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The Easy Guide To Creating Mounts

This Journal is subject to copyright. You do not have permission to copy it, in part or whole, and re-publish it. It is for information purposes only.

1. Introduction

By request, the purpose of this Guide is to provide a step-by-step demonstration of how to turn this:

Into this:

Call them mounts, borders, edges, frames, windows, structured negative space, or whatever, in the digital sense those black bits at the top and bottom of the image are part of the image. I will refer to them as Mounts. They are easily created by just about any image processing program. For the purposes of this demonstration I will be using Photoshop CS5, but the same functions exist in Photoshop Elements and CS4 and CS3 and so on. I will also show you how to use the same technique to create a full Frame.

2. Why?

Mounts enhance the visual presentation of your images. Created with care, the eye is drawn to the image, and particular features within it. For example, a black Mount will stimulate the eye’s perception of light within the image. These are principles of composition just as much as the Rule of Thirds and The Top Left To Bottom Right Rule. For example, it is a composition principle that the visual experience is enhanced by a top and bottom mount on a Landscape image, but is not enhanced by adding a left and right Mount to a Portrait image. For example:

Doesn’t quite have the same effect does it? Don’t ask me why. And there’s another compositional rule to do with Mounts on Landscape images – the greater the width than the height of the image (eg Panoramas), the greater the visual enhancement is by adding a top and bottom Mount. For example:

Finally, another reason to consider a Mount concerns RB. Notice the watermark on the bottom right of the sample images? If you’re not happy with the way they interfere with the visual look of your image you can always adjust your Account Settings and turn it off, but adding a Mount actually makes it stand out. Now, I can hear the naysayers already clicking their hooves together and madly typing a comment to the effect that putting the watermark on the Mount just makes it easier to remove it after stealing your image by a simple crop, and harder to prove the image is yours. But remember also that if you have a clear gif over the image (an option in Account settings) it does not matter where the watermark is. And anyway, how many times do we see numbskulls lift images with watermarks and signatures intact!?

3. But ….

Yeh, there’s always a but. Actually there’s two. Firstly, RB discourages you from adding borders to your images because if someone buys a Framed Print, a pre-existing Mount can interfere with the visual effect of the Matte border, like so:

Personally, I couldn’t give a brass razoo about it because I last sold a Framed Print in 1932 or thereabouts. The issue only arises for Framed Prints, and its effect varies depending on the Print size, the Matte colour selected, and the shape and size of your image. On the other hand, adding a top and bottom Mount is one way of making your image “fit” the Postcard, Card, and Calendar templates, and can actually improve your Matte Print, Canvas Print, Poster, like so:

The second but is ink. Mounts, especially black ones, soak up a lot of ink in the printing process. No argument with that. The upside is that if it becomes an issue, all you need to do is remove the Mount.

4. How

I’ll firstly demonstrate how I added a top and bottom Mount to the waterfall photograph, then we’ll look at the options for a black & white Landscape image, and lastly we’ll look at how to add a complete Frame to an image. Oh, and by the way, the methods I am about to demonstrate are only one way of doing all 3. There are others. For example, the Nik Software Silver Efex Pro plug-in for Photoshop has an Add Borders function with 13 different preset Frames which can be widened or narrowed by click-and-drag. But not everyone has Nik Software Silver Efex Pro.

Step 1

Either open your already processed image or make the Mount process the very last step in processing, and leave some space around the image, like so:

Click on Image in the top horizontal toolbar. A drop-down menu should appear. Look for Canvas Size about half way down and click on it:

A new window should open and it should look something like this:

You’ll notice that the Width panel is already highlighted in blue. That’s a default upon opening the window. Ignore the highlight, but do notice that the Width is a higher number than the Height, as it should be with a Landscape proportioned image. These numbers are important if you want to know if your image will fit perfectly on, say, a Postcard, which on RB has a measurement of 150mm (Width) x 100mm (Height). You don’t have to match the actual measurements to your image’s Canvas Size in Photoshop. You just have to match the ratio, which in this case is 3:2. Hence, any image with a Width to Height ratio of greater than 3:2, for example 3:1.7, can accommodate a top and bottom mount to bring the ratio up to 3:2. Easy peasy. For now, however, we are ignoring end use and just focusing on how to create the Mount.

