Designing Custom Mat Boards

After spending quite a bit of time mulling over the choice of picture frame, the decision-making seems to be over—until you get to the mat board. While it’s certainly fine to choose the standard white or cream mat board, you can create a truly striking visual effect with the right color and style.

Customizing mat boards involves not only the selection of mat board type, including temporary or archival, but the color and number of mat boards, as well as the size of the window opening—or if there is one at all.

When Not to Use a Mat Board

While not a requirement in a picture frame package, mat board offers protection along with its visual appeal by ensuring the artwork does not touch the glazing. However, some artwork, such as posters or large prints, may be more attractive without mat board, especially if there is a lot of white space at the borders.

Easily reproducible prints or posters can be framed without a mat board and no extra items. With original or more precious artwork, you should use picture frame spacers to ensure the glazing does not touch the artwork and cause damage.

Using Single Mats

A single mat board means that only one mat board will be used in the complete frame package. This is the standard style and, when white, the format preferred by most art galleries. To customize a single mat board, you simply need to select the artwork overlap, which defines how much of the artwork the mat board will cover. Mat board typically overlaps each side of the artwork by 1/4-inch, but this size can be customized from nearly one full inch to no overlap at all.

A single mat board complements black and white photographs, family photos, bridal portraits and many styles of prints, ranging from minimalistic to detailed work. Smaller sized artwork also looks more elegant with single mats, as any more can appear too busy and take the focus away from the artwork.

Using Double Mats

Double mats—in which two mat boards, one with a larger opening, are layered over each other—make a statement, providing an extra pop of color with a strong border around artwork. Double mat boards can be customized when ordering a custom picture frame by choosing the color and the “offset,” or how much of the bottom mat will show—this will be how wide the border around the image appears. At Frame Destination, the offset can range from as small as 1/6 to as large as four inches, depending on the size of the frame.

Double mats can also be used with portraits and prints, but it also looks particularly elegant when framing documents such as diplomas or certificates—using a complementary color—or even flat multimedia items that would benefit from a defined border.

Using Triple Mats

Triple mats create an even more striking appearance, especially when using colors that complement colors in the artwork. To create a triple mat, you simply select two offset sizes, which determine the sizes of the two borders. The offset sizes do not have to be the same; in fact, different widths can create a greater sense of depth.

The colors in a triple mat are particularly important, since it can easily detract from the artwork. Many framers will select only two colors for the mat board, using one for both the top and bottom mat, and using a second complementary color for the middle. There are no rules, however—using the online frame shop, you can play around with the mat boards to design a color scheme that works.

Triple mats are best used with larger frames, but just like double mats, they can be used with a variety of art to create a more complete look.

Changing the Window Opening Size

Frame Destination also offers the option to cut a mat board window opening larger than the artwork by choosing a negative number as the artwork overlap, which determines how much space will be between the edges of the image and the mat board. This allows the entire piece of artwork to be in view, which is useful when framing artwork with a signature you would like to display.

A larger window opening can also be used when float mounting artwork. When float mounting, an uncut mat board, called a blank mat, is used to mount the artwork, which then appears to float within the frame. The mat board with the opening can be the same color as the uncut mat board (used as the mount board), or it can be a different color to create an effect.

Mat boards are just one piece of the framing puzzle, but they can have a big impact on what the picture looks like when it’s all put together.

About the author

author

Mark Rogers is an amateur photographer and the founder of Frame Destination, Inc. In 2004 Mark realized the framing industry was not keeping up with the evolution of photography via new digital technology and started Frame Destination in his garage. Now his company has thousands of do-it-yourself framing customers across the US that it helps with its 11,000 square feet production facility in Dallas, TX.

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