White Mat Boards for Picture Frames: Understanding the Differences in Color

One of the most common framing questions we get is how to tell the difference between white mat boards we sell. In this post, I’ll explain the basic differences between the and provide suggestions as to what types of art look best with each color of white mat board.

Artists and DIY picture framers use white mat boards for many different reasons such as gallery and museum requirements and the type of artwork being framed.  Wondering "Which white should I use?" is a common question. Many artists assume that matching a white mat board with your art is easier than matching your art with a colored mat board, but both can be a tricky process.

If you decide to go with a white mat board, the next question is often “What COLOR of white mat board?” In the framing world, white is definitely not just standard printer paper white.

(Very) Basic Color Theory

COLOR is a broad concept that includes three components: Tonal value (degree of lightness or darkness), the hue (innate or actual color), and the saturation (intensity). Looking at a color wheel, you can see that HUES are the 12 purest and brightest colors and that the spectrum runs clockwise from warm to cool.

Frame Destination - Color Wheel

What Color Is White?

Notice that white is not included on the color wheel; this is because white is achromatic, or a color without chroma or hue. As you can see from the collage of “white” objects below though, few things are absolutely pure white. This is especially the case with white mat board, which tends to be either a cool or warm white.

Frame Destination - Collage of Shades of White

What Colors of White Mat Board Does Frame Destination Sell?

Frame Destination sells four brands of mat board – Papermat, Alphamat, Alpharag, and Crescent. Each brand offers several different whites. I have listed all of the true whites that we carry for each brand below and provided a brief color description. Please note that it’s always best to get samples due to the color calibration differences in monitors. This list, however, should provide a basic idea of which ones might work best with your art so you can request the appropriate samples.

Papermat – WC 4Ply  

  • 222 (Smooth White) – bright, cool white
  • 097 (Polar White) - slightly warmer than the 222 – Smooth White
  • 251 (Antique White) - warmest of three whites, similar to cream

Bainbridge Alphamat 4Ply

  • 8463 (Spanish White) - bright, cool white
  • 8519 (Snowflake White) - bright, warm white
  • 8313 (Snowflake White, Black Core) – cool white, slight blue/gray cast due to the black core
  • 8464 (Matte White) – slightly warmer than the 8463 – Spanish White
  • 8559 (Photo White) - warm, slightly off-white

Bainbridge Alpharag 4Ply

  • 8655 (Pure White) - bright, cool white
  • 8634 (White) – bright, warm white
  • 8647 (Pearl White) – warm, off-white

Bainbridge Alpharag 8Ply

  • 8653 (Pure White) - bright, cool white
  • 8660 (White) – bright, warm white
  • 8647 (Pearl White) – warm, off-white

Crescent Select 4Ply

  • 9500 (White Glove) - bright, warm, creamy white
  • 9613 (Super White) - bright, cool white
  • 9505 (White Wash) - neutral, warm, off-white
  • 9506 (Egg White) - warm, off-white
  • 9804 (Pure White) - bright, warm white
  • 9800 (Bakers White) - neutral, off-white
  • 9801 (Chalk) - bright, warm white

Crescent 4Ply RagMat Museum

  • 1170 (Cool White) - cool to neutral, off-white
  • 2253 (White) - bright, warm, creamy white
  • 1126 (Sand Dollar) - warm, creamy white, slightly darker the 2253 (White)
  • 1112 (Soft White) - warm, yellow white

Crescent Select Conservation Solid 8Ply

  • 25700 (Vivid White) - bright, cool white

Crescent 8Ply Rag Mat Museum

  • 2238 (White) – bright, cool white
  • 21126 (Sand Dollar) – bright, warm white
  • 21112 (Soft White) - warm, light yellow white
  • 2239 (Antique White) - warm, yellow white

Which Color of White Mat Board Is Right for My Art?

This is another frequent question from our customers. As a general rule, I tell customers that black and white photographs, floral art, and artwork with heavy or bright saturated colors tend to look best with bright to neutral white mat boards. Sepia-toned photos, beach and/or autumn scenes, or any image with a strong yellow undertone usually calls for a warm, off-white, creamy, or yellowish mat board. Remember, the final choice is always up to you!

For this post, I came up with a couple of white mat board pairing ideas for the images below. Keep in mind these are guidelines only. If you are in doubt about what color mat board you need, please contact us and/or order samples.

B&W Image

Frame Destination - Black and White Picture

Suggested White Mat Boards:

  • Papermat – WC 4Ply - Smooth White (222)
  • Bainbridge Alphamat 4Ply - Spanish White (8463)and Snowflake White with Black Core (8313)
  • Bainbridge Alpharag 4Ply/8Ply - Pure White (8655/8653)
  • Crescent Select 4Ply - Super White (9613) and Bakers White (9800)
  • Crescent Select Conservation Solid 8Ply - Vivid White (25700)
  • Crescent 8Ply Rag Mat Museum - White (2238)

 

Saturated and/or Bright Colors

Bright Color Picture

Suggested White Mat Boards:

  • Papermat – WC 4Ply - Smooth White (222) and Polar White (097)
  • Bainbridge Alphamat 4Ply - Spanish White (8463) and Snowflake White (8519)
  • Bainbridge Alpharag 4Ply/8Ply - Pure White (8655/8653) and White (8634/8660)
  • Crescent Select 4Ply - Super White (9613) and Bakers White (9800)
  • Crescent Select Conservation Solid 8Ply - Vivid White (25700)
  • Crescent 8Ply Rag Mat Museum - White (2238) and Sand Dollar (21126)

 

Sepia and Warm/Yellow-Toned Images

Yellow Tone Image

Suggested White Mat Boards:

  • Papermat – WC 4Ply - Antique White (251) and Polar White (097)
  • Bainbridge Alphamat 4Ply - Matte White (8464) and Photo White (8559)
  • Bainbridge Alpharag 4Ply/8Ply - Pearl White (8647)
  • Crescent Select 4Ply - Egg White (9506) and Pure White (9804)
  • Crescent 4Ply RagMat Museum - Sand Dollar (1126) and White (2253)
  • Crescent 8Ply Rag Mat Museum - Soft White (21112) and Antique White (2239)

 

Nature Images with a Greenish Tint 

Neutral Colored Photo

Suggested White Mat Boards:

  • Papermat – WC 4Ply - Polar White (097) and Antique White (251)
  • Bainbridge Alphamat 4Ply - Matte White (8464) and Photo White (8559)
  • Bainbridge Alpharag 4Ply/8Ply - Pearl White (8647)
  • Crescent Select 4Ply - Egg White (9506), Pure White (9804), and Bakers White (9800)
  • Crescent 4Ply RagMat Museum - Sand Dollar (1126) and White (2253)
  • Crescent 8Ply Rag Mat Museum - White (2238), Soft White (21112), and Antique White (2239)
  • Crescent Select Conservation Solid 8Ply - Vivid White (25700), depends on the shade of green

 

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