There are several considerations in deciding how to display black & white prints:

  • What sizes and shapes will be best?
  • How will you arrange them on the wall?
  • Do you want them in black & white or do you want them toned (e.g., sepia)?
  • Do you want them traditionally framed on paper, or mounted on canvas or aluminum?
  • How will you light them?

Image Shape and Print Size

I will print in any dimension desired (subject to minimum size for squares of 15 x 15 inches and for rectangles of 12 x 15 inches and subject to the aspect ratios of .8 to 1 for rectangular prints, 1 to 1 for square prints and 1.8 to 1 for the vertical panoramas in the San Francisco Images gallery. See Selecting Image Shape and Size.

Depending on the width and hei ght of the wall space to be hung, my judgment is usually that larger is better.

The print of "Wave at Gualala Point" on the red wall of the office building lobby at 631 Howard Street in San Franciso is five feet by five feet, not including the matting and frame.

The three vertical panoramas on the floating wall in Teamco Advisors' office at 1 Bush Street in San Francisco are 20 inches by 36 inches, not including the matting and frames.  The four smaller prints in between are 20 inches by 20 inches, not including the matting and frames.  With all the prints being the same width (not apparent due to the distortion in the picture), the display has symmetry.


Mixing Squares and Rectangles

Mixing square images and rectangular images in a grouping works well so long as the the vertical dimensions of the framed squares are equal to the vertical dimensions of the framed rectangles.  See photo above of the four framed paper prints over the sofa.  There are two 20 x 20 inch squares flanked by a 16 x 20 inch rectangle on each end of the arrangement.   By using the same vertical dimension for each print (i.e., 20 inches), the vertical outside frame dimensions are all the same -- 30 inches -- creating a pleasing symmetry. 

Matching Unframed Di-Bond/Aluminum and Canvas Prints to Framed Paper Prints

 My preference, if arranging a mixture of unframed di-bond prints or canvas prints with framed paper prints, is to make the unframed di-bond or canvas prints the same sizes as the framed paper prints.  In the example to the left, the matted and framed paper print in the middle is a rectangular format.  So is the di-bond print next to it.  I have made the di-bond print the same dimensions as the outside dimensions of the frame that encloses the paper print.  

The offered sizes of the canvas and di-bond prints on this website are the same dimensions as the outside frame dimensions of the  corresponding paper prints framed in standard museum frames.   Of course, if desired, I will print the images for canvas or di-bond in the same sizes as the paper prints unframed.  

Toned Prints

  Toning is a method of changing the color(s) of a photograph.  With PhotoShop, the colors in color photographs can be changed to dramatic, often carnivalesque effect. 

Black and white photographs can be readily toned, as well.  The image of Point Arena Light on the right has been toned in sepia.

Sepia toning is the most popular coloration for black and white photographs, but a print can be toned in virtually any hue.  Sepia conveys vintage.  It also facilitates  earth-tone variations in the interior design of the space in which the image is hung.  Images printed on canvas are especially effective when toned in sepia.  The toning accentuates the rusticity of the  canvas. 

On Paper, Framed

 A black & white image printed on paper and framed with an over-mat with a thin black frame is the classic museum look. If you elect to display the prints framed,  i recommend that you frame them behind glass or acrylic (plexiglass).  Apart from the obvious advantage of protecting the print, displaying my prints behind glass or acrylic completely mitigates what can be distracting highlights caused by the glossy paper on which I print. I use glossy paper -- typically Epson Premium Lustre or Exhibition Fibre -- because these papers produce the deepest blacks obtainable in my printing process.  The deep blacks are crucial to the contrasts I want to create in many of my images.  Behind glass or acrylic, the richer, textured look (and feel) of matte paper is lost, so even if I could achieve the same blacks on matte paper that I get on glossy paper, the aesthetic appeal of matte papers would only be evident if the prints without glass.You should specify the type of glass or acrylic for your framing that will protect the print from fading caused by ultra-violet rays.  Your framer will have several choices of protective glass (U.V. glass)and protective acrylic (U.V. plexiglass), some in non-glare formulations. In any event, even if framed with U.V. glass or U.V. plexiglass. it is not advisable to display photographic prints on surfaces that are exposed to prolonged, direct sunlight.

On Canvas

 An image printed on canvas and stretched on a mounting frame brings a traditional painterly look to the art. The photo to the right shows three 30 x 30 inch sepia-toned prints on canvas. The canvas is treated with an ultra-violet light-resistant coating. 

 Canvas prints are stretched on a frame -- in this case wood -- just as paintings are.  The photo to the left shows the back of one of the three prints in the photo to the right.  Note the simple wood frame and the staples which hold the stretched canvas taut across the frame.  Canvas prints must be handled with care as there is nothing covering the canvas to protect it from abrasions or punctures.

The width of the stretcher frames used to mount these particular prints is an inch-and-a-half.  It can be any width desired.  The edges of the image are printed in a neutral tone, in this case gray.  This avoids creating a distracting strip at a 90 degree angle at the edges of the image that would occur if the edges of the print were drawn "around the corners" of the frame.  The viewer would then see the print in two dimensions, especially from the side.  

The effect of the canvas on the image is to give it a highly textured look.  See the photo on the left.  Remarkably, the resolution of the image is excellent (assuming minimum interpolation in the enlargement of the image). 

Canvas prints are informal, even rustic looking.  However, they provide a dramatic counter-point to paper prints and make for a distinctive wall decor.  The larger the print, the better.

On Di-Bond or Aluminum

 To give a print a sophisticated, contemporary look, have it bonded to a thin, rigid sheet of a hard material called "di-bond", or to a sheet of aluminum.  

An image mounted on di-bond or aluminum has a modern, urbane presence on your wall.  In the example to the left, the image is sized so that it "bleeds" to the edge of the di-bond sheet.  A spacer is glued to the back so that when the print is hung, it "floats" off the wall.

Illumination creates a dramatic shadow around the image.

To protect the print from sunlight, it should be coated with an ultra-violet protectant. 

Here, you see three very large images, each printed four feet by four feet, hanging on the wall of a new apartment building in San Mateo.  They are printed on di-bond.  

The lighting is mostly ambient natural light from outside coming in through the large windows at the front of the lobby.  However, there are also three light cans in the ceiling a few feet out from the wall. Each can is aligned with one of the image center-lines, but the lights are pointed straight down, not over onto the pictures. 

Although the prints look to be positioned high on the wall, the bottoms are only four feet off the floor.  That puts the tops eight feet off the floor. 

Note the lack of glare with the di-bond mounting. 


 The images you see on this website are projected on your computer screen.  As a result, you are seeing them at maximum luminance.  The light source is behind the image and is shining through it. 

On your wall, you will see the prints in reflected light.  To achieve luminance approaching that seen on your computer screen, you must illuminate the prints.  If you do not already have an art lighting system, then a low-voltage system with 50-watt bulbs -- either track mounted or frame mounted -- is a practical solution.  For best effect, the bulbs should be spotlight bulbs, not floodlight bulbs.  The lights should be controlled by a dimmer switch so you can modulate the illumination depending on the time of day.

The photo above shows two 20 x 36 inch vertical panorama prints -- Coit Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge -- printed on paper and displayed in classic museum framing;  and four images mounted on di-bond.  Note the overhead track lighting -- 50 watt spotlights.

Well-illuminated black and white prints viewed at night in low ambient light bring high visual drama to the wall of any room.

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