Mat Board: Drop Bottom Technique for Dramatic Results

So often we focus on color, but today I want to think about proportion—one of the most important design elements in custom picture framing. The single biggest impact on the proportions in your finished treatment is the mat board, even (or should I say especially) plain white boards.

Simply by varying the mat border sizes, you can create a dramatically different look for your art. Herein lies the fun of picture frame design! Using our online framing engine, it’s easy and exciting to experiment with different mat border sizes and preview the effects on the final piece before placing your order.

One of my favorite strategies for creating interesting proportions with a mat board is using a ‘drop bottom’, a term that always gets a chuckle when I explain this concept in person. Keep in mind—I’m talking mat board, not pants! A drop bottom is the term used to describe a mat board whose bottom border is wider than its sides or top. When the drop bottom is minimal, this technique visually centers the artwork within the frame, and the difference in border width won’t be detected by the untrained eye. For example, artwork with a mat whose top and sides are 3” and whose bottom border is 3 ½” will be perceived as centered by the observer because of the angle and distance at which we view art hanging on the wall. I find this technique to be most attractive when using moderate-sized mat borders with wider frame mouldings.

drop bottom mat board with slightly larger bottom borders

In more recent years, drop bottoms have gone wild! Extra wide borders with significant drop bottoms have became a high-impact solution for framing small works of art. In this example, I pair a square art size of 8”x8” with a mat board that has 5” top and sides borders and a drop bottom twice that—10”! This creates a high-design appearance with basic materials. For the most dramatic effect, you could take advantage of the largest size mat boards come in—that’s 30” x 38”—and extend your borders out as far as possible. This aesthetic is beautiful with metal frames or thinner profile wood frames. 

drop bottom with large bottom border

Here is an example from my own collection:

framed art with a drop bottom

This piece has 4" top and side borders and a 6" drop bottom.

Yet another example:


What do you think? Have you ever tried a drop bottom on your framed art?

AubreyK | 4/3/2015 10:49:50 AM | 3 comments
American Frame
Thanks for checking out the blog, Ron!
4/10/2015 9:14:08 AM

Thanks for showing me something new!
4/9/2015 4:48:08 PM

Important to know for gallery presentation!
4/3/2015 11:16:22 AM

About this blog

Laura Jajko

Join in and let’s bond over our love of art and framing. Here, I’ll be sharing design inspiration and decisions, twitter chat summaries, and happenings with the company, among other things. With more than 40 years of practical experience, I bring a unique perspective in a straight-forward style that I hope will spark lots of interesting and relevant dialog in our online community.

For more tutorials and articles, take a look at our other blogs -  Ask Mike or At Your Service

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