Double and triple matting example
January 18, 2019

Matting Artwork

Do you really want to enhance the artwork you've purchased? Do you want the investment in the art and the framing to last a long time? Then planning and choosing the right mat for your art is extremely important. Don't skimp on the matting or the framing if you really love the art. Not only can you protect the artwork but you can also give your investment a very long life.

General tips on matting.

Another blogger stated that a standard of practice is to make the mat at least twice as wide as the frame. That is "at least", you can make the mat wider. A common rule of thumb is a mat at the width of two inches with artwork 11x14" and mat width of three inches for artwork larger. The other rule is that the mat should be weighted at the bottom. That means the bottom width of the mat should be thicker. Sometimes up to an half an inch or more. The reason is as a person looks up at the art there is an optical illusion that the bottom of the mat is thinner. In order to compensate for the "foreshortening" effect just make the bottom thicker.

Using colored mats.

I've noticed a trend lately of white or off-white mats on art. I actually really like the look and used that look to mat most of my art on this website. But you don't have to be stuck with that look. I've seen some pretty striking matting with black or dark charcoal mats typically around black and white ink and pencil drawings. If you decide to go that way, make sure there is plenty of contrast between the art and the mat.

If you want to add color to a mat it is advised to double mat or add a color liner underneath the mat. Add a darker or bold color mat on the first layer to add just a little complimentary color to the piece. The example above is the art is on top of a gold leaf layer, then a umber colored mat with a cream colored mat on top. 

But again, don't feel like you need to go with a white mat. Just make sure that if you choose a colored mat don't go brighter or darker than your artwork, it will overpower it. If you want a colored mat, choose a color that compliments the artwork.

An oversized mat gives the artwork presence whether it's by itself or in a group. Layering mats also gives the artwork presence. Here's an idea from another blogger, tie in the bottom mat color with the frame color, (black if using a black frame, gray or silver if using a silver frame, etc. For the top mat use a neutral light on top for a clean, contemporary look.

White is the most common mat color but you can also try taupe and gray which will add a soft finish without overpowering your art. Taupe works well with gold frames and gray is a nice compliment with a silver frame.

Grouping artwork with mats.

To unify a grouping of art, use the same color white for the mat. It will help create a consistency to a large variation of color and sizes of art. Make sure the mat is wider than the frame even though the frame can be different for each piece of art.

Different types of matting.

Some matting materials can damage your art. There are three types of mats that you should be aware of and need to ask your professional framer for more information before matting your artwork.

Paper mats are the most inexpensive and are used with most frame/mat packages. Paper mats made of paper pulp have acid in them and cause the edges of your artwork to turn brown over time. To spot one just look at the beveled edge of the mat. If it's not pure white, its loaded with acid.

Alpha-cellulose mats are made of wood pulp chemically treated to eliminate acids that cause artwork to turn brown.

Rag mat are a naturally acid-free mat board made from cotton. These are mats used by museums and considered archive quality and safe for your artwork.

To keep the value of your artwork it is best to use a alpha-cellulose or a rag mat. As mentioned before, a paper mat will cause acid to be transferred to the artwork which will ruin the value of the artwork.

If you have any questions or additional comments please leave post them here. I hope you will be more confident in choosing and matting artwork after reading these tips.

Happy matting!