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

Written by Mark Rogers

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. (The latter is sometimes called foam core.) Although mat board and mount board both look like thick 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 you can get them in a variety of 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, or mat window opening, to display the artwork underneath it. The cutout is often rectangular but sometimes circular or other shapes.

    • Mat Board Materials

Mat board can be constructed from a number of different materials, all affecting the mat’s 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 suitable 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, mount board 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, like the Artcare AlphaRag cotton mounting board, do not use foam in order to enhance the 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 Encore® Foam Board mounting boards. With these mount boards, no other adhesive is required to create a display. If you’re framing a three-dimensional item like pressed flowers, 3/16 inch foamcore board is a good choice. For something heavier than flowers, you may need a thicker or stronger mount board like Gatorfoam®.

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.

If you go to our site and choose to “Customize a Frame” or "Build It", you will walk through the easy step-by-step process of choosing a frame, a mat board, glazing (glass or acrylic), backing, and anything else you might need as part of your framing package. Our customer service team is also available to help you from start to finish via email ([email protected]), phone (972-479-1188) or live chat on our website as you're building.

Last Updated November 2, 2020

Share This

14 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

  • Jodie

    I'm new to collecting art and framing. I was using the cardboard backers with attached hangers provided with the smaller frames, but I realized that cardboard is acidic and shouldn't be touching my artwork. I'm in the process of adding wire hanging kits to all my frames and buying backer boards, so the cardboard backers can be trashed.

    Regarding the foam core backer boards, I was told that the front and back surfaces are acid free, but not the foam in the middle. Is it okay to use these backer boards? Or would it be better to buy 100% acid free 4 ply paper mat boards with no cut in the middle? And if I was working with 4 ply mat boards (and some backer boards are 4 ply), can I stack them together if I need a thicker backer? Or would multiple layers potentially cause issues?

    Also, is it necessary to put a backer board behind a canvas panel? Canvas panels seem to be fairly sturdy on their own, but because they're technically a paper product that can potentially warp, I was wondering if a backer board may reduce the risk of warping. Right now, I have several in just frame shells without glazing or backer boards.


    • Mark Rogers

      Jodie, we have two levels of foamboard, acid free and artcare acid free that provides a little more protection. What you need depends on how archival you want to get. If you do want to provide additional barrier between the print and the foam you will want to use 100% cotton rag mat board which is naturally inert. Since it would just be a barrier you can save money by getting 2-ply instead of regular 4-ply.

      We sell it on our website under mounting products since it is too thin to be used as a traditional mat board.

      In regards to the canvas panel it is probably already stiffer than the foamboard which can warp on its own, however, white acid free foamboard would help protect the back and provide a clean look. A solid frame will be the main thing keeping it straight and the foamboard could provide protection between the clips or points on the frame and the back of the canvas panel. Wood frames are also acidic so you might consider sealing the inside with this tape:


  • Cathy

    I have pressed flowers from my daughter's wedding bouquet. I want to frame them. What type of board or paper would I need? The project will be 16 x 20.



    • Mark Rogers

      3/16 inch foamcore board is the most common board for framing. Sometimes something thicker or stronger like gatorboard is required, but I doubt flowers would fall into that category.

  • Peter Gerardi

    Hello, Mark
    I am framing a very expensive Boston Red Sox Autographed Jersey. I need a foam board 24"x34"x3/16" in color red. Do you have this available for purchase? What would you recommend. Thanks for your help, Mark.

    Brooklyn, CT 06234

  • Temi

    Hi Mark,

    I'm looking to frame a bunch of polaroid pictures. Can I use a foamcore board as an alternative to the matboard (the frame I'm looking to make is really big, 72x36, and I can't find affordable matboards in that size). I'll need to make several holes into the board, and I'm wondering if I'll see the foam-core in the holes made for the pictures if I do so. I'd prefer not.

    Also, if I use a foamcore board as an alternative to the matboard, I'm not sure what to use as a backing board in that case. I'm using a clear acrylic sheet instead of glass (again, for affordability), so in all, shouldn't be too heavy.

    • Mark Rogers

      Temi, there are no hard rules but it is not easy to cut foamboard and get clean edges and I am not sure about bevels since I have never done that. Perhaps you consider splitting the project into two frames that are below 32x40 so you have plenty of choices. Frames larger than 40x60 have a lot of issues.

