Above: A few framed prints ready to be hung on a wall are shown placed on newsprint paper, cut from a 24-inch-wide roll. The artwork was part of a show at The Center for Fine Art Photography in Ft. Collins, Colorado. The framed print on the left is by Gwen Laine, and the two prints to the right are by Don Dudenbostel.
Virtually all artwork is fragile, and one of the ways art can be damaged is when an exhibition is “spotted.” Spotting is an unofficial term for determining where pieces will hang or otherwise be displayed in a space. One popular way to do that is by propping finished artwork up against a wall as shown in the photo above. This allows for the artist and/or curator to determine where the work will be displayed. Two common photography presentation methods, stretched canvas and face-mounted prints, are particularly vulnerable to damage because the bottom of the art is exposed. A framed print can usually be removed from a frame and reframed with fewer issues if the frame is damaged. That being said, it’s a good idea to take steps to protect any artwork prior to hanging it on a wall, especially if you want to sell the work to a collector “right off the wall.”
Using inexpensive roll paper can be very helpful when spotting a show. I recommend using 9- to 12-inch-wide rolls of paper in most cases when spotting an exhibition. 9-12 inches is wide enough to allow a good amount of floor coverage, but short enough to allow for placement of art along a wall while reducing the chances of someone kicking the edge of the paper. In addition, the artwork will be less likely to scratch a floor during spotting (especially wood floors). The paper may also help to protect the floor during installation in case a hammer, nail, or frame is dropped on the floor. Wider rolls are useful when you want to place artwork on a table or on the ground facing up. There are three main types of paper sold in rolls that I recommend for this purpose: Newsprint, Kraft Paper and White Bond Paper. Most newsprint and Kraft paper are acidic, so if you want to be extra careful (especially if you are spotting stretched canvas or similar art), consider using rolls of white bond paper or paper labeled as acid-free.
Recommended (and affordable) sources of roll paper:
1. There are countless online sources for rolls of inexpensive paper. Entering the term “Roll Paper” in your favorite search engine should bring up some good results. Amazon.com has a product in its catalog called Replacement Easel Paper Roll 18″ by Melissa & Doug, which is 18 inches wide and 75 feet in length. The cost is $5.75. Amazon has another product on its site made by Pacon called Newsprint Paper Roll. IKEA carries a product similar to the Replacement Easel Paper Roll called MALA Drawing Paper Roll for about $5.
For members of Costco, Costco.com carries a lot of paper rolls in different widths and lengths. A search for “Roll Paper” will bring up many options, including high quality bond paper, commonly used for architectural renderings and signs. Shipping is free to addresses in the continental USA.
Another good online supplier is Uline.com. Search for “Kraft Paper Wrap” for many options, including a 6-inch-wide, 1200 foot roll of Kraft Paper for $12 plus shipping, which will add about $10-15 to most USA-based addresses. They also carry a product called Indented Kraft Paper, which is a non-abrasive form of Kraft paper. One advantage of Indented Kraft Paper is that it should reduce the chances of the art “skidding” and falling on its back if propped up against a wall.
2. Hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowes often carry “Brown Masking Paper,” which is similar to Kraft paper. For example, Lowes.com lists a product called Trimaco 9-inch x 180-foot Brown Masking Paper for $2.48. Keep in mind that hardware stores may not protect their roll papers from the environment in well-sealed bags. Most companies who sell roll paper for printing or art projects will go to great lengths to keep the rolls very clean.
3. Craft and hobby stores like Michaels and A.C. Moore often carry rolls of paper.
4. Rolls of aluminum foil or parchment paper from a supermarket or other store will also do the job, but they tend to be more slippery and can be more easily torn compared with Kraft paper or bond paper.
5. Rolls of paper towels can also be used, but store-bought options are more likely to tear along the perforations. Similar alternatives that do not contain perforations are Kraft or white roll towels sold for use in restroom dispensers. They are generally sold in 8-inch widths of about 350 feet.
Other uses for roll paper
Roll paper has many other uses, including: using it as a template by cutting out sheets the exact size of each piece of art, and then temporarily hanging them to help determine overall placement and spacing for a show; using it to wrap art when it is transported or sold; using it with a compatible printer; or by crumpling it up and using it to provide “void fill” to fill the space in a package to help protect its contents.
If you want to use the paper again after rolling it out for spotting, it can be reused if folded in a way that avoids contact between the dirty and clean sides of the paper (not just re-rolled). Sections about 10-feet-long can be easily folded in half with the clean part on the outside, then loosely rolled and stored in a plastic bag for later use.