How to attach labels to the wall

Received this question from Tina Cremer: "What is the best method to firmly attach the labels to the wall, yet not remove a chunk of wall when the labels are removed?"

Tina, when I worked in the museums, we honest to goodness used lots of rolled up masking tape on the back of our labels. And they lasted for the duration of our exhibits.

By the way, I mentioned this in a previous comment, but it seems important to do so here as well. I've seen labels printed on clear mailing labels, which never look good on the wall. The uneven wall texture (walls are rarely perfectly smooth) seeps through the label unevenly
and gives the label a strange multi-colored surface.

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27 thoughts on “How to attach labels to the wall”

  1. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Christine: We mostly used Museum Wax for the bottoms of 3-D pieces. Might be able to Google it or find it through a museum supply source. (I’ll post if I can think of one.)

  2. In the gallery I worked at we used masking tape (actually framers tape) too. It was fine. 🙂 To avoid the label issue we actually just printed on a heavy card and cut it – or paper and spray-mounted it to foamboard. That gave a slight 3D effect to tags that I personally liked. And the owner did get that museum wax/gel stuff recently. It’s pretty cool and prevents slippage and the quick-handed shoplifters at least. (He shows a lot of functional glass and ceramics.) A Google search for “museum gel” brought up quite a lot of sources for me.

  3. Alyson The quickest, cleanest method for displaying painting labels is to drop a piece of clear tape, sticky side out, from the back of the frame. Allow four to five inches of drop. Press the label on the tape. Don’t put label on tape first, you’ll never get it straight. You won’t leave residue on the walls, and if you suddenly decided to shift paintings in the exhibition, the label goes with them! The disadvantage is that your labels will be at different heights. A reminder if you use masking tape rolls: they should be placed with the open ends at top and bottom, otherwise, they ‘roll’ down the wall and the labels tilt. ;-] Annette

  4. I print labels on pre-cut business card stock that you can get at any office supply place. I attach them to the wall with Fun-Tak/blue putty. I think it’s also sold as earthquake putty in some areas.

  5. For my recent studio opening, I used double-sided Bic tape. It comes in an easy-to-use dispenser. I noticed the same tape on the back of labels from a recent gallery show, so it must last for at least a month (the duration of the show).

  6. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Annette: I can’t really visualize your solution and can’t say that I like using clear tape hanging from a frame. Any time we put something like tape on the frame, we’re showing people that it’s okay and not treating the work at a museum-standard level. It also doesn’t work with large works. As for the blue putty: If you all are talking about the stuff that Elmer’s makes, it leaves a blue mark whenever I use it and has taken off parts of my wall. Perhaps it has been improved. There used to be a white one as well, but I can no longer find it.

  7. Making Labels: Laser-printed label copy on nice cotton paper. Adhered printed label copy to matboard with “3M Double-sided Self-stick Mounting Roll” Cut out with mat-cutter. Mounting Labels Used “3M Scotch Double-sided Removable Poster Tape” on backside of label. Does not leave residue, does not take paint off wall, readjustable, but also stays up for at least 10+ weeks at a time. Mounted bottom of label at 48 inches from the floor (for artwork hung at 60 inches centered).

  8. Nice post, Alyson. And the comments are helpful, too. I’m going to refer my Quilting and Patchwork readers here in case they’ve had problems putting up some of their fabric art and labels.

  9. Alyson, the tape is attached to the BACK of the frame and hangs flat against the wall, sticky side out — the label is then stuck onto the tape. The tape really doesn’t show. No, it won’t work for large pieces nor in a proper museum show with measurement requirements, but I have used it satisfactorily for more than 25 years in many situations. Annette

  10. The clear mounting squares works perfectly for posting lightweight cards next to paintings. Anything heavier will not work with the mounting squares. I think they are made by 3M….they are easy to use and stick for the duration needed. You can find them at any Michael’s, Aaron Brothers or any Art Supply Store.

  11. For my photography (this may not work for other media), I print on pre-scored business card stock (in gray ink so it’s less visually distracting). Then I slip the card into the lower right corner of the picture frame so it’s in front of the mat but not the photo. Acrylic is “grabbier” than glass, so for acrylic glazing, I use a piece of wax paper to help position the card, then I remove the wax paper. This method ensures the card always stays with the photo, and I never have to worry if they’re straight or even or reposition them if I rearrange my work.

  12. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Dede and Annette: Thanks for the additional resources. John: I still don’t like to see labels on the acrylic or glass. It looks more “retail-y,” which is okay in some situations, but I think we need to treat the art as FINE art and then others will do the same. Marina: I’m sorry, but I have no idea. If I find a resource, I’ll post it on the blog. Anyone?

  13. I need to install art and label for permanent art exhibit at public library. How can I install labels? Put them on plexiglass and nail (screw) in. What type of glass/plastic or nails? Can anyone help?

  14. For wall display labels for my paintings, I print several labels on 8 1/2 x 11 sticky back label sheets (available at Staples etc.), then mount the whole sheet on an 8 1/2 x 11 foam board. Then cut the individual labels on the foam board with an exacto knife and straight edge. With 2 or 4 of the little 3M foam double stick mounting squares the back, this makes an attractive and easily movable wall label, with the 3-D look of the foam. They are also re-usable, rigid and I can stick the label right on the back of the painting for moving and/or storing the paintings. So far no sign of wall damage. Hope this is of help to someone out there.

  15. Yes, that’s the way you should stick those labels. Whenever possible keep the rolled up masking tape as flat as possible, meaning stick it firmly on the surface and on the object, to avoid it flopping down the wall.

  16. Look at this, Alyson…your blog post on labels is still useful! I will be installing my first exhibit next month and had no idea how I was going to deal with the labels. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  17. I owned a gallery for almost four years, and masking tape is also what I used for labels. I have tried various other kinds of tape, and yes, even that re-usable putty in blue or white. I will never use putty again. It is hard to get off of the wall, especially when the surface is uneven. It also tends to harden over time, making it even harder to remove. I’m with Alyson: masking tape.

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