What is the purpose of matting?

by Joydean Sorensen

These days, most people think of mats as purely decorative accents to the custom framing, since mats come in so many colors, patterns and textures. They’re often used to match colors in the art and to coordinate with the room decor.

Believe it or not, mats were originally invented for two functional purposes. The first was to provide an area of visual relief so art could be viewed without distraction from nearby surroundings. The second was to serve as a spacer, or protective layer, to keep the glass from touching the artwork.

There are dozens of ways to mat artwork, but below we’ll explore some of the most common.

Single Mat
When mats were first introduced, they were all a single layer. Today, single mats are used most often on high end art where the frame designs are simple and classic, or on vintage or antique pieces to enhance the authenticity of the look.

Photo courtesy of Hillary Green

Double and Triple Mats
A second mat is usually added to incorporate an accent color to help draw attention deeper into the art by outlining it. However, a double mat can be made using two of the same color for a more subtle look. When using three layers, you can add more accent colors, sandwich one color between two of the same color, or use all the same color again to add depth.

Photo  courtesty Larson Juhl
Photo courtesy Larson Juhl

Mat with Spacers
Speaking of depth, placing spacers between mat layers create just that. The spacers can bring out inherent depth in the art, such as a landscape with perspective. Or, it can also add actual depth to accommodate an object or dimensional art.

Framed by Scoot Gardner, Gallows
Framed by Scott Gardner, Gallows

Custom Openings
The most common mat openings are square or rectangular, however, any shape is possible to enhance irregular art shapes. Special cuts are functional, too. For example, angled corners can hide dented or broken corners on the art, etc.

Photo courtesy of Larson Juhl
Photo courtesy of Larson Juhl

Multiple Openings
Mats can be cut with more than one window opening and doing so really expands your options when you have more than one item frame. This works especially well with things such as family or vacation photos, stamp collections, certifications, or memorials.

Framed by Scott Gardner, Gallows

Fabric, Patterned, and Textured Mats
Fabric covered mats are a unique way to add richness to custom framed artwork. In addition to photos and paintings, fabric mats are nearly always used when framing objects, such as family heirlooms. In addition to fabric, mats are available with printed patterns or embossed textures. Remember that less is more and be sure to avoid mats that distract from the item you are framing.

Photo courtesy of Larson Juhl
Photo courtesy of Larson Juhl

Matting isn’t just a pretty accent to your custom framed piece; it is an essential part of the preservation process. Luckily, there are so many ways to incorporate a mat into the art piece, that it’s often as fun to choose as the frame! Bring your artwork in today and our staff will be happy to show you any combination of color, texture, and layer options for your priceless piece.


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