Using Custom Cut Mat Board to Enhance Your Art

I'm pleased to present interior designer and Assistant Showroom Manager, Lindsey Harrison, as today's guest blogger.

As an interior designer, I learned long ago that pops of color are one of the best ways to enliven any room. As a member of the American Frame design team, I know one of the easiest, most rewarding ways to introduce color is through a room’s framing treatments, particularly the mat. A well-chosen mat also enhances the art itself, providing a chance to play up certain colors, rescale the image or shift its emotion, lending energy to subdued art or calming lively work. Mats also help focus the eye on the image they surround by providing a transition between the frame and the artwork.

Selecting a mat’s color and size is crucial because missteps can actively detract from the artwork, but narrowing down the options is easy once you know a few tricks. 

The first rule of thumb is to select a mat board color that complements the art above all else. Complementing the room’s wall color and other décor, such as furniture and pillows, should always be a secondary consideration because artwork functions more independently of a room’s color scheme than most people think; typically if the art itself feels right in the room, then the mat color that best enhances it will also feel right. In addition, when you prioritize the art in choosing your mat, the treatment will be more versatile, allowing you to move the artwork to different rooms as décor and circumstances change.

It also may seem natural to match the mat to the predominant color in the image, but this isn’t always the best choice. Especially when the artwork has a single dominant color, it’s best to choose a mat that echoes one of the secondary or tertiary colors in the image. Otherwise, the dominant color becomes overwhelming. Pulling out a secondary color can also help emphasize subtle details in the image that might otherwise be overlooked.

Finally, consider the width of your mat or mats carefully. While there are no fixed rules for how wide a mat border should be in proportion to the artwork’s size, there are some guidelines to keep in mind. We general recommend 2”-3” borders. If you are using two mats, we recommend that the bottom mat be ¼”- ½”  wider than the top mat. This is called the “offset” (or sometimes the “reveal”) and it is the amount of the bottom mat that will be visible in the treatment. If you would like to work the art’s main color into the mat, assigning it to the second (bottom) mat can provide a great accent.

In general, mats more narrow than 2” appear unnecessary and out of proportion. Mats wider than 3” can be fun and done right they can create a dramatic treatment, but make sure you experiment with a visual tool first, either by using paper to mimic the mat around your art or by using our online framing tool. To visualize your own art in the treatment, snap a digital picture of it and upload the image to our website. The online tool will allow you to experiment with multiple mats, different reveals, wider borders and hundreds of colors. We highly recommend this framing tool for everyone, from beginners to the most experienced framer, but it’s especially important when you depart from standard selections.

Once you decide on a border size, remember that most frames have a lip of ¼”, so if you would like to see a mat border of 2¼”, you should order the mat with a 2½” border.

Below are some examples of the same image with different treatments. Each one demonstrates a distinct look, highlighting some aspects of the artwork and downplaying others. Remember that we also offer up to 5 free mat board samples, so you can see the actual color before you order. If you’re local to our Maumee, Ohio showroom, you can also stop in and I can recommend a few options!

Sunflowers on the Porch by Cady Driver
Artwork: Sunflowers on the Porch by Cady Driver

Lindsey Harrison
Lindsey Harrison is the Assistant Showroom Manager here at American Frame Corporation. She has an interior design degree and joined our team after working as a designer for 8+ years, although in her free time she still helps clients with smaller projects. Currently Lindsey resides in Maumee, Ohio with her husband and their rescue dog Lucy. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, gardening and spending time with her nieces and nephews.

AubreyK | 3/23/2015 12:02:44 PM | 7 comments
You definately know how to do it! Nice job!
3/25/2015 3:20:13 PM

Nicely written and very informative. You certainly have an eye for color.
3/25/2015 5:03:40 AM

Great article Lindsey. Thanks for all of the helpful info!
3/24/2015 5:29:19 PM

American Frame
Thanks for the comment Joanne, the images really do a good job of illustrating the difference between the color choices.
3/24/2015 11:17:52 AM

very informative article. The examples really illustrate how a mat can change the change and enhance a work of art.
3/24/2015 10:12:56 AM

American Frame
Glad you found it helpful!
3/24/2015 8:43:37 AM

very informational with alot of helpful tips!
3/23/2015 6:57:05 PM

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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