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.

Shipping

Size availability is related to the style of print being order. It is best to review our pricing page to see what options are available. All our media (canvas and paper) comes in 44 inch rolls so we are limited to being able to fit the image with any added borders on a roll that size. Visit our pricing page for specific size availability.

Categories: Ordering, Shipping

Shipping Prints Flat

Mounted prints are packaged in oversized corrugated boxes for added protection. Small to mid size paper prints on fine art papers are usually shipped flat if they can safely fit within a 24×30 inch or smaller area touching the sides of the package. Some exceptions may occur with International orders or if the order also contains prints which normally would be rolled.

Shipping Prints Rolled

Unmounted canvas, regular photo stock prints and and posters will be shipped rolled. Fine art paper prints that are too large to ship flat to be shipped flat (see above) will be shipped in a sturdy corrugated shipping tube.

Shipping non-prints

Other products such as coffee gifts and keepsakes, stationary, etc, will be shipped in various types of packaging.

Drop Shipped Print Orders (Example)

Check out an illustration of a drop shipped canvas here, or a drop shipped paper print here. We package all prints carefully protecting them with corrugated sheets, plastic or foam sleeves and craft paper. Prints which are 20×30 or larger will be shipped rolled in a tube unless it is mounted. Otherwise all prints are shipped flat. Digital prints and products shipped from our Atlanta Pro Lab, will arrive via UPS, the US Postal Service, or Fedex. 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.

 
Categories: Ordering, Shipping

Fine art prints and canvas rates from our San Antonio based headquarters are based on a predefined amount which means you pay one rate regardless of quantity. Items shipping from our Atlanta photo lab will be based on volume and order's contents. Your order''s contents and shopping cart will show you where your order is shipping from. You can also see what shipping options and cost are availble to you when you have items in your shopping cart.

Please note that some shipping options may not be available where print size exceeds the measurements the packaging can hold. In cases of oversized packages (usually when they contains multiple mounted canvas prints measuring 30×40 or larger) additional shipping charges may be required, however the customer will be notified in advance prior to processing the order. 

View shipping rates and learn more about shipping rates for digital prints and products here.

 

Categories: Ordering, Shipping

Production usually is an average of 1-3 business days (some very large orders may take longer) but shipping transit time is based on the shipping option you chose. To see transit time information view our shipping page and look up the various shipping options.

Categories: Ordering, Shipping

Yes. Rush options are often available for giclee print orders, depending upon print size and destination. To find out if your package will qualify for rush delivery, view our shipping page. If rush options are not available to you at checkout, contact us to determine whether your package may still be eligable for expedited shipment. Digital prints and products may be rushed. Cost for rushing digital prints and projects can only be calculated during the checkout process. 

Categories: Ordering, Shipping

Since many of our customers often work with deadlines, we offer USPS  Express w/ Rush Processing service. This allows us to intercept the order so that it will be moved up the line to get out the door quicker. The order is diverted from the regular production schedule and a production specialist is assigned to it to personally see that it is given top priority, even if it means we dedicate an entire print run of it's own. Ready to ship the following day (excluding holidays and weekends) if order placed before 3PM Central Time via Express Mail (1-2 biz days transit time). Max Paper Print Dimensions (print size plus border size): 15×19 inches. 

Categories: Ordering, Shipping

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.

Production takes on average of 1-4 business days and shipping is based upon the shipping option you chose. View our turnaround page and shipping page for details.

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 dropship 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

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.

We utilize clear plastic print sleeves for added safety and protection during the transport of your print. The print sleeves used for packing are not intended for re-use. Often because of the amount of tape used to secure the print sleeve for safe travel, the print sleeve is not salvageable.  If you wish to obtain usable clear print sleeves, you can order them here.

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

Please see our turnaround time page for time frame details.

Categories: Frame, Ordering, Shipping

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.

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.

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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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