A DIY Centering Guide for Contact Printing Frames

Did you ever try to get a negative and a sheet of paper to stay put while closing the printing frame? I realized it’s a common problem in our craft. This may not be THE fix but the one I came up with is simple and cheap – those are the best kind IMHO.

When a relatively small and light negative and a small piece of paper that may be even lighter lay on a larger sheet of glass any air movement can easily move them around. But what you, the printer, want is for the negative to align perfectly with the paper on which the image is to be exposed. Air movement can be caused by your body moving around the room, ventilation, and often by the back of the printing frame as you put it in place.

Okay, you’re a photographer and chances are good you have one or two pieces of mat board around. Find one that’s at least as wide as the inside width of your printing frame and at least 2 or 3 inches long. Oh, by the way I forgot to mention that your printing frame has to have a split back – most of which are hinged.

Trim the width of the mat board to fit snugly inside the frame’s width. Trim the length to be a little less that the distance from the inside bottom of the frame to the hinge. Next you’ll cut a notch to hold your negative. Just make sure the notch is big enough to stabilize the negative but that part of the negative will extend into the other side of the back. Hopefully you can visualize this. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so check this one out. 

The white area is what I’m talking about.


With a little ingenuity, I’m sure you can understand how to modify the concept to exactly fit your combination of frames, negatives and papers.

Here’s a short video to go along with this article – enjoy!

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