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You may be quite content with your photomontage you see on your monitor. But there’s something special about getting all the images printed out and pasting them onto a board. Finishing a montage like this is even more fulfilling.
You can, of course, have your montage printed out as a regular photo, on a single piece of paper. However, I prefer getting individual prints made of each layer, positioning them and sticking them down.
Importing the photos using the method I outlined in Part two of this series will mean each of your layers has retained the original file name. Now it’s time to go back to the folders with the photos you resized and collect up all of them that made it into your final composition.
Copy them into a new folder and have them printed.
You’ll need a sturdy piece of board to mount your photos on. I prefer to use foam core board as it’s strong but lightweight. It also does not warp. If you use cardboard it can buckle easily once you get many layers of photos stuck down.
Whatever you choose to use, make sure that it will be big enough to compile all your photos on.
For many years I have used double-sided adhesive paper. It’s like a huge roll of double-sided tape. This method is the cleanest and easiest that I know of.
Pasting the photos up with glue is possible, but you need to be extremely careful you don’t get glue places you don’t want it.
Before I begin sticking the prints down, I use a black marker pen to blacken the edges of each print. White edges don’t look great when the photos are stuck down.
Open your montage file on your computer and turn off all the layers except the bottom one. Find the print of this image and position it on your board. Turn on the next layer and repeat the process of laying out your photos.
Prints will get knocked and move around during this process. Don’t be concerned, because as the montage takes shape the positions of prints will change. You may begin to see different relationships between the prints you may not have noticed on your computer monitor.
You can use masking tape to help keep the prints in position. Take care when you remove the tape that it does not damage your print.
I will often use post-it notes stuck alongside the photos. This helps me reposition them when they do get bumped.
Remain relaxed and fluid during this part of the process. Don’t stress if you cannot manage to line all the photos up as precisely as you lined up the layers in Photoshop.
Take a few steps back, or get up above the table you are working on. This will help you see the overall look of your composition. Do this a few times during your layout stage.
You can spend forever tweaking the positioning of the prints, but eventually, you will want to stick them all down.
Start with a corner there’s a print with no others overlapping it. Position it carefully in relation to the edge of the board and stick it down.
Begin to work your way from this point, sticking down only prints that do not overlap above any other print. Whenever a print has another layer underneath, the bottom one must be stuck down first.
If you make a mistake, just consider alternatives to remedy the situation. You might have to get another print or two made so you can cover up the problem area. Other times you will be able to rearrange the way you stick the prints down and still make it look good.
Work slowly and carefully, trying as much as possible not to let the prints move around. Any fast movement or clumsiness at this stage can mean you have to start over and lay it all out again.
Once your photomontage is all adhered, you will notice a big difference. It’s much more dimensional than it appears on your computer monitor or as it would be printed on a single sheet of paper.
Taking your time and working carefully, yet remaining flexible, as you stick your prints down, will make it a more enjoyable process.
The overlapping layers and any unconformities that happen during paste-up give a montage some depth and texture. These used to bother me until I realized they actually add to the look and feel of these artworks.
Here’s another short video of me working on a montage for my ‘Fractured Dimensions’ exhibition in 2014.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this short series on photomontages and I encourage you to experiment with the process yourself. Let us know how you get on in the comments below, and don’t forget to share your montages with us too.