  • Peter Steel

    I have an old acrylic print that has developed a bumpy surface I need to adhere it to a backing board to smooth it out, what would be the best archival backing and what would be the best adhesive.
    l under stand that I would need the use of a brayer but once it is down that is it, so I am a little nervous as it cannot be replaced.

    • Mark Rogers

      Peter, I am afraid this question is above my pay grade. I would take it to custom frame shop (not a big box store like Michael's or Hobby Lobby). They will need to identify the type of print and probably want to use heat mounting to help flatten if it is safe for the artwork.

  • Marguerite Roux
    Marguerite Roux May 4, 2019 at 10:09 pm

    Hi there!
    I have a very big artwork onpaper that I had framed a couple of years back. The work has been floatmounted onto foamcore. There is nothing sealing the back of the foamcore, only buff tape around thr edges. The foamcore backing/mountboard has warped pretty badly, so I am wondering if I should replace it with a thicker foamcore? Or will it warp again? Hoe can I stop it from warping again; maybe sealing the back in some way? Should I rather use a wooden hardboard. I am afraid it might get too heavy if I use wood! Sorry for all the questions in this post! I hope you can help! Best regards

    • Laura W

      Depending on what caused the warping (I would assume moisture?, but this is important info in knowing where to go), you could try sealing it with an aluminum sealing tape and then using a backing paper that is moisture resistant once you've decided on a backing that you'd like to try. I've seen aluminum backing offered now as well that wouldn't be susceptible to the moisture warp.

  • Glenn Brown

    Where can I obtain paper based 3mm (~ 1/8") not museum quality mat board?

    • Laura W

      Hi Glenn - I'm not sure on the paper based at 1/8" thick. Most paper based mats are available at the 4 ply or 1/16" thickness, such as our Papermat option. Hopefully someone else can help out with this. Thank you!

  • Meg

    Question, I have a large world map (about 4ft by 3ft) on paper and I want to frame it for my dining room. I've never framed before but I'm pretty handy and creative so I think I can do it. I just need to know what materials to use. I would like the front of the frame to be wood but I'm not sure which products to use for the rest... help?

    • Laura W

      Hi Meg - If you go to our site and choose Custom Frame, it will walk you through the process of choosing a frame, a mat, glazing (glass or acrylic), backing, and anything else you might need to add to frame your mat. Frame Destination Our customer service team is also available to help you from start to finish via email ([email protected]), phone (972-479-1188) or live chat on our website as you're building. Thanks!

  • Brooke Davis

    Hello. My mom was a master pastelist. I have several (A lot ) of her unframed pieces that I am now at the point of needing to protect and store them. They range in sizes, some are really big. I just ordered a roll of glassine and some acid free tape and I have a few acid free foam core boards. I also have one that I am not sure if it is acid free or not. how can I test it? Also, since I have so many, are there thinner things I can mount it to and cover with glassine so they don't take up as much space?

  • Ronald Naversen
    Ronald Naversen June 20, 2020 at 8:09 am

    I'm writing a theater model making textbook. We often use mat board in building our stage models. I have found good descriptions/explanations of the surface paper and the inner core, but I haven't found a good description of the backing paper. If you could point me to a good source on this paper I would greatly appreciate it.

    • Laura W

      Hi Ronald - Are you meaning backing paper as in the separate product from the mat board? Or the paper on the back of the mat?

  • Cindy Kemmet

    Hello, I have two tickets I want to frame and wondering what type of adhesive I should use to affix them to a mount board. They are paper tickets we bought to tour the coloseum in Rome. I plan to put them in a frame with a mat. I have no idea what type of paper the tickets are made of. Thanks for your help.

    • Laura W

      Hi Cindy - I recently attended a course about framing souvenirs like this. Most people are actually opting to get a high quality copy printed of them to frame and then place the actual tickets in a dark envelope on the backside of the frame to avoid any damage.

  • NR

    I have a primed canvas 36"x36" off its stretcher and want to mount it on foam core.
    What glue should be used, and, will it stay flat?

    • Heather

      Good afternoon! I would suggest checking with your local framer for suggestions on gluing your canvas to foam core.
      You'll want to make sure the glue won't create holes or damage the canvas.

      Thank you!

Add a Comment: