Frame Destination
| Need Help? Contact Us

MatBoard Types for Picture Frames

There are three components typically used to manufacture mat board, and we offer all three types:

Cotton Rag matboard Bainbridge 8-Ply Artcare™ AlphaRag Mat Board
Crescent RagMat® Museum 8-Ply Mat Board
Bainbridge 4-Ply Artcare™ AlphaRag Mat Board

Alpha Cellulose matboard Bainbridge Artcare™ Alphamat Mat Board

Wood pulp (Paper) matboard Papermat Mat Board - white core
Papermat Mat Board - cream core

MatBoard Types Explained

Cotton Rag Matboard

Mat board made of cotton is typically referred to as "rag" board and is composed of separate plies of cotton board dyed for color and layered together in 2, 4, or 8 ply. The best picture framing mat you can buy is 8-ply rag matboard. It is museum quality for very long term conservation matting, and is naturally inert and acid free. The 8-ply rag mat board has the added advantage of being exceptionally thick with a resulting bevel of 1/4 inch, which helps add considerable depth to the picture framing package. High quality cotton rag boards often have much smaller color selection since they are manufactured with dyes that are less likely to introduce harmful components into the frame package. This applies to all Bainbridge rag board and all Crescent RagMat® Museum rag, both of which we carry.

  • Attributes - acid-free; may be buffered and/or lignin-free
  • Core Color - the core color of rag mat board is the same as the mat’s exterior color
  • Thickness - the 2-ply is 1/32 of an inch thick, the 4-ply is 1/16 of an inch thick and the 8-ply is 1/8 of an inch thick
  • Cost - Premium

We Offer:

  • Bainbridge Artcare™ Alpharag Matboard
    A true museum quality matboard with the highest quality and highest grade of archival image preservation that money can buy. It is acid-free and has been treated with the Bainbridge Artcare™ process which proactively traps and neutralizes pollutants and acid by-products that can damage artwork.

    Bainbridge Alpharag Features:
    • 100% cotton rag
    • Available in 4-ply (1/16 inch thick) and 8-ply (1/8 inch thick)
    • Solid color throughout - from surface to bevel
    • Includes Artcare™ Archival-Plus protection
    • Acid Free and Lignin Free
    • Fade and bleed resistant
    • Buffered to maintain alkaline pH
    • Passes the Photographic Activity Test
    • Meets and exceeds ANSI/NISO A39.48-1992 Regulations for paper permanence
  • Crescent 8-Ply RagMat® Museum Matboard
    A solid core mat board composed of eight plies of cotton with superior strength and rigidity. It has a consistent color throughout, including the bevel. This RagMat® provides a beautiful deep bevel that adds depth to the picture frame. Recommended for valuable works of original art, rare and antique documents, fine art prints, limited edition prints, and photographs.

    Crescent 8-Ply RagMat® Museum Features:
    • 100% cotton rag
    • Available in 8-ply (1/8 inch thick)
    • Solid color throughout - from surface to bevel
    • Acid Free and Lignin Free
    • Fade and bleed resistant
    • Buffered to maintain alkaline pH
    • Meets all museum and conservation standards set by F.A.T.G.

Alpha Cellulose Matboard

Mat board composed of alpha-cellulose fiber meets the most stringent standards for stability and permanence. They are naturally inert (acid free) and may or may not be buffered. If possible, you want the matboard to be buffered because this allows the mat board to absorb harmful acidic components from within the frame environment (such as a wood frame which is very acidic). Alpha cellulose mat boards are not composed of separate plies, but will often be referred to as 2-ply, 4-ply, and 8-ply to give a relative indication of their approximate thickness.

  • Attributes - acid-free; may be buffered and/or lignin-free
  • Core Color - typically white or cream-colored, sometimes black or gray
  • Thickness - the 4-ply is 1/16 of an inch thick
  • Cost - Moderate

We Offer:

  • Bainbridge Artcare™ Alphamat Matboard
    A museum quality matboard that is a great choice for conservation matting. It is naturally inert, acid-free, and features the Bainbridge Artcare™ Archival System with MicroChamber® technology. This Artcare treatment allows it to actively protect the image from airborne pollutants and acid by-products within the picture frame. Guaranteed color consistency and recommended for valuable works of original art, rare and antique documents, fine art prints, limited edition prints, and photographs.

    Bainbridge Alphamat Features:
    • Made of Alpha Cellulose
    • Available in 4-ply (1/16 inch thick)
    • White core; some colors have a black or gray core
    • Includes Artcare™ Archival-Plus protection
    • Acid Free and Lignin Free
    • Fade and bleed resistant
    • Buffered to maintain alkaline pH of 3-5% per ANSI IT9.2-1991 Sec 5.2
    • Meets and exceeds FACTS Guide for Permanence in Mat and Mounting Boards

Wood Pulp (Paper) Matboard

Matboard that is inexpensive and generally considered a temporary solution for framing items that do not require any conservation measures or archival framing. Papermat is not recommended if you want the artwork to last more than five years without showing signs of deterioration. Paper mat boards are not made of separate plies but will often be referred to as 4-ply to give a relative indication of their approximate thickness.

  • Attributes - naturally acidic, but can be buffered with calcium carbonate to temporarily shift the pH balance to alkaline
  • Core Color - typically white or cream-colored
  • Thickness - the 4-ply is approximately 1/16 of an inch thick
  • Cost - Inexpensive

We Offer:

  • Papermat Matboard
    A cost-effective matboard for non-conservation general and decorative framing. Our Papermat comes in a wide variety of colors and we offer both a white and cream core. It is recommended for non-conservation decorative picture framing and general presentations, open-end reproductions, posters, and decorative art.

    Papermat Features
    • Made of Wood Pulp
    • Available in 4-ply, 1/16 inch thick
    • White or cream-colored core
    • Cost effective
    • Buffered to an initial acid-free alkaline reserve of 3-5%
    • Great for decorative framing

Other Useful Information

Buffered versus Non-Buffered
Buffering is a process where calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate is added to mat board to make it more alkaline and therefore more likely to absorb acids and other environmental pollutants. Although the vast majority of framing mat and mount boards are buffered, a small selection of types and colors are available "unbuffered". This is for a handful of much less common acid photographic printing processes such as Cyano and dye transfer which can react to the buffering.

Zeolite Molecular Traps
Some types of prints are believed to be more susceptible to fading from environmental pollutants than they are from UV light. An excellent protection is a coating of zeolite molecular traps, which allow the mat board to absorb harmful environmental pollutants. Bainbridge is the only mat board manufacturer with this technology and they market it as treated with "Artcare™". Due to patent restrictions, no other company can use this technology. In a few years this patent will expire and you may see the technology picked up by other companies. The Artcare™ process also helps increase the time it takes for the mat board to become contaminated.

Global Mat Board Options
Bainbridge and Crescent are two of the largest and most common mat board manufacturers. Most custom frame shops around the country will offer a selection of mat boards from both of these companies. Most companies have many different levels of products from the 100% cotton rag board that is purified, colored with archival dye, buffered and treated with zeolites, all the way down to laminated paper mat board for decorative use. At the lowest level of paper mat board, there will be inconsistencies in the color of the core and the thickness. The least expensive mat boards are just a little thinner (less material) with no option for white core or black core.