Understanding Mat Board Types

When framing a picture, you may opt to include a mat board. 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. There are three main types of mat boards you can choose from Frame Destination: AlphaRag, AlphaMat and Paper Mat. 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.

AlphaRag

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 mat board typesor 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. These mats can consist of 4, 6 and 8 plies, making a thickness that ranges from 1/16th of an inch to 1/8th of an inch.

AlphaMat

Museums also choose the AlphaMat 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. The depth of these mats at Frame Destination is 1/16th of an inch. 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, but it is still a museum quality board that will endure for as long as you need it.

Paper Mat

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 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. After this time, you can either change out the mat board or upgrade to a museum quality mat board.

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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