Understanding the Types of Picture Frame Mat Boards

Written by Mark Rogers

When framing a picture, you may opt to include a matboard. The main reason to do this extends beyond aesthetics. In fact, when using a high quality mat board, it is possible to protect your picture or artwork from being discolored by the acidic properties of a wood frame or from external factors, including the wall the frame is being hung on. The mat creates a buffered border that prevents acid from destroying what you are trying to protect.

Frame Destination carries three types of mat boards to give you the desired color, price and properties for your framing project. Each of these mat boards has specific properties that make them more desirable. Take a look at each one before making a decision about which is right for you and your next custom picture framing project.

  1. Rag Mat Board

  2. The highest quality mat board you can purchase is made from cotton. It is typical for any mat boards made from cotton to be called ‘rag.’ It is the same term used when talking about paper documents or even the paper used for making money. Rag is extremely durable and will stand the test of time by blocking all acid from getting to the picture.

    The board consists of separate plies of rag board, all dyed to the color you choose. The colors available are somewhat limited and the pricing is higher than any other mat board, but it is a fair tradeoff to have the kind of mat board used in the finest museums. All rag mat boards are considered conservation quality and will best protect your framed art or photos.

    These mats can consist of 4, 6 and 8 plies, making a thickness that ranges from 1/16 inch to 1/8 inch. Frame Destination carries rag mat board from Bainbridge (AlphaRag) and Crescent (RagMat).

  3. AlphaMat Mat Board

  4. Museums also sometimes use the AlphaMat mat board because it consists of cellulose perfect for archival framing. Cellulose is a less expensive mat board than rag but has all of the same beneficial properties. In addition, cellulose can provide more color options for inside your frame.

    When looking at cellulose mat boards, you will notice they are described as 4-ply. Keep in mind this does not indicate there are four layers of mat board. Instead, it indicates the approximate thickness of the mat board. There are no choices in thickness for this type of mat board – the depth of these mats at Frame Destination is 1/16 inch – but it is still a museum quality board that will endure for as long as you need it.

  5. Papermat Mat Board

  6. Paper mat boards are the least expensive of all the mat boards, but they also do the least to protect your pictures over time. These boards are treated with calcium carbonate to neutralize the acidity of the wood pulp used to make the mat. The problem is that this buffer will deteriorate over time, and the acidity of the wood in the paper mat will eventually damage the picture. These mat boards are recommended for temporary framing and should only be used for a period of up to five years.

    Papermat comes in a variety of colors – from bright and bold, to subdued and neutral – making it a good choice for home décor (as long as it’s changed according to the commendations). Frame Destination carries Papermat mat boards with a soft cream core or a crisp white core.

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