Mat boards, also commonly referred to as framing mats, are heavy paper-based materials of varying thicknesses that sit between the frame’s glass and the artwork or photograph.
This cardboard-like material comes in many textures, colors, and designs, and is most commonly used to add a professional finish to DIY framing projects.
Though some framers and artists think of mat boards as purely aesthetic, they also serve the purpose of protecting the framed work of art from sticking to the glass and allowing the paper fibers to “breathe”.
Though mat boards are easily purchased from professional suppliers, cutting them requires some basic skill and precision to achieve the desired results.
There are three steps everyone employing a DIY approach should follow:
Step 1: Choose a Quality Mat Board
At the top of every professional framer’s list is a quality matboard because the finished product is only as good as the board that’s employed.
Though cheaper mat boards are available, they run the risk of containing acids and lignin that may permanently discolor or otherwise harm the artwork throughout the years.
Additionally, the most affordable options are thinner mat boards that don’t offer the same depth that their more expensive counterparts do.
For those on a tight budget, pH-neutral options or ones advertised as acid-free are highly recommended.
These mat boards do not contain chemicals that can cause the deterioration of the artwork while also supplying the proper thickness.
Of course, those framers with a bit bigger budget may also opt for archival options that are completely free of ANY acids and are manufactured from cotton.
Step 2: Use a Wholly Flat Cutting Surface
Mat boards are fairly large in size and need to get cut down to fit the appropriate frame.
As such, a flat topped surface such as a dining room or crafting table are required.
It is crucial that the area where the mat board is getting cut is absolutely free and clear of clutter or anything that may hinder a clean cut.
Mats need to lay completely flat before being cut as the key to a professional finish is precision.
This is especially the case when using either a craft knife or mat cutter.
Step 3: Use a Sharp Cutting Tool
There are three ways to cut a mat board. The first is the one employed by professionals which requires a machine that costs thousands of dollars.
For a DIY approach, there are two affordable options: a craft X-ACTO knife or a mat board cutter.
A craft knife is one that most people have on hand, but it is hard to achieve a professional finish as the craft knife does not have the ability to cut angles.
Matboard cutters are the best option as they have a single blade that allows for the cutting of professional angles with fairly good precision.
Mat boards offer a professional finishing touch for framing artwork, photographs, and sentimental ephemera.
Though it is possible to order custom-cut mat boards, it is financially a much better alternative to take a DIY approach.