All About Mats

Want to know one of the easiest things you can do to make your framed photo look great?

That’s right- Use a mat.

Mats are a fantastic way to make your picture pop and impress your friends with your photographic talent.

So if you’ve never used mats before and don’t know where to start, here are the basics about picture frame matting.

Mats really can do three things:

  1. Help you overcome problems with framing

  2. Give you additional ways to show your creativity

  3. Make your photograph stand out

One of the primary things mats do is to give you the flexibility to select a frame that looks good instead of choosing one based upon a specific frame size. Often times, your photo or piece of artwork will not fit in standard picture frame sizes. This will force you to either crop the picture in ways that don’t look good or force you to have a custom picture frame made or… put it in a mat.

Mats are an easy way to allow almost any picture to fit in a standard frame size. Mats also give you new ways to combine multiple photos in matted collage picture frames or in frames with multiple openings like double picture frames or even triple picture frames.

You can get mats in precut sizes to fit standard frames sizes or you can have a mat custom cut to fit your unique picture size. Precut mat sizes are identified by the size of their opening NOT the overall size of the mat. For example a standard 8x10 mat will hold an 8x10 picture and will fit in an 11x14 frame. Always check the outside dimensions of the mat as well as the inside dimensions so you’ll know what size of picture and frame will work with a specific mat.

Photo mats can also let you express your creativity by finding clever ways to decorate and customize your photo frame. You can learn more about the numerous ways to personalize your mat and frame by reading about how to Personalize Your Picture Frame.

Another benefit that mats offer is that they prevent your picture or artwork from getting damaged from temperature or moisture. Anytime you have an irreplaceable picture or art in a frame, you never want it to lay flat against the glass because the print can permanently stick to it. If you use a mat, the mat will create a thin space between the glass and picture allowing it to “breath” and prevent it from adhering to the glass.

Another important mat and picture frame tip to avoid damaging your picture frame is to use an archival mat. Using an archival mat means that the mat is lignin and acid free in order to prevent photo degradation. If you want to learn more about archival supplies read Archival Framing 101.

There is really only two negatives with using mats. One of the negatives is simply the extra cost and effort of buying the mat. However, considering how nice a mat will make your favorite picture look it’s certainly worth the extra couple of dollars for a precut mat (depending upon the size).

Precut mats are definitely the way to go. They’re easy to get and come in a variety of sizes and colors so you’ll be sure to find one that looks great. However, if your picture is a non-standard picture size then you’ll need a custom mat so you’ll have to spend a little bit more to get one cut just for you.

The only other negative with mats is if you use multiple mats with non-glare glass. Since non-glare glass diffuses the image using more than one mat will cause the photograph to look fuzzy. So don’t use a double mat when using non-glare glass.

And last but not least, mats can make you look like a photo genius. There’s just something about having a mat that goes perfectly with your frame and picture that makes it look professionally done. Mats give you the unique ability to emphasize colors, add drama and bring attention to specific elements in your picture. You can even change the tone or feeling of your picture by using mats of different colors, textures and sizes.

Adding mats can be one of the simplest things you can do to make your photographs stand out and leave your friends wondering how you learned to be such a great photographer.

If you want some tips on how to select a mat to go with your frame and picture, make sure to read The Art of Selecting Your Mat and Frame.

 

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