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.

Fine Art Papers

A giclee prints is a way to classify a professionally produced print using inkjet technology, primarily printed on canvas or a fine art paper with archival grade inks. While the process is only several decades old, it has quickly become the method of choice for both artists and photographers. Read more

The following arrive ready to hang:

  • framed prints
  • stretched & mounted canvas
  • wood prints
  • acrylic prints
  • metal prints (with the exception of some styles),
  • wall art standouts

Some other types of prints may have styles that also allow for them to be ready to hang.

Both Epson and Canon promotes their inks as being resistant to fading over time and our parent company has been producing canvas prints since around 2001. In that time we have had no one contact us and indicate their print had faded.

Choosing the paper that best compliments your artwork or photography is how you should gauge which paper is best. While our staff will be happy to offer suggestions sometimes the best choice won’t be obvious until you view the image printed on the paper. There are four characteristics that affect how an image will appear on any of our varied fine art papers: ink absorption, brightness, texture and gloss levels (if any). We recommend a good start is to test printing small prints on different papers as well as to order one of our starter kits so that you can see and feel the different papers.

Category: Fine Art Papers

To extend the life-span, store you giclee fine art paper print out of direct sunlight and avoid extreme temperature changes or exposure to humidity. It is recommended that paper prints be framed behind glass or acrylic glazing when ultimately on display. If kept in a retail environment unframed you should keep the prints sealed in clear bags which are acid free like what we offer for sale on our website.

Category: Fine Art Papers

Some papers have more difficulty in flattening our then others. This is especially true during the cooler months but can happen during any time of the year. The papers the prints are produced on are originally in rolls and the prints are printed to these rolls. I most cases we will ship prints up to a certain size flat so that they have had time to loose their curl and flatten out however this is not a guarantee. Thicker or heavier weight papers may still need more time to flatten out. We have a blog posting on our site which discusses this in more detail as well as some solutions.

Fixing Prints Which Curl

Category: Fine Art Papers

In most cases your prints will not be coated and definitely not laminated. In some instances we may need to coat prints which have large expanses of dark colors in them such as solid black backgrounds. This is to help alleviate potential scuff marks that are visible within the print if not looking at it behind glass or a clear plastic sleeve.

Category: Fine Art Papers

Order samples of our giclee papers and canvas here.

Category: Fine Art Papers

Yes. The fine art paper prints are printed with a method we refer to as giclee printing. This is a technology that has evolved since the late 20th century to use primarily aqueous wide format printers with archival inks on archival media.

Category: Fine Art Papers

More and more fine art photographers are turning to giclee prints since in many cases photos look better and have a wider color gamut then you might normally experience with traditional photo prints. This was not always the case but advancements in inkjet technology over the past 10 years have allowed the right image with the right paper to offer a superior color gamut and better contrast and depth.

Category: Fine Art Papers

In addition to the standard canvas and art papers FinerWorks offers for online ordering, customers can also choose from a wide range of name brand media types when ordering larger quantities offline. View options here

Category: Fine Art Papers

We do not recommend this. We cannot guarantee any paper print that has been embellished or had paint applied to it. Unlike canvas many of the papers will wilt and warp like most papers when saturated with any sort of liquid base. While some customers have reported success with both acrylic and oil paints when embellishing their fine art paper prints others have reported negative results. If you think you want to try doing this you should consider ordering smaller prints to test and practice the technique that works best for you before attempting with a larger print. Most artists that attempt this will pre-coat their print with either a spray fixative or pray lacquer based coating to seal the print first.

Category: Fine Art Papers

Yes. We offer some special request media types for high volume offline orders. Check the options list and make sure you contact us for a quote when you have an opportunity to place a very large order with FinerWorks.

 

You can! To purchase matting without a frame, just make sure you include a border on your print. Matting options will be found below sizing. 

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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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