Photo mounted on foam core is now bowing/warping: can it be fixed?
February 26, 2017 12:00 PM   Subscribe

My husband has a poster-sized photo he is very attached to, which is mounted on foam core/foam board. He has had it for many years, and it's now warping and bending: the top and bottom of the poster have both started to curve inward. It's irreplaceable because it was signed by the artist. Is there a way that a frame shop could fix this problem--by remounting or reframing it somehow? Or is it impossible to fix?

Since I have space I'll ask a second sort of related question, if anybody has insight: we also have a large watercolor, a gift, that we'd like to continue displaying, but it's so large it dominates the space it's in. Is there a service that would take a high quality photograph of the watercolor and give us a smaller print?
posted by lotf629 to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How is it mounted? If it's mounted with spray glue, he could possibly point a hairdryer at it to warm the glue up until he can gently peel the poster off and then get it remounted.
posted by Jubey at 12:06 PM on February 26, 2017

I would be tempted to frame it inside glass. The glass will fix the warping and secure it flat.
posted by tillsbury at 12:24 PM on February 26, 2017 [11 favorites]

Do not attempt to remove the print from the foamcore. tillsbury is correct that framing the foamcore as it stands is the way to cure this. It is also the only way to protect and preserve this piece long term.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:30 PM on February 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

Your first question: nope. Not really. Semi-removable drymount board does exist, but it is unlikely to have been used for a non-frame application. You should assume dry mounting and spray mounting is permanent. You can try with a hair dryer on a cool setting on the back, but you might make it worse-- you might loosen some spots but be unable to loosen the whole thing. Depending on the printing mode of the photo, you might also bubble the finish, so I would personally not try that. There are two things to try:

1) Ask your local frame shop to put it in their dry mount press without adhesives to see if you can iron it flat. If it's an RC photo or a metallic print I would not do this. When I have done this, the results were usually less satisfactory and totally temporary.

2) Use a frame and glass, not plastic, if possible, and frame it. The tension of the frame plus the rigidity of the glass should pull it straight, if it's just the foam core that's warped. Metal frames sometimes have tighter tension than you can get in a wood frame, so look into that.

If the poster itself is bubbling or peeling off the foam core... there isn't really anything you can do. Since it sounds like it's just curving naturally due to temperature and humidity, you don't need to worry about it. Artists usually do this because they like the frameless look or because they can't afford exhibition frames, and you should always get it into a frame ASAP once you've bought it.

Watercolor: yes! Check out your area's art photography ot art scanning shops. It should be in the yellow pages; sometimes they have mounting and lightbox aervices included or have other artists' services. You may or may not run into issues with copyright-- if you do not own the copyright sometimes they can't reproduce it or manipulate it even if you physically own the art piece-- sometimes they just make you sign a thing saying you own the copyright, and sometimes it never comes up. If you can be prepared with a statement from the artist, that might make it easier.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:39 PM on February 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

I like old highway and city maps, and mount them sometimes on foamcore or even on 1/2" blue insulation board. We were having trouble with them bowing and bending as you're describing. To counter this, we mod-podged a similar-weight material on the back side. When it dried, the boards were nearly perfectly flat and have remained so. It's certainly a "couldn't hurt" approach, as long as you're careful to protect the artwork while it's face-down.
posted by bullatony at 1:51 PM on February 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you don't want to mount it in a frame, here is a method that might work. What is causing the bowing is that the photo on the front has shrunk slightly relative to the paper on the back of the foam core. So you need to shrink the size of the paper on the back. If you score the back of the foam core paper horizontally and take out 1/16" strips of paper, then you should be able to flatten it. Then mount it on a second layer of foam core. The new double layer sandwich should be considerably more rigid than the original.

You should take it to a frame shop and see if they can do this for you.
posted by JackFlash at 6:05 PM on February 26, 2017

Thanks, all--all these suggestions and insights are extremely helpful.
posted by lotf629 at 6:51 AM on February 27, 2017

I would be tempted to frame it inside glass. The glass will fix the warping and secure it flat.

Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to put art into direct contact with the glass covering it. Over time, the art will tend to adhere itself to the glass. There should always be an air gap. Your best bet will be to mount the foamcore onto a more stable/rigid substrate. Then, frame everything professionally, with an eye on preventing warping. Frankly, I'd start by taking the piece to a framer and see what they suggest.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:06 PM on February 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

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