to save money: modify cheap frames with preservation materials. Or get one framed decently, and change out the poster (so you only have one at a time, but it looks awesome. Only works if they're the same size.)

Or get an acid -free artist's portfolio to store the posters without framing. They're protected and in something nice so you can pull out the portfolio to show off to guests.
posted by blnkfrnk at 4:43 PM on September 15, 2013 [9 favorites]

I have done a hybrid route where we bought a standard frame at Michael's, then had them custom-make a matte. About $75 (with coupon). Held up for a couple years, unfortunately got stolen so I can't comment long-term.
posted by radioamy at 9:00 PM on September 15, 2013

If he wants to keep the posters in good shape they should be stored unrolled. He can get an artist's portfolio to store them, and switch out which posters are on display without damaging them by rolling and unrolling them repeatedly.

as "permanent" as having them custom mounted at a frame shop

A frame shop shouldn't be mounting them in a permanent way, the artwork should be able to be removed without damage if the frame shop is even mediocre. Another poster of a similar size can be swapped in.

Another option for future posters would be to buy two, put one in a cheap frame, and keep the other for archival purposes.
posted by yohko at 8:50 AM on September 16, 2013

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