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Standard Matting Options
Matting provides both functional and aesthetic benefits to the framed art piece or photograph.
One of the key benefits is that matting places a space between the glazing (usually glass) and the art. For long-term conservation, it is usually best to not have the art in direct contact with the glass. Matting provides this function.
Another function of matting is to help hold the art in place. The art is mounted to a backing board of some kind, but the addition of a mat in front can help in better securing all the sides through pressure and friction.
Aside from all the functional benefits given, the most obvious benefit is aesthetics.
First, matting offers a negative-space separation between the frame and the art, allowing the art to stand out from the frame.
Secondly, the colors chosen for the mat(s) can complement and highlight portions of the artwork. The colors can help bring together multiple pieces under a theme. They can be incorporated into an overall interior design of a room.
When there are multiple mats incorporated into a matting design, each of the mats showing under the top mat is called a “reveal.” The overall design of the number of mats, the colors, and the size of each of the reveals can create a visual focal point in an art piece.
Here are a few examples of the more common matting options. Pictured at the top of the page is probably the most common type of matting: a double mat. This particular example uses a white top mat to match the white background of the print, but then incorporates a red, color-core black mat reveal to highlight both the black and the red in the print.
Here is another double mat example. This one uses a suede brown top mat to evoke the impression of swirling coffee to complement the coffee art. The bottom mat with the light cream colored reveal also seeks to evoke a “latte” look.
Here is a single mat example. Single mats are clean and simple. In this example the color was selected to match the forest theme of the art.
Single mats are often used in office settings and with neutral colors such as white, black, grey, and beige.
This is a good time to talk about costs associated with matting. The customer pays for the full outer size of each mat that is used (we have a framing order software that computes all the costs). So a two-mat design will be double that of a single mat (assuming same type of mat is used for both).
Different types of mats have different costs associated with them. A basic 4-ply paper mat is the least expensive. More costly mats include ones that are cotton rag, color and black cores, suede, specialty textures and finishes, and linen.
Here is an example of art framed without a mat. We place spacers around the edge of the glass to keep the art from touching the glass. The benefits of no mats is a lower cost and can potentially fit into spaces where the extra width and height of matting might cause the piece to become too large.
Here is another example of a piece framed without a mat. In this case the glazing is acrylic and for many types of mediums the art can be placed in direct contact with the acrylic. This allows for pressure to mount the piece directly to the surface of the glazing.
Here are a couple of examples with three mats. The typical design is a smaller bottom reveal and a slightly wider top reveal, although it doesn’t have to be that way. Triple mats add an elegance and refinement to the presentation of the art. The design process may take longer because there is now three colors that have to work together with the frame to enhance the art, but the end result is worth it.
The left example uses a white top mat to give the photography a clean look, but uses the orange and blue to highlight the complementary colors of the sunrise.
The right example uses the dark blue-grey top mat to echo the forest, the white middle reveal to highlight the snow caps, and the narrow pink bottom reveal to highlight the sky. This design also incorporates a closed V-groove to further direct the focus to the art.
This installment discussed matting options and features that are most commonly requested and used. These will work for a large range of art pieces. But there are times when a piece calls for more creative and unique treatments. In the next installment we will discuss more exotic mounting and matting examples.