One of the most common questions we receive from customers during the design process is “Should I have a mat?” followed by, “How much mat will show?”
The answers depend on several factors, including the type and size of the artwork, archival and mounting requirements, current trends, and of course, customer preference. Our design team, led by Master Certified Picture Framer Valerie Becker, is experienced in crafting the perfect mat design for each custom project.
Some artwork requires matting so that it may be properly mounted for museum quality preservation within a frame (yes, we do that). Delicate artworks with holes, torn edges, or unsightly borders may look incomplete without matting. Art prints with wide paper borders may be improved with a single or double mat. Sometimes a mat is unnecessary, even being a detriment to design. This sweet needlework for example was completed with a border that served the framing composition perfectly without a mat.
According to industry expert Chris Paschke of Designs Ink, professional framers and designers typically follow proportion and ratio guidelines such as maintaining mat margins that are wider than the width of a frame, avoiding “stripes” by using wider mat margins and by varying widths of extra mats and art borders, and ensuring “breathing room” for matted artwork (2001). Paschke suggests that contemporary designs demonstrate wider mat dimensions
The first image below represents a “gallery style,” with a wide and thick white mat—plenty of breathing room for the little fox. To make more sense of this concept, consider the wide mat as a wall in a room with the fox image hung on the wall. Would you look first at the plain wall, or the fox? A little Photoshop magic shows the fox again with a thin mat. Although the image is larger, the thin mat and frame start to look “stripe-y” which can be distracting to the eye and add a subtle confusion.
One alternative to the “wider mat” guideline is when a piece of artwork is float mounted. This type of design is characterized by an artwork that sits on top of, rather than under, a mat. In these designs, it is standard practice to maintain a small mat margin as seen to the left in this pastel by a customer’s little granddaughter.
Extra mats and specialized fabric mats use color and texture to enhance the framing design. The print below by Andy Warhol is matted with bright base color that accentuates the artwork’s “Pink Lips.” The dramatic blue suede mat atop the ship draws the eye to the artwork by gently contrasting the art’s highlights.
The most important rule of matting, however, is that there are no hard and fast rules. The overall goal of framing is to enhance the artwork, and to draw the eye to the artwork or object(s) being framed. Much discretion on how that is done is left to the eye of the designer(s). As Paschke notes, “Some framers have a natural eye for identifying a design that fits, and this is often why some designs appear much more successful than others” (2001). Experience, training, and a discerning eye for aesthetics is a large part of the formula for “right” matting. (We’ve got those covered.)
We are happy and excited to compose your project with you, and we guarantee our designs. Stop in or call to schedule an appointment to work with MCPF Valerie and her team!
Paschke, C. A. (2001, June). The essence of design: Proportion. Retrieved April 30, 2017, from DIP Online website: http://www.designsinkart.com/library/D-EssenceofDesignProportion200106.htm