A Guide to Double Matting

Written by Mark Rogers

Like delicate pin striping on a race car or elegant piping on a jacket, a thin line can make a beautiful statement. Double-matting basically does the same thing for art. In fact, double-matting can launch your art to the next level in terms of drawing viewers in.

Before you say, “Mark, that sounds like a stretch,” hear me out. Yes, a single mat will take that first step in tying the frame and art together into a cohesive whole. But a double mat goes an extra step by guiding the flow of vision from the outer frame to the inner mat to the artwork itself — with more impact than a single mat.

First, a Little Math

When double matting, you’re placing one mat on top of another within a frame. The top mat has a slightly larger opening, or window, than the bottom mat, allowing a small border of the bottom mat to show around the image. We call this border the “reveal.”

The offset dimension is what determines how much of the reveal will be visible. The most common option is ¼ inch. This means that the window opening in the top mat will equal the exact window opening in the bottom mat, plus the offset on both sides. For example, let's say the window opening of the bottom mat is 4½ inches by 6½ inches. With the ¼-inch offset applied (on all four sides), the window opening of the top mat will be 5 inches by 7 inches.

Picking Your Palette

Playing with colors is the fun part of double matting. Let’s talk about several ways you can go.

Discreet Distinction: If you like a subtly layered look, you can choose two mats of similar shades. Suppose you have a black-and-white portrait of your family that you’d like to frame. You can elevate the look of the frame package by double matting with dual preservation-quality mat boards — the top outer mat in Soft White and the bottom inner mat in Antique Gray. In this case, the resulting reveal will be evident, but in a soft, sophisticated way.

Bold and Bright: If you’re framing cartoon art, children’s drawings, or sports ticket stubs, deeply pigmented mats in a choice of vivid colors are a perfect option. Select hues from the artwork, or use your school or team colors for sports memorabilia or diplomas. Our mats are available in red, orange, yellow, pink, aqua, purple, blue, black, and white. Some even come with an alternate color core — for example, white with a blue core and black with a yellow core — giving you the opportunity to slip a third or fourth color into your matting.

Just a Pop, Please: Maybe you’d rather not risk clashing with multiple mat colors. We get it. You can achieve a small border of brightness by combining a vivid bottom mat with a neutral top mat. Shades of white, black, navy, or grey typically coordinate well with pretty much any other color.

Metal Mania: If you’re framing modern, abstract art, or you’re trying to complement urban, industrial decor, “etched metal” mat boards give you subtle texture and a hint of shimmer without taking away from the artwork. You could double mat with Gunmetal as your top mat and Brushed Brass as your bottom reveal mat. Another approach is pairing an etched metal bottom mat with an 8-ply museum mat in Antique White or another neutral shade.

Double the Fun

As you can see, double matting is an easy, affordable way to add a little panache to your painting or print. Frame Destination’s custom framing allows you to design your complete framing package — from mats to glazing to frame, guiding you as you go. Feel free to reach out directly with any questions. Our Customer Service department is available via phone at 972-479-1188, email (info@framedestination.com), and live chat on our website during business hours.

Happy framing!

Last updated July 10, 2023