Step 2

With all my Mounts, I prefer to include a very narrow transition line of colour between my image and a black mount. The principle I adopt is this: determine the most dominant colour in the image and then apply a lighter version of that colour as the transition line. In this case it is green. To select it I need to click on the little square black box at the bottom of the Canvas Size window:

Another new window should open, and it should look something like this:

Just ignore all those numbers and focus on the narrow vertical rainbow-looking colour chart in the middle. Let’s click on the green part of the chart. This is what happens:

Notice the whole square pallet on the left has gone green and a slider has appeared on the chart. Forget the slider. We are only concerned with making a very thin transition line on the image, so its pointless being too pedantic about the exact tone. Instead, move the mouse to the area in the big green square pallet which has the tone that looks about right, then click. A circle should appear where you clicked, and the black square is now split between black and the tone of the green you selected, like so:

Notice also that back over in the Canvas Size window, the little black square is now showing the green you selected:

When you’re happy with the colour tone, click OK in the Select canvas extension colour window:

Now you should be left with just the Canvas Size window open. To add the thin green transition line across the top and bottom of the image, we need to increase the number showing in the Height panel from 18.14 to 18.16, ie by 0.02:

It is important to note that the width of the transition line has nothing to do with the height of the image. Thus, for this step we are ignoring the sizes and the ratios. I recommend always increasing your image Height by either 0.02 or 0.03, and certainly never more than 0.04. Remember, it needs to be subtle. So subtle, that after clicking OK in the Canvas Size window, it is very hard to see the line you’ve just created:

On my 27" iMac I can’t see the green line at the top, but can just make it out on the bottom. Cool.

Step 3

Now for the pissed resistance. The actual Mount. And for this colour image it’s going to be Black. And I mean really dark Black. First, you need to need to open the Canvas Size window again, by selecting Image then Canvas Size from the drop-down menu (see Step 1). The first thing you’ll notice when the Canvas Size window opens again is that it has remembered the last colour chosen:

We need to change that to Black, so click on Other and select Black, like so:

Notice there are only 3 options: White, Black, and Grey. This makes it easier to create Mounts for B&W images, because you are only using those combinations for your thin transition line and your Mount colour, ie Grey transition line and Black Mount, or Black transition line and Grey Mount (samples below).

So, after selecting Black, the Canvas Size window should look like this:

Since the Mount is going to be a lot thicker than the transition line, we’ll need to increase the Height this time by a bigger number. Here’s where you have to use your noggin. Think about it. You can create a perfect square image by increasing the Height to match the Width, ie increasing 18.16 to 25.38. But I don’t want a square look, I want to retain a Landscape look. I want to have a good chunk of Black though, so I will increase 18.16 by 4.00, to 22.16, like so:

Click OK and let the magic happen!

If you’re unsure or not happy with the Width of the Mount, simply click Edit and Undo Canvas Size and run through Step 3 again and try a different Height adjustment, only this time you won’t have to change the colour as it will have Black as the default.

Black & White Images

The difference in the above steps to creating a Mount for a B&W image is that you don’t need to do Step 2. All you have to do is decide whether your B&W masterpiece is visually enhanced by a Grey Mount or a Black Mount and choose the alternate colour for the transition line accordingly. Sometimes this choice is obvious, but other times it is not. For example:


I guess it depends on the extent of grey and black already in the image. For example, the decision might be a lot easier if either the grey or the black dominates:


Then again, I might be just pissing in the wind. It may just be personal preference and/or the particular attributes of the image. Anyway, you get the drift.

Full Frames

As I mentioned, a left and right set of Mounts is rarely a good look, if ever, and sometimes you need a full Frame as a Mount. The steps are exactly the same as I’ve described except you increase the size of the Width and the Height and, normally, by the same amount (to give you a Frame of consistent width around the image). For example, at Step 3 for a colour image, the increase in the Canvas Size for the transition line of 0.02 might be from this:

to this:

And then the Mount itself might be an increase of 2.0 to both Width and Height, to this:

to produce something akin to this:

Concluding remarks

If you want to try the methods I’ve demonstrated here, I’m pretty confident that once you’ve done it once or twice it is dead easy to remember. By the way, if you’ve spotted any mistakes or have an issue with anything I’ve said, my standard policy is to ask that you send me a bmail instead of making your point in a Comment. I will then take the issue into account and amend the Guide if necessary. My apologies for the prominent Copyright Warning but it’s become necessary as my Journals are being copied and re-published without my permission. This is actually the last freely-available Guide I will be publishing on RB. You can find a list of all my Guides here.



  1. 14/11/12 – Journal originally published

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