Best Practices for Matting Prints

There is a lot of emphasis on choosing a frame for your art and photo prints but sometimes overlooked is the importance of matting.  Not only does the mat help highlight the artwork, it also acts as protection so the glass or acrylic does not come in direct contact with the print.

Ever since we added our full service in-house framing other questions pertaining to matting have also arisen. The top question is if we offer custom mats. The other questions are usually related to the size of the mat, appearance or the archival properties of the mat. Other times it might have something to do with using a mismatched print with a larger frame. Below I talk about what some of these issues mean.

Do you offer custom cut mats?

That is a BIG YES! You can actually visit our framing section where we have custom mat options. which can be ordered online.  You select both the outer width and height and the window size and we cut them custom to order.  It makes it extremely easy to have mats tailored to the size you prints that you will not find at an art supply store. At FinerWorks you can also order the mats as you  order prints on any of our papers. In those cases it is even easier because all you have to do is select the outer size of the matting.

Print Size vs Mat Size

If you are going to mat your prints, I always recommend choosing to have your print made with either the ½ inch or 1 inch border. As an example if you have a print which is an 8×10 and the mat window is sized for an 8×10, that extra border going around the 8×10 image will give the cut sheet ample size to secure to the back of the matting.

We had a customer frustrated that none of the mats at her local art supply store had a mat with an exact 8×10 window. She was afraid that some of her artwork would be cut off, most notably the signature would be only partially visible. This problem was because unless you are custom cutting your mats yourself any mat will have a window slightly smaller than the printed artwork. Again using that 8×10 example, the window will likely measure ⅛ to ¼ smaller. Imagine if you tried to mat a 8×10 borderless print and the window was also 8×10.  You would have the problem of the print wanting to fall through the opening or at least not very will nested within the mat window.

There might be instances in which you actually choose a mat with a larger opening than the print’s total sheet size. In this type of display the print will appear to float between the mat window edges. I have seen this seems to be popular in instances in which a print has a deckled or torn edge (which we now offer).  On a side note about floating prints, if you opt to not have a mat, make sure you have some sort of spacer so the glass does not come in direct contact with the print. Our framing department actually uses these spacers for framed prints that do not have a mat. These are basically  plastic strips that are inserted just behind the lip of the frame which gives the needed space.

As is the case with most things related to decor, there are trends in matting. One framing supply company I know indicates on their website that the now days people seem to opt for wider mats meaning the space between thin mat window and the edge is greater compared to a couple decades ago in which people opted for thinner margin on the matting. I see this with photography as well. Right now it seems a more favorable display for fine art photography is a minimal frame with a wide mat. This is my own personal favorite way to display photos since it gives a nice contemporary look. One other advantage with the larger mat style is it can ultimately give a smaller print a more expansive presence on the wall.

Mat Color

When it comes to choosing a mat color, there seems to be some consensus among professionals I have spoken to that what is most important is the color does not draw your attention away from the artwork itself. I would also add that today there is a trend for people to choose bolder colors when painting their walls. If you have framed and/or matted prints on display somewhere for sale, be aware that any color other than white might play a role in your buyer’s decision on the purchase of that print or not. I say other than white because white tends to be both a safer and neutral color and less likely to clash with the wall.

Colorful mats are okay but don’t let them detract from the artwork or clash with the wall color.

Mat Materials and Archivability

Choose a mat which is not going to harm the print over time. There are 3 primary different types of mat materials: paper, alpha-cellulose, and rag.  Paper mats are going to be your cheapest in quality and price. They are simply made from paper pulp. You want to stay away from the paper mat since overtime the acidity levels in these can harm the artwork in side. These are also typically the same mats found in cheap ready made frame kits you will see that the art and craft superstore or Walmart. The alpha-cellulose, made from wood pulp is engineered to be acid free while the rag mat is made of cotton which is naturally acid free. Incidentally most of our papers we print on are also either alpha-cellulose or cotton which makes the prints more archival. Also, all our mats are of the alpha-cellulose variety, more specifically the brand is called Artique Conservation Matboard.

