What is Frame Matting & Why is it Used?

When it comes to presenting and protecting cherished artworks, photographs, or any piece of visual memorabilia, the framing process can make a big difference. While the frame itself is undeniably essential, there’s a subtle, often overlooked component that can drastically enhance the overall appearance of a framed piece: the mat.


In this article, we’ll delve deep into the world of frame matting, explaining what it is, why it’s used, and how to select the perfect mat for your artwork.

What is Frame Matting

Frame matting refers to the use of a thin, flat piece of material (usually mat board) that surrounds the artwork within the frame. You might have come across framed pieces where the artwork is surrounded by a colored or textured border before the actual frame begins. This border is the mat.

Purpose of Frame Matting

Mats provide three important functions in a picture frame.


Aesthetic Enhancement

Mats can accentuate the colors and details in a piece, drawing the viewer’s eye directly to the artwork. By choosing the right color and width, a mat can either create a harmonious balance with the art or offer a contrasting pop to make the art stand out.


Matting serves a crucial protective purpose by ensuring the artwork doesn’t touch the glass. Without a mat, condensation could form on the inside of the glass, leading to potential damage to the artwork.


Depth and Dimension

A mat can add depth to the presentation, making the framed piece appear more professional and refined. This is particularly true when using multiple mats of varying widths. The matting creates a void between the glass and the framed image, thus giving the presentation the third dimension of depth.

Choosing the Perfect Mat

If you’ve decided that you want to use a mat in your framed piece, then you’ll have a number of important decisions to make in regard to color, width, and whether or not you want any accent mats. We’ll briefly touch on these here to help you gain an understanding of how each will affect the final presentation.


Acid-free and archival-quality mats are an absolute must-have for preserving artwork. Over time, acidic materials can cause artwork to become discolored or deteriorate. Always ask for an acid-free mat for your pictures.


The mat color can be chosen to complement or contrast with the artwork. Neutral colors like white, off-white, or gray are often chosen for a classic look. However, for a bold statement, one might choose a color that pops or matches a hue in the artwork.


The mat’s width can range from very narrow to several inches wide, depending on the width of the frame, the size of the artwork, and the desired visual effect. We’ve written extensively on the topic of choosing the width of matting, so check out this post for our professional advice.


Using multiple mats of varying colors and widths can add dimension and depth to the framed piece. The technique of using multiple mats (also called accent mats) is great for drawing viewers into the artwork, or for adding a sophisticated touch.

Caring for Your Matted Frame

It’s important to remember that while matting offers protection, the framed piece itself still requires care. Keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent fading and avoid areas of high humidity that can damage both the artwork and the mat. If there is risk of light or humidity, an expert framer can help by putting in place preventative measures such as glazing with UV protection and sealing a frame to make it more airtight.


Frame matting is more than just a decorative border; it’s an art in itself. When chosen thoughtfully and applied correctly, matting can elevate a piece from ordinary to extraordinary, ensuring your artwork not only stands the test of time but also shines in all its glory.

Help is at Hand

All FastFrame stores offer a huge range of matting options as well as best-in-class expertise to help guide you to the perfect matting option for your artwork or photo. We also offer free design consultations, to make finding the perfect mat easy. Drop by any one of our 40 stores today. Find your nearest FastFrame here.