Thursday, February 21, 2013

tutorial: mounting prints to cradled wood panels

As mentioned in my previous post, I've been displaying recent work by mounting the print to cradled wood panels.  I did a good deal of research on how to do this but ended up pulling it together from various sources.  This is the process that worked for me.

cradled wood panel (see Dick Blick art supply for various sizes and thicknesses):
wood stain
polyurethane wood varnish
sand paper (I used several different grits- 120 for basic sanding, lower grits for distressing)
cheap paint brush
foam brush
painters tape
Golden Soft Gel Medium (after researching this is the best in my opinion)
X-Acto knife and heavy-duty straight edge
black Sharpie marker (optional)
wax or freezer paper
brayer roller
Golden Polymer Varnish with UVLS (optional)
quality paint brush (optional)

Preparing the wood panel:

Sand all over to help the stain “stick” to the wood.  You can either wipe on stain with a rag and rub dry or paint on stain thickly with a cheap brush without rubbing dry.  The wipe/rub method gives you a nice even classic stained look- additional coats to make it darker.  The painted version gives you a thick/ dark covering  that looks more like paint and is better if you plan on doing a lot of distressing.  I suppose you could paint the block a color if you wanted but for my stuff I went with dark stain (Ebony).  There is no need to stain the face of the panel, just get around the edges that might show after your print is mounted.

Once dry you can choose to distress with sand paper or not.  I like the shabby look so I used a corner sander to randomly remove patches of painted on stain (sandpaper works the same).  Wipe the panel clean.

Using a foam brush varnish the wood (one coat).
Once dry wrap the edges with painters tape.
Apply one coat of the Golden Soft Gel Medium to the face of the panel.  This will help the mounting process later and require less Gel to actually stick the print on.
Let dry.


Preparing the print:

For some reason the panels are all slightly shorter than advertised (12” by 12” was actually 11.875” by 11.875”).  I resized my piece in Photoshop to match and then printed on matt photographic paper (I use Moab Entrada Rag Bright).  Let the print dry.  Next I applied 2 separate coats of Golden Soft Gel Medium (ok on inkjet prints-protects print-gloss to really make my blacks pop) to the front of the print using a foam brush (allow to dry between and after coats).  The backside of the print gets one coat done same way. On the front of the print I used up and down brush strokes going in the same direction for both coats.

Using an Xacto knife and a good solid straight edge I cut the print from the paper.  The resulting print feels like thick canvas and is pretty forgiving if you get something on the front- you can wipe it away- its nice and sturdy.  

Since my panels were stained dark and most of my prints are darker I took a black Sharpie marker and colored around the edges (so they won’t stand out white once mounted.

Mounting the print:

Apply one thin coat of Golden Soft Gel Medium to the front of the panel and the back of the print.  Carefully but quickly slide the print onto the panel and line up with the edges.  This is the tricky part to get it lined up correctly before it starts to stick.  Quickly cover the print with a piece of wax paper and start pressing down in the middle and rubbing out from the center to the edges.  Air bubbles are the enemy.  Take a brayer roller and start rolling from the center out to the edges all around the panel.  If you see a bubble start to form under the print try first to pull the print back up in that corner and replace, if it won’t move then keep rolling the spot with the brayer and the bubble might just flatten out.  Any gel medium that squeezed out around the edges of the print can be wiped away with a damp cloth.

Optional varnish to print surface:

Once dry you can use Golden Polymer Varnish with UVLS to cover and protect the print surface.  Be sure to thin the varnish before application as directed on the bottle.  Use a quality paintbrush here to minimize bubbles and avoid bristles falling out.  I put on 2 coats of varnish, brushing slowly and in the same direction as I did when preparing the print.

Once dry remove painters tape and you have a nice wood panel mounted print!!


  1. Excellent idea and very useful tutorial. I have several cradle boards that I bought for paintings but am now keen to try my hand at printing and mounting some of my digital art work on them instead. Thanks for the inspiration and practical advice.

  2. Your art is so beautiful Beth!
    Thank you very much for this tuto, and your generosity!
    This is a giant idea and agreable to do.
    (You have beautiful hands! :)

  3. wow this looks awesome, what a great idea to put them on wood!!

  4. Beth, thank you so much for the tutorial. A brilliant idea I shall try.

  5. Thanks for explaining how to mount onto wood, Beth. Your instructions are very clear. They look super. Good luck with your exhibit!