Mismatched to Frame Size

At times you may find yourself in the need to mat an odd size print which is not exactly ideally suited for a frame you might have lying around. For instance, you might have a square 12×12 print and only have a 16×20 frame. You will likely need to have the mat custom cut so the outer dimensions matches the insert of the frame. Another popular choice is to bottom-weight the mat which means the bottom mat side is larger. I have seen some artists will further use that bottom margin to cut out an additional widow which might display the artworks title and the artist’s name.

Digital Mats

One other alternative to matting, yet which will give your artwork a matted look is to create a digital mat. This will give you the ultimate control in both color and the appearance of texture. Just the other day a photographer I know had us print up some photos for a competition he was entering them in. They all had a type of digital mat effect which enhanced the artwork considerably. When framed the print would be able to stand on it’s own without a physical mat. I seen this done quite often and have even seen some artists will add drop shadows and strategic bevels in the inner window edge to trick the eye even more into thinking a real mat is being used. Not until you get within inches of the print can you tell that it is not a real mat. When framing, the only thing I would recommend in this situation is to make sure you have some spacers between the print and the glass so it is not in direct contact if possible. Digital mats can be created with an image editing program like Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.<


Digital Mat Effect
Photography by Ross Benton of Studio Benton

Close Up of Mat
Photography by Ross Benton of Studio Benton

 

Lisa Langell of Langell Photography shows you how to create an interesting digital mat in Photoshop. In it she actually uses part of the original image as part of the mat.

Do it Yourself Hinge Mat

Matting your prints is not difficult either. And it does not have to be expensive even if you need to cut out the mat window yourself. This is easily done with an exacto knife and a straight edge. Uncut matboards are readily available in different colors both online and offline at various art supply stores. Once your have cut your mat and the window opening its even easier to mat them with something called a “hinged mat”. Hinged mats are mats in which one side is has the window while the back side is solid. Hinged mats make an excellent way to display prints you might be offering for sale but don’t want to place in a frame. The following video illustrates how to create a hinged mat to display your prints.

Drop Shipping & Order Fulfillment

Yes. When checking out, you would enter your friend or family address information as the “Ship To” destination. You can also request drop shipping on the final review page which will tell us not to include any purchase information. With the drop ship option selected a generic packing slip is included which does not reflect price. In addition, we will print your billing address on the return address label and not include any mention of FinerWorks.

No. Only one shipping destination can be entered per order, although we will ship anywhere you wish us to ship.

Yes you can. Use our Order Status and Tracking page, or simply refer to your shipment confirmation. When and order is shipped we will send you an e-mail indicating your order has been successfully processed and is on it’s way. There will also be a link to view your order status and get the tracking number for your order. The majority of the time you can click the tracking number itself to see its current location and estimated date of arrival.

Prints shipping from our San Antonio production headquarters  are usually delivered by either USPS or UPS. In most cases, mounted prints ship via UPS, but this will ultimately be dependent upon print size. Prints sized greater than 16×20 may also be shipped via UPS. Otherwise smaller prints are shipped via the U.S. Postal Service. 
 
Prints shipping from our partner facilities will be delivered by various carriers including UPS, FEDEX and UPS. 
 
International shipments will be delivered by various carriers.

With the exception of stretched and mounted canvas, your print should arrive sealed in a clear (plastic) print sleeve. These print sleeves are intended solely for the purpose of added protection during transport. If you wish to obtain print sleeves for your own personal inventory, you can order print sleeves here. They are ideal for protecting your work from finger prints, smudging, dust and scratches as a result of casual handling or storage while also increasing the perceived value of the print.

For Canvas and Art Paper Prints shipped from our San Antonio Print Studio: For mounted prints we usually ship via UPS. Prints with a overall sheet size (print size plus borders) greater than 15×19 may also be shipped via UPS. Otherwise customers can choose U.S. Postal Service options. We package all prints carefully protecting them with corrugated sheets, clear plastic sleeves and kraft paper. Prints with a total sheet size of 20×30 or larger will be shipped rolled in a tube unless it is mounted. Otherwise all prints are shipped flat.

