How to Mat Artwork

Artworks are sensitive to dust, humidity, and wind. You can’t even keep it in hiding forever. After all, what’s the purpose of any art if it is not exhibited. The best solution is to mat your artwork to protect it from all intruders.

Matting is easy if you know how to do it properly. Starting from the correct type of mat to the last step of installing it- we will discuss every aspect and phase of the whole process in this article.

So, stay hooked and read to the end if you want to learn and implement how to mat artwork. Let’s get started.

Materials Needed to Mat Artwork

You will need an array of materials to wrap your art with matboards. Essentially your preference of mounting mats will make a few differences in materials. If you want to mount the artwork with tapes, you will have to arrange accordingly, but if you choose to dry mount, the arrangements will be a bit different if you choose to dry mount.

The primary instruments are identical, though. Let’s have a look-

  • Mat Board: Well, you will definitely need Mat Boards to mat anything. We will discuss this broadly in the next segment.
  • Backing Board: Backboards are using to protect the artwork from any outward hazard.
  • Measurement Scale or tape: The whole process requires very precise measurement, and so a scale or measurement tape for matting artwork is essential.
  • Page and pencil: You’ll need a pencil and a page. The pencil is to mark on the measured areas and the paper to write down every measurement.
  • Straight Edge Razor: As matting involves a lot of accurate cutting, it is advising to have a straight and sharp edge razor around. Any other cutting tool that is not straight or sharp enough may ruin the work.
  • Paperweight: Not necessarily it has to a paperweight, but anything that functions that way is requiring to hold the artwork’s placement while positioning.

To this point, all these materials were just basic tools, regardless of which method you choose to pursue.

These Two Steps are Optional:

  • Linen or Archival Tape: If you want to use the tape mounting method, then you’ll need linen or archival tape.
  • Photo corners or mounting tapes: Photo corners or mounting tapes can be a good replacement for linen or archival tapes. It’s totally up to you which one you want to use.

If you have decided to dry mount your artwork, then you will need an extra tool-

  • Tacking Iron: Tacking iron is an electric device to warm up the mat and stick it to the artwork. This method is commonly using for matting photographic artworks.

There’s a non-materialistic component which is math. You’ll need to do a bit of math along with the measurements- it’s time to use the math skills learned in school.

Anyways, you can get started once you’ve gathered all of these materials together.

Choosing the Right Mat for Your Artwork

artwork hanging on wall

The whole scenario of the artwork- its display and durability depend upon what kind and type of mat you choose. You need to keep in mind the intention of matting, the layout of the artwork, and the harmonious color of the mat with the artwork and size.

Below we will briefly discuss all these aspects of mats to become easier for you to choose when buying.

Material of Mat

Mat boards are usually made out of Cotton, Alpha Cellulose, and Wood-Pulp. Each type of these matboards has a dedicated intention to protect a certain type of artwork.

The Cotton made mats are of two qualities- regular and museum.

The regular cotton mats usually have face papers that do not last long. On the contrary, the museum quality cotton mats are made out of those kinds of cotton that are color restricted and keep safe any artwork.

The Alpha Cellulose mats are made from the purest form of paper pulps. Though these mats are designing to form a protection against pollutants, they can cause harm to a few certain types of artwork prints.

The Wood pulp mats are also known as paper boards. If you are concerned about the expense, these mats can make your pick, but they are not known for durability.

Size

Another important factor in choosing the mat is its size. It is preferred for the mat to be at least 1 inch wider than the actual artwork. This gives space to work and propagate a beautiful layout.

Colour

The mats come in different shades of color, but your goal is to exhibit the art, so the only option stays in, and that is the watercolor mat board.

Of course, the backboard’s color resembles and is harmonious with the artwork. Look closely at the color pattern and tints of the piece of art that you will wrap in the mat- and find a suitable color accordingly. This will demonstrate your taste and aesthetic.

These factors should be enough to guide you through the haul. Keep them in mind while choosing your mat; you also can ask for an expert opinion, of course.

How to Mat Artwork

artwork scenario on frame

Whether you want to mat a drawing, photograph, or painting, the process is the same. In view of the fact that you have come to this point, you already know which materials you’ll need. Now let’s get to work- the whole process divided into short segments for your convenience. You can even read and try at the same time, like a tutorial.

So gather up all the materials along with the artwork.

Clean-up

Before proceeding, make sure the whole place of your work is clean and free of dust, as they can get into the matting process and damage the artwork hereafter. Take a damp cloth, wipe down the place and let it dry. Don’t use cleaning soaps or any synthetic products- they may lead to later chemical reactions and perpetual damage to the art.

