Tired of emptying your pockets to have your photos mounted and framed? The quality, expense and lack of variety at most framing shops is pretty frustrating. Not only that, putting yourself at the mercy of a someone else's schedule when you're in a hurry to hang or install a show is stressful. Take matters into your own hands and polish off work by casting photos in crystal clear, UV protective epoxy resin. Casting photos in resin is fool-proof and an easy solution to protecting your work while minimizing distractions from the surface of your pieces. This step-by-step tutorial will address how to construct a clean wooden surface to mount your images, seal them, and cast them in resin. It’s easier than you probably expect and the results are stunning.
The main ingredient for this project is EX-74. There're dozens of epoxy and polyester resins on the market, but in my experience EX-74's the safest to handle and it stands the test of time preserving it's glasslike sheen. It's a two part mixture; one part resin and an equal part hardener. One quart is about the amount I'd suggest using to cover a 15x15" surface; .5 qts resin + .5 qts hardener =15x15" piece. Let this be your base number in determining how many quarts you will need to cast your piece. EX-74's available by the gallon at TAP Plastics or the manufacturer's website eti-usa.com.
Additional supplies: workable fixative, respirator, rubber gloves, heat gun, 2 calibrated gallon buckets, stir-stick, wood patch, spackle spreader, wood glue, acrylic gel medium, exacto or razor, pine struts ~.5"x1.5”, 1/4” mdf slab, tape measure, foam roller, primer, paint brush. Power tools included a table saw, chop saw, belt sander, and nail-gun.
Step 1: Building Your Canvas
- Cut your mdf 1/8” smaller than your image in length and width. This will ensure that your image bleeds all the way to the edge of the surface of your canvas. For example, if your photograph is 8x10, cut your mdf 7 7/8” by 9 7/8”.
- Similarly, cut your pine framing pieces 1/8” shorter than the width and the height of you image. Cut at 45 degree angles. Where the top and bottom pieces of your frame meet the left and right pieces they should form 90 degree angles.
- Dab wood glue to the end of each strut, hold them together tightly and apply two nails anchoring them together.
- Next, apply wood glue to the top of your frame where the mdf will go. Place your mdf on top and align it with the frame as accurately as possible. Nail it down.
- Spackle up the nail holes with wood patch. Spackle any gaps between your framing pieces if they didn’t join perfectly at the corners. Allow an hour to dry.
- Sand the excess wood patch from your canvas to create a flush surface, and so that the edge of the mdf is flush with that of the pine frame.
- With painters tape, mask off the pine frame of your canvas leaving only the 1/4" mdf exposed. Paint the outer 1/4" edge white and allow to dry.
At this point, your photograph should be a hair larger than the surface of the canvas. Don’t trim your image to the canvas just yet. It’s best to trim after it's mounted.
Step 2: Sealing Your Image
Sealing your photo is important in order to keep it from buckling and absorbing the resin.
- Wearing your respirator, coat your photo front and back with workable fixative in 3 thorough coats. Keep the nozzle at least 1' away from your photo. Fixative might have just turned your glossy image to matte, but the frosty matte will completely disappear after the resin's poured.
- If your image was exposed on an emulsion style photo paper, fixative alone will keep moisture from permeating it's surface. However, if your image was printed on a pulpier, textured card-stock, spray it with fixative then paint it with a clear gel medium to create a barrier between your image and the resin. Whatever brushstrokes or textures appear in coating you image will disappear after the resin cast.
Step 3: Mounting Your Photograph
- Create a clean working surface where you feel comfortable laying you image face down. Butcher paper works great.
- With your foam roller, spread a modest amount of acrylic gel medium across the surface of your canvas. You want the surface completely covered, but without excess. Be sure to get the corners.
- Next, firmly hold your photo face down and roll a light amount of gel medium on the back side.
- Carefully lay your photo atop the canvas, registering each corner to that of the canvas. Once in place, apply pressure and place face down on your clean surface. Rest a heavy weight on top (perhaps your resin), and allow to dry overnight.
- After your image is mounted, gently trim the overhanging photo from your canvas with a razor. Rest your razor or exacto blade against the mdf to make sure your image is cut flush with the canvas.
Step 4: Resin Casting
Put on your respirator and rubber gloves. EX-74 is safe and simple to use if exercising simple precaution. Tarp off a level area for casting. As the poured resin levels atop your piece, the excess will drip off onto the tarp beneath it
- In your calibrated bucket, mix your resin and hardener in as equal parts possible. Stir thoroughly in clockwise and counterclockwise directions and then scrape the sides of your tub to collect any unmixed solution. While the resin and hardener are both clear compounds, you can see separation between the two. Stir until you can't see any separation.
- Pour your resin mixture into your fresh bucket and repeat.
- Place your piece atop a bucket or another level surface elevating it from the tarp. Drizzle resin across the surface of your piece. Spread with your stir stick making sure the entire piece is covered with 1/8-1/4" resin.
- Blow the surface with a heat gun keeping at least 1' from the piece. The heat will bring air bubbles to the surface and pop them. Be sure not to direct the heat on an area for too long. Allow your piece to cure overnight.
- After your piece is cured solid, be careful not to blemish the surface. While EX-74 cures to look like glass, it can't be treated like glass. Epoxy plastic is relatively soft, and can scratch if grazed with sharp material or cleaned with solutions containing alcohol. To clean, lightly dust the surface with a scanner wipe or soft cotton. If there are smudges, gently wipe with water, Brillianize or Plexi-Clean solution.