Mat Board Terms: Reveal, Offset, Overlap & How to Order?

In framing parlance, a “reveal” is the amount of a mat board that can be seen in a treatment after a second, or top mat, is placed over it. This is different from the mat’s border. The border is the total width of the mat board from its window edge to its outside.

A standard reveal is ¼˝. If a treatment has three mats, the reveal, also known as the “offset,” is often greater for the middle mat than for the bottom mat. 

Example: Let’s say that you want a treatment with two mats, and you want the total, combined border of the mats to be 4 inches. This means that the top mat will be something less than 4 inches to allow some of the bottom mat to be seen. How much of the bottom mat that can be seen is the “reveal” or “offset.”


On the other hand, an overlap is the measurement by which the mat board overlaps the artwork to keep it secure within the mat window. It is typically the artwork size less ¼” (1/8” overlap on each side). You do have the option to change the overlap to 1/16”, although it will be harder to keep the artwork from falling through the mat window opening. An example of when you may choose to do this is if you have artwork where there is writing that is close to the edge. To change the overlap of a mat, go to the mat tab in the framing engine and look in the “configure mat” box.

At the top, you will find the mat overlap field. Click the down arrow to see the available choices.

How to order:

Once you’ve selected a frame  and the framing engine has started, click on the “Mat” tab and enter the border widths for the bottom mat. These will be the widest border you want.

To add a second mat (which will be the top mat), click “Add Mat,” below. The system will create a second mat and automatically assign it as the top mat.

For the top mat, instead of entering a border, you will enter an “offset” or reveal. A typical reveal, or offset, is ¼˝, but feel free to change this. As you do, look at the treatment mock-up to the left to see how the mats will look.

At this point, you can toggle between the “Configure Top Mat” and “Configure Bottom Mat” screens to alter your bottom mat’s borders and the reveal or offset if you wish. (If you have questions about offsets, click on the question mark.)


In this example, we have a black bottom mat and a white top mat. The reveal or offset is ¼˝.


If you change the reveal to ½˝, the changes are made to the treatment’s mock-up on the left and you will see more of the black mat.


Designing a treatment with multiple mats is easy because our framing engine does all the math. In the above example, the bottom mat’s borders are 4˝ wide. With a ½˝ offset, the top mat borders are automatically calculated to be 3 ½˝.

If you want a third mat, click “Add Mat” and the top mat will automatically be reassigned to the middle spot and the new mat will now be on top.

Multiple mats lend depth, color and interest to framing treatments. When choosing colors, echo shades in the artwork, be adventurous and choose something bold, or keep it neutral with soft whites and subtle grays. There are a lot of options and, with our framing engine, it’s simple and straightforward.

If you have any questions or need help with an order, feel free to contact us via phone or email. We’re here 8:30 – 5:30 (EST).

Want to learn more? See our other mat board posts:

How to Create a Mat Board with Multiple Openings
A Reverse Bevel Mat Board Cut: What It Is and Why Framers Use It
Designing Single, Double, and Triple Mat Boards
How to Select the Right Mat Board for your Art
Custom Framing with Mat Board: Designing with Size
White Core, Cream Core and Continuous Core Mat Board
How Do I Order Mat Board Samples?
Did you Know: Oversize Mat Board is Now Online

AubreyK | 3/17/2014 11:02:20 AM | 0 comments
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About this blog

Mike Cromly
So, who’s Mike? He is the man behind the mission of getting your picture frames produced and out the door quickly, correctly, with custom frame shop quality. Once your order is placed, it is in the hands of Mike and the many people he has trained over his 35+ years with the company. A natural teacher, he loves to tinker and experiment. Of course he has a nice office, but we rarely find him there. Working in the plant and improving our processes is his passion. Outside of American Frame, Mike is an outdoorsman, avid fisherman, devoted family man and Ohio State Buckeye fan. Mike's Twitter
For more tutorials and articles, take a look at our other blogs - A Good Frame of Mind or At Your Service

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