What’s the Difference Between Mat Board, Mount Board and Foam Core?

Most people are familiar with the basic components of a framing package, including the frame itself and the glazing. But there’s more to it than that: namely the mat board and mount board, sometimes referred to as foam core. While they both have the appearance of sheets of paper, they serve different purposes.

What Is Mat Board?

  • Purpose of Mat Board
  • Not only does mat board separate the artwork from the glass or acrylic glazing by providing a barrier to protect and preserve it, it also provides an aesthetically pleasing border. Mat boards are most commonly in shades of white or cream, but they are available in a variety of colors such as rich hues and pastels to complement a variety of art.

  • Where It Belongs
  • Mat board sits just below the glazing in the framing package and on top of the artwork or photograph itself. It features a cutout, often rectangular but sometimes circular or other shapes, to display the artwork underneath it.

  • Mat Board Materials
  • Mat board is made with a number of different materials, all affecting its archival abilities. Some archival mat board is made of cotton rag, but have wood-based face papers; other cotton rag mat board features no face papers, providing museum-quality protection. Materials also include alpha-cellulose, a processed paper-based material that is considered archival but not museum quality, and wood pulp, which is suited for temporary framing.

    Dyed mat boards (i.e. mat boards that are not cream or white) are often not museum-quality, as the dye used can sometimes negatively affect the artwork.

  • Other Uses for Mat Board
  • Mat board, in general terms, is a high-quality paper product that is easily cut — this makes it an ideal material for scrapbooking and other paper-based craft projects where quality is important.

What Is Mount Board?

  • Purpose of Mount Board
  • Much like mat board, it serves to protect a framed photograph or piece of artwork by providing a rigid, sturdy backing to keep photographs and artwork from moving or warping in the frame.

  • Where It Belongs
  • The location of mount board is basically the opposite of mat board. Instead of sitting on top of the artwork, it sits behind it. The artwork is attached to the mount board, which is against the back of the frame, with hinging tape or other adhesives.

  • Mount Board Materials
  • Unlike mat board, mount board is generally made of foam — often polystyrene — with a smooth, sometimes paper-based, face on either side. Some mounting boards do not use foam, such as the Artcare AlphaRag cotton mounting board, in order to increase its ability to preserve the artwork.

  • Other Uses for Mount Board
  • Mount board is also used for presentations and other display purposes, especially those that have integrated adhesive properties like the Fome-Core® Self-Adhesive mounting boards. With these mount boards, no other adhesive is required to create a display.

So What Is Foam Core?

Mount board goes by many names, including mounting board, backing board, foam board and foam core. Foam core describes exactly what a mounting board is: a substrate with a core made of foam. Foam core is no different than most other mounting boards — it’s all the same type of product.

With so many “boards,” it can be confusing to know just what you’re looking for when assembling a complete framing package. Mat board and mount board (or foam core) may be similar in name and serve to protect your artwork, but they’re used in very different ways.

About the 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.

2 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between Mat Board, Mount Board and Foam Core?”

  • Tom Farnie

    As a former professional picture framer with more than 2 decades in the trade, I'd like to say it was an accurate and informative article.

    Perhaps a follow up article on the common types of mounting a photograph or work of art would be interesting to folks? Dry mounting // wet mounting // hinging // museum mounting // etc.

    Maybe some info on glazing? 'A' single // 'B' single // non glare // vacuum glass // styrene // etc.

    Best regards,

    Tom Farnie


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