How to Choose and Cut Your Own Mats

By Nicole Tinkham


At our last Super Saturday Sale, we spiced things up a bit and had two demonstrations prepared for our customers: an oil painting demonstration by Patricia Sorg, and a mat cutting demonstration by Mike Grecian. While both demos are certainly blog worthy, we’ve dedicated this spot to filling you in on some of the stuff you missed out on at the mat cutting table. While you may not get to watch Mike demo how easy the process is, you’ll learn great tips like how to choose a mat color, the correct way to make your measurements, different types of cuts, how to store your mat board, and more. Let’s begin with why you would want your artwork matted in the first place.

3 Reasons to use mats

1. Presentation

Mats enhance the display of the final piece and can even bring out particular colors in the artwork. There are many different types of mats that can drastically change the presentation of the artwork such as double (and triple) mats, various shapes and sizes, and mat color.

2. Support

The front and backing of a mat support and protect the artwork. A mat can even hide hinges or other material that’s holding the artwork in place.

3. Air circulation

A mat provides space between the artwork and the glass of the frame which prevents moisture from being trapped.


Things to consider when choosing a color

• Characteristics of the artwork: Consider colors, textures, and the subject of the piece.

• The surroundings: Think about where the artwork will be displayed.
*If hung on a patterned wall, choose a white mat to keep the piece from getting lost.

• Personal preference: Choose colors that appeal to you.

Storing your mat boards

Try to keep large mat boards flat to avoiding bowing. It’s a good idea to wrap them in a dry paper or plastic bag to keep moisture out.

Selecting a size

• When choosing a size/style mat, consider characteristics of the artwork. Think about coloring (light, dark, dull, bright, etc.), shapes, texture, mood, and the artwork lines (bold, busy, delicate, etc.).

• Large borders provide plenty of space between the artwork and the frame and often make the piece look important. Small borders tend to distract the eye with too many lines so close to the artwork.

• The width of the mat and the width of the frame should be clearly different.

• More matting on the bottom border is pleasing to the eye and portrays an elegant style.

How to measure mats

• Measuring should be done with quality wooden or metal rulers. Do not use cloth measuring tapes or yardsticks as these may give an inaccurate measurement.

• Frames are measured from the back side along the inside edge. This will determine the outer dimensions of the mat. Cut your mat just slightly smaller than the inside dimensions of the frame for a comfortable fit.

• The opening of the mat needs to overlap the artwork by 1/8” on all sides so the artwork doesn’t fall through.

Cutting the PERFECT mat

• Make sure the mat cutter is on a flat and level surface before you begin.

• Use a T-square for measuring and make sure the head is secured (not wobbly).

• Use a scrap piece of mat board under the mat you are cutting for a cleaner cut.

• Adjust the depth of the blade to ensure it cuts all the way through the mat board.

• Achieve clean cuts with a sharp blade. When your edges begin to look rough, it’s time to change the blade.

• Slide the blade into position rather than jabbing it into the mat board.

• Use a hard pencil lightly when making marks for easy removal and no smearing.

Mat styles

• Double mat

A double mat uses two different pieces of mat board. The larger mat is on top and the smaller one serves as a liner in the opening of the larger one. You can use two different colors but using the same color will give a nice subtle effect.

• Offset mat

An offset mat is a style in which a notch is created in each inside corner of the mat. This can give a Western, Asian, or Art Deco style depending on the notch size.

• V-groove

This type of cut will actually reveal the core of the mat board (usually white) which will give you more definition. Use a V-groove cut instead of doing a double mat when you are limited on room in the frame!

• Inlay mat

An inlay mat is similar to a double mat in that it provides a second color but an inlay is put together in a single seamless layer (rather than layered).

• Shadow box

A shadow box uses spacer material to create depth and a shadow. This type of matting is ideal for objects, embellishments, and scrapbook pages.

• Roman mat

A Roman mat is the combination of a circle or oval cut and a square or rectangular cut (see below). These are best used for formal photos.


Now that you have a few creative ideas for mats that you can cut on your own, we bet you’re anxious to get started! Here are 4 types of Logan mat cutters that you may be interested in.

1. Hand-held cutter

2. Compact mat cutter

3. Simplex mat cutter

4. Oval and circle mat cutter

If you have any questions about the mat cutters listed above, please feel free to stop in or give us a call at 941-747-2995. There are many tips and tricks out there for cutting your own mats. If you have a tip you would like added to this post, please share it in the comment box below. Be sure to subscribe to our blog for more helpful tips and product info!


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