Should You Linen-Back Your Movie Posters? 🇺🇸
What is Linen-Backing?
Linen-backing describes the process of mounting a poster to a canvas in order to support the poster’s structural integrity. The term ‘linen-backing’ can be misleading as in fact no linen, but high quality, acid-free canvas is used. Posters that are linen-backed can be preserved longer. The backing stabilises the paper and effects of aging such as fold lines, creases, cracks and other defects become attenuated. Linen-backing therefore improves the visual appearance of vintage movie posters and is the first step to restoring them. Individuals collecting posters for investment purposes typically opt for linen-backing as it may also help increase the value of a historic piece. At Vintoz, all linen-backing is conducted by professional museum conservators with decades of experience in restoring movie posters. We use our own Roky paper (made in the US), Linen or cotton, French Gesso, used wheat starch plus sticky rice four. The process typically takes around two weeks.
Besides linen-backing, paper-backing and gel-backing are other accepted, yet less commonly used methods to preserve vintage movie posters. Kraft paper-backing is another conservation method, however it is not very popular among collectors. Another option is to permanently mount a poster on a board, (i.e. a foam core board), this will however greatly reduce the value of a poster, which is why it is generally avoided.
Should You Linen-Back Your Posters?
Whether or not to linen-back a poster depends on a number of factors:
- How old is the poster?
- How thick is the paper?
- Is the goal to preserve and / or restore the poster or to maintain the current condition?
- Was the poster rolled or folded (most pre 80s posters were folded)?
- Do you intend framing the poster and hanging it up in your home/office?
- How large is the poster?
Many modern-day posters are printed on thick, glossy paper and linen-backing may not be necessary. In contrast to that, posters from the early and mid 20th century are often printed on very thin paper as they were intended for short-time use. Over the decades the paper strength has deteriorated and without active countermeasures posters may disintegrate. Depending on the paper used for printing, the acidity level of the paper may be high (due to lignin being present in the paper). Over time, this will make the poster fragile and the surface will become brittle (in particular alongside fold lines). Large posters printed on thin paper also tend to ‘sag’. Linen-backing on acid-free paper (lignin-free) will alleviate these issues and provide the stability required to properly display vintage pieces. For the same reasons it is also easier to mount linen-backed posters on frames. In general, framed linen-backed posters often look better than unbacked posters.
Transportation is another important factor. Adding linen-backing will reduce the risk or damage and tears during shipping. Posters that were in the past folded for transport often show visible fold marks and adding linen-backing can help reduce the visibility of these marks to near zero (fold marks can effectively be burnished out). For these reasons linen-backing is considered the gold standard to fully archive and preserve vintage film posters. Despite all the benefits of linen-backing, some collectors prefer not to linen-back their posters, but to keep them in the original state. While this is a personal choice, please note that linen-backing is reversible. So if desired, the linen-backing could be removed to reset the poster to the original state.
How Much does it Cost to Linen-Back a Poster?
Cost is an important consideration when considering to linen-back a movie poster. In the US and Europe professional linen-backing services for a standard-sized poster can easily cost US$200 to 500. This is a significant amount, especially when considering that many conservators do not specialise in poster restoration. As a result, poster collectors may shy away from making the investment and end up storing their posters folded-up indefinitely.
At Vintoz we have a significant advantage as all our poster restoration work is carried out by certified museum conservators based in Vietnam who specialise in vintage paper restoration. They work with world-class processes and modern, imported equipment such as the while charging rates much lower than their US or Europe based counterparts. This allows us to provide professional poster restorations at very attractive rates and enables you to display your posters worry-free!
Our fees for linen-backing are as follows:
Half sheet/Insert/one sheet/30x40
US$130 per poster - plus additional restoration at US$35 per hour.
Three sheet, 40x60, French and Italian 1 panels
US$250 per poster – plus additional
What else can You do to Preserve or Restore Your Poster?
Linen-backing is a key step in poster preservation. It helps flatten creases and provides posters with enough structural strength to hang, frame and mount them. For collectors looking to go beyond preservation, linen-backing is just the first step. It provides a canvas required to carry out further restoration work that may be desirable for older pieces. In cases where a poster has been severely damaged due to exposure to sunlight, tearing or just wear over time, tape removal, glue removal, washing and bleaching, paper replacement and other measures can be taken to effectively restore the poster. Some collectors also stored posters rolled up, however, as for all posters this is not advisable for linen-backed posters.