For digital prints and products shipped from our Atlanta Pro Lab, prints are shipped via UPS or via the US Postal Service. We have a separate shipping rate schedule for prints shipping from the Atlanta lab. Prints are shipped either flat or rolled, dependent upon shipping method selected, destination and items being ordered.

Below is a quick guide to determine if tracking is going to be available. In most cases it is yes

  • Economy (Yes) *
  • Standard (Yes)
  • Express (Yes)
  • International(Yes**)

When your order is shipped we will send you an e-mail informing you that it is on it’s way. There will also be a link to view your order status and get the tracking number for your order. The majority of the time you can click the tracking number itself to see where it is at and estimated date of arrival.

*Our Atlanta photo lab in some cases will use the most inexpensive shipping method to keep rates down for small orders like photo prints. which are using Economy shipping. Because of that tracking services may not always be available for very small orders that weight less than 13oz.

**International orders rely on the destination country and shipping method. In many cases for small orders tracking might end once it reaches it's last stop before leaving the U.S.

No. You will not pay more to use our order fulfillment services. Just order as usual, and don’t forget to mark your order “Drop ship” at the end of your order.

If you are unable to locate a recent order in your order history, it is likely you may not have been logged into your accounbt prior to placing your order. To fix this, simply contact us and we will be happy to add the unassigned order to your account for you.

If you intend to have us fulfill your print order sales, it may be a good idea to mirror our shipping rates. Read more

 

If you plan on using us to fulfill your order you should check the shipping page for shipping rates to determine the shipping cost and charge accordingly. Also consider reviewing our blog post titled What to Charge Your Customers for Shipping.

FinerWorks offers free drop shipping services for any of our customers. It can be selected as an option at checkout or is selected automatically if you have a business registered within your account and have uploaded a logo.

Anyone can use our order fulfillment services. For answers to questions regarding this topic, how it works, and what it entails, check out our order fulfillment guide.

Absolutely. Our goal is to represent you, and we wouldn’t be doing that very well if we didn’t advertise your brand for you! Find out how to add your logo to your account here.

In many instances we do. Contact us ahead of time to discuss special packaging needs and/or inserts.

Dependent upon the what is to be inserted, we can setup a method of doing this if you are ordering on a daily and sometimes weekly basis. Contact us ahead of time to discuss special packaging needs and/or inserts.

The packing slip will not display any prices or FinerWorks information. In addition, the return address on the shipping label has the name, company and address you entered in the billing phase of your check out. If you want to see how this looks for yourself, just check the drop ship option the next time you place an order (even if ordering for yourself).

If you have registered with FinerWorks there is an area within your account where you can save your business information such as the company name, department or contact person and address. As long as you have added your business, we will use this information as the sender in place of your order’s billing information.

When you are registered with FinerWorks and login to your account, you will see an area in which you can enter business information. Included here is the ability to upload a logo. This will serve two purposes. One, it will cause your orders to automatically have the drop ship option checked (you can always uncheck this on the order review page if you don’t want the order drop shipped) and second it will make any drop shipped orders include your logo. Your logo will be displayed both on the packing slip. For canvas and art paper prints ordered through our San Antonio location we also will include a label on the outside of the shipping package with your logo. Visit our YouTube channel to see how to upload your logo to your account.

When you login to your account visit the quick checkout page. This stores the billing and shipping information you intend to use for your orders. When it comes time to placing an order, your checkout page will be populated with this information. Obviously if you do not anticipate shipping your orders to the same customer each time, you may want to leave the “Shipping” fields blank. While about 30% of our drop shippers use PayPal you can also opt to keep a credit card on file. If keeping a card on file be aware that we don’t store the actual card number beyond the expiration date and last 4 digits, but instead a payment access token generated by the payment processor which can only be used when you order on this site.

