Finding the Right Mat for Your Custom Framed Artwork or Photo

When you’re working with your personal design consultant on your individual frame design, one thing you’ll discuss is the mat. A mat is simply a border placed around the artwork that has both a functional and decorative purpose.

As a functional piece, the mat provides spacing between the frame’s glass and the object being framed, helping to protect your framed treasure from damage. It also hides the mechanics of the framed piece so that your art is simply presented with no distractions from hinges or dry mounts.

As part of the design, your FastFrame design consultant can help you select the mat that is just right for your picture or keepsake. Different colors or textures can draw the eye or make a particular part of the artwork stand out. It can also tie your artwork into the design of your house or office, keeping colors and style consistent.

The Best Material for the Mat in Your Custom Frame

There are four types of material used to make mats: paper, alpha cellulose, rag mats, and fabric. Whatever type of material you select to best protect your artwork, you should only use mat boards that are preservation or museum grade.

Paper mats are cost-effective, but their color fades over time and when they break down, they can leave a burn mark on your artwork. For this reason, we do not recommend using paper mats.

Alpha cellulose mats are buffered to maintain a neutral pH. They will not fade or “bleed” over time. They are preservation grade and will help protect your artwork.

A rag mat is made from cotton linters. Rag mats can be preservation grade or the highest quality museum grade, making them a good choice to protect and showcase your artwork.

Fabric mats can add a distinct elegance to your framed art. At FastFrame, we can help you find the right fabric for your artwork. One disadvantage of using fabric mats is that many are not preservation-grade. We can also hand-wrap any fabric you choose over an existing mat, creating a perfect custom framing solution for your artwork.

Choosing the Right Colors for Your Frame’s Mat

When choosing the right color for the mat in your custom frame, there are a few things to consider. Typically, frames include both a top mat and one or two inner mats.

Using multiple mats helps create depth and open up the multiple colors in your artwork. We use the colors in the artwork as a guide; the top mat harmonizes with the entire piece of art, while the inner mats help bring out background colors.

How to Pick the Right Size for Your Custom Frame Mat

During your personal design consultation, you’ll also decide how wide you want the mat in your custom frame to be. There are two basic approaches to determining the right width for your frame. The first is make the mat equal on all sides, which brings balance and symmetry to the design. The second makes the bottom of the mat larger than the top and sides, which provides the eye with a sense of stability, especially for artwork hung high on the wall.

For either style, the mat should be at least one inch wider than the visible width of the frame and always proportional to the art itself.

Mat boards typically come in a size of 32 x 40 inches, though you may also find oversized mats that measure 40 x 60 inches. A mat is generally about 2 millimeters thick, though we can help you find thicker mats for a more dramatic presentation.

You have many options to choose from. Our goal at FastFrame is to work with you to create a personal and unique design that you will love for years to come.