Measure

Measurements are important to accommodate the art with the matboard adequately. So, after the clean-up, the first and foremost thing is to measure the artwork. Measure both the length and width; it is better to write down the numbers somewhere as you later use those numbers.

Once you have measured, take both the mat board and the backing board. Mark the same measure in length and width on the mat and back.

Border

The border around the artwork defines a beautiful layout, especially when you are using a colorful back. Be it 1 inch or more than that- it’s totally up to you and your practice of aesthetics. Add the border area to both the pre measured length and width, then mark it with the pencil. This mark will indicate the outer edge of the boards. In case you decide not to have any border, subtract ¼ inch from each side and then mark. This will make the edge clean and elegant.

Frame Measurement

If you intend to have a mat custom framed artwork, we suggest you mark the measurements respectively. Though you can work with the measurements and later buy a frame, this will also give you flexibility and freedom.

Cut The Board

It’s time to use that straight Edge Razor and cut a mat for artwork. This will give you the window and the back.

This job has to be done very carefully as a simple deviation can ruin the mat and the back of both boards or even cut yourself as well. Make sure you hold the razor straight and firmly on the line- using a hard scale is advised.

Don’t put force, just cut twice to eliminate the excessive parts sharply.

Well, if you want to dry mount the artwork, from this point- you’ll have to follow the instructions stated in the paragraph on Dry mounting.

The Centre Point

Measure the center point of your backboard and then place the pre cut mat board- which is called window on top of that. This will give you the first appearance of how your artwork would look.

Time To Patch Things Up

Now that everything is in order, it’s time to patch things together. Place the artwork in the middle and put the paperweight on top of the art to ensure it stays that way.

It’s time to use the tapes, place two of them vertically and two horizontally. They will adhere the art to the backboard. You could also use photo corners or mounting hinges to be similarly effective.

Last touch

So, you have measured, cut, and put everything together. Now it’s time to do the final touch, which is to join the window and back together. Before moving forward, make sure that everything is perfectly in position and adjust the artwork if needed.

Now use linen tape to stick the window with the backboard and make the bridge on the upper side. Now just fold them together and pat yourself on the back- you have finally matted the artwork yourself.

Dry Mounting

Dry mounting is a lot easier process if you can spend the money. The first condition is you’ll have to have a professional heating press machine.

A little caution for you- dry mounting can permanently damage older artworks. It is permanent and irreversible.

To begin with, lay down the artwork face-down on the mat and place a fry mounting tissue above it. Measure the center point of that artwork on that backing. Now, use that tacking iron to attach the center of the art and two corners with that tissue.

Now heat the machine to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, and then place the artwork along with the mat inside. Wait for the time being advised n the machine’s manual. Now you are good to open up the press.

The new digitalized machines have made an automated mode to make this step far easier.

Once you have taken out the matted artwork, place it under something heavy to avoid bubbles forming up.

After the cooling down, trim the edges precisely, and you are done with the matting.

Best Practices to Follow While Matting Artwork

We have talked about almost everything about matting artworks. For the betterment of the process, we suggest you keep a few criteria in mind and practice them to make your work more flawless.

  • Clean, clean, and clean: The whole object of matting is to resist dust and pollution. So you definitely don’t want any filth to get inside the mat. The only way is to keep clean.
  • Concentrate: This is a job of passion- you’re definitely doing it out of love for that piece of art. But a little bit of haziness can ruin the mat or the artwork itself. So, try not to hurry and concentrate on the job.
  • Measure twice: Always measure twice, at least, to make sure. Once you have marked and cut the boards, you can not uncut them. You’ll have to go through all the processes again to complete the matting. So, it is better to recheck the measurements.
  • Cut precisely: Be precise and firm when cutting the board and mat. This step needs to be very accurate to tone the perfect look.

Final Words

So far, we have covered briefly everything you need to know how to mat artwork yourself. You might not get the expected result at the very first attempt- don’t worry, keep practicing.

Practice will bring perfection for sure.

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About Tom

Tom is a blogger and artist who also loves technology. He spends his days blogging about the latest developments in the world of art, and he enjoys sharing his thoughts with readers on what it means to be an artist today. Tom has always been interested in technology - but it wasn't until he was 13 years old that he discovered how much fun making websites could be! Tom is a fun-loving, adventure seeking creative type. He enjoys reviewing art products and technology gadgets on his blog and has been doing so for over 5 years now! He spends most of his time in the studio, at the beach, or out exploring new places.

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