All About Foam Board

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A variety of foam board productsFoam board consists of a thick inner core (from 1/8" to 3/16" thick) composed of polystyrene with clay coated papers on either side.  It is considered ideal for the mounting and backing of artwork.  It also acts as a light, sturdy substrate for creating stability in the frame.  More than 90% of frame jobs have foam board in them. 

Regular vs Acid Free Foam Board 

The clay coated surface papers of picture frame foam board are slightly acidic, albeit not nearly as acidic as their predecessor, corrugated cardboard, which was used widely in picture framing until foam board supplanted it in the early 1980’s.  The slight acidity of regular foam board is not considered an issue in most frame jobs involving easily reproducible art such as posters, digital prints, or open-ended editions of any kind, but may be considered inadequate for limited edition prints, originals or one-of-a-kind art. 

For limited editions, originals or one-of-a-kind art, acid-free foam boards are preferred. Indeed, for any art for which the maintenance of long term value is a goal, acid-free foam board is called for.  More on conservation and archival framing.

Self-adhesive foam boardSelf-Adhesive Foam Board

Self-Adhesive foam board consists of a thick inner core composed of polystyrene with a peel-and-stick surface on one side.  Artwork can be mounted firmly with light pressure.  From a conservation perspective it is materially the same as regular foam board.  However, the adhesive is permanent and irreversible.  Use it for easily reproducible artwork, such as posters, digital prints, or open-ended editions.

Black on black foam boardBlack on Black Foam Board

Black on black foam board is materially the same as regular foam board but consists of black surface papers on a black inner core and is favored in presentations where the foam board can be seen.  Use it for easily reproducible artwork, such as posters, digital prints, or open-ended editions.  

Off Gassing of Foam Board

The offgassing of foam board (the slow release of gas that was trapped in the material during manufacture) can be a concern for museums and others who are framing extremely valuable art.  However, it is not generally considered a significant enough threat to art which is designed to be hung for just a few generations. Those opting for a safer alternative to foam board can go with stacks of museum grade mat board.

How to cut foam boardHow to Cut Foam Board

Foam board can be difficult to cut without the proper tools.  Cutting foam board with a hand held box cutter or utility knife can result in tearing and gouging of the foam center.  Handheld foam board cutters perform well, as do mat cutting systems which include foamboard cutting capability.  For more complicated bevelling, notching and shaping of foam board use the Foamwerks Foamboard Cutting Tools

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