Customers always come in and ask; “Do I really need a mat?”

Before we can answer we have some questions for them.

  1. Where will you be storing this item in your home?
  2. Will there be the item be located in a space that a lot of moisture?
  3. Do you want to preserve your item and keep this item intact for many year?
  4. What size do you want the final product to be?

With all of these questions they start to wonder what any of this has to do with the Mat. The Mat in custom framing serves more than just a pretty border. The mat provides important practical functions, and it has a visual purpose as well. It actually helps preserve the image with air circulation, It gives the image more support within the frame, and finally it is used to enhance the image’s presentation. 

If you don’t use a mat the image could stick to the glazing material.

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A customer brought this image in to be re-framed because the print stuck to the glass and smeared the ink. This image did not have a mat it was just placed in a frame right off the shelf. Moisture built up in the frame and caused the image to buckle and stick to the glass. Because we could not remove this image from the glass we had to make a Giclee (A high quality printed replication of an original piece of art). We scanned the image with the glass still attached, color corrected it, restored any damages spots from the mildew and printed a new image that would be put back in its frame (with a mat of course).


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The mat will serve some very important purposes:

  • Air Circulation
  • Support
  • Presentation

A mat allows air circulation between the art and the glazing material (the glass or plastic sheet that covers the art in a frame.) This air space is important: prints, photographs, and needlework should not be placed directly against glazing because moisture that condenses inside a framed piece becomes trapped and could cause mildew, mold and buckling. Glossy art pressed against glazing may stick to it.

The mat and its backing board provide a sandwich of support for artwork. The mat protects (and hides from view) the hinges or other means of attachment that hold the art in place. Artwork may be attached to the underside of the window mat if the picture is small, or to the backboard for larger pieces. Attachment to the backing board is preferred by professional framers. Matting can help to protect artwork. For artists and collectors, a mat allows unframed art to be handled without touching the art.

Mats are an important part of the visual presentation in picture framing. Matting can be used to highlight a color in the artwork or room decor, accent a shape in the art, or simply increase the size to make a dramatic display (especially for small pieces). Matting may consist of a single piece of matboard with one rectangular opening cut in it, but there are also double mats, triple mats, oval mats, and numerous other decorative shapes and styles. Finally for this customer we helped choose a mat that would highlight the image while also preserving it for many years to come.

So when you are concerned about how to frame your art, talk to a specialist and they’ll help you chose what will make your piece last the longest.

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Further Reading

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