Your Account offers you the ability to store a finite number of images based upon your account type. You can categorize these in various custom galleries you setup. Adding images is quite simple. After logging in, go to the “My Images” link which will take you to a batch uploading tool. Select the image files you want to upload and they will be uploaded to your account. You can order prints from these image anytime you want so you do not have to re-upload them each time. This saves a lot of time, especially if you have large image files. These uploads will be stored securely and inaccessible to the public. Whenever you place an order for a print from one of these images, a copy of your high resolution image will be forwarded to our production department for printing.

Creating a virtual inventory of prints (or cards) you think you will be ordering on a regular basis can save you a lot of time later on. Once you have uploaded images to your account in your personal galleries, you can setup individual giclee prints or cards with different size and styles. These will be stored in “My Prints Inventory“. When you need to have an order drop shipped to your customer, just go there and add the print you need to your cart. It saves you the time because you won’t have to go through the entire print setup process each time you want to order that print.

If you are based outside of the U.S. and want your order drop shipped, we recommend you enter your business information within your account but use our address. This prevents confusion and potential problems which can occur with the shipping service or even customs. This also helps us since we must use a U.S. based address on the customs forms.

You can login to the order status page or go to your order history (if you have an account). Toward the bottom of the copy of the order we will post your tracking number for orders shipping from our San Antonio printing center, usually shortly after your order is shipped.

Whenever we ship an order we will send an e-mail notice to the e-mail address you provided in your billing information. This email will include a link where you can access a copy of this order as well as tracking information when made available. Note that orders shipped from our partner lab may not always have tracking information available.

Print’s being lost or damaged during shipping is rare however it does happen on occasion (less than 1% of orders are ever reported to us) and we will do everything possible to provide a replacement as soon as possible. For more information please visit our returns and replacement page.

Yes. When you place your order, the final review page has a box where you can include comments. These will be printed on the packing slip. Please note, this box only allows for text and letters so you will not be able to enter links to web sites and html.

Contact us if you expect to be submitting orders on a regular basis that need to be shipped to your customers. We offer this on a case by case basis, determined by sales volume. We can also work with you on developing private label boxes, company inserts, brochures, business cards and flyers.

If you a history of placing a substantial number of orders on a weekly basis at regular intervals we would love to discuss with you various discount programs we can offer based upon the options you plan to order. We will also gauge this on size and style of prints as well as volume.

While we do offer a 30 day money back or replacement guarantee for in most instances, customers who use us to have us fulfill their orders are responsible for any 3rd party refunds or returns.  Please visit our returns page for more details.

No. VAT or Value Added Tax is something not currently applicable in the United States where FinerWorks is located. If you are not based in the U.S. and subject to paying VAT, then this would be your responsibility outside of your purchase from FinerWorks. If you have additional questions about VAT please consult a tax specialist regarding VAT.

We only charge sales tax if your billing or shipping address is in the State of Texas. If you are outside the State of Texas but you have a customer in Texas you will be charged sales tax unless you are registered with FinerWorks as “Tax Exempt”. Contact us for instructions on making sure your account is tax exempt for orders being shipped to Texas.

  1. Account holder will need to enter their business information within their account so that we can later make it tax exempt.
  2. Provide a valid Texas Sales Tax ID (apply here) or other valid  U.S. state sales tax id.
  3. E-mail us a completed and signed copy of the Texas Sales and Use Tax Resale Certificate / Exemption Certification . Note that if your Tax ID number is outside of the State of Texas, please enter it in the second tax id field below the one for the Texas field.

Please note the following: If you have received a permit for sales tax as described above we cannot refund sales tax charges for previously placed orders. Also, we cannot accept tax exempt forms from other states since they may not be recognized by the State of Texas.

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One Reply to “Best Practices for Matting Prints”

  1. It’s interesting to know that matting takes a lot of work to get right. I will keep that in mind when getting acrylic photo printing services someday. Getting that print matted will help a lot in preparing it to be displayed.

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