Matting Your Artwork

A great mat can really add a wow factor to your artwork and turn a lackluster painting into a piece that deserves a second look.

No matter how good your composition is, how painterly your brush strokes or how harmonious your palette, the right mat will bring your painting up to a new level of professionalism.

You might compare your painting to a good suit. No matter how costly the fabric, how fine the tailoring and how well it fits, until you’ve added the right accessories, it just looks sort of bland. The right belt, shirt, shoes and tie raises the bar a notch and adds interest to your ensemble.

Pre-Made Mats

There are an almost unlimited number of mats available from art and craft suppliers across the globe. Just as there are many standard sized frames, there are at least as many standard sized mats. You have your choice of many colors, and you are able to purchase double mats as well as single mats.

If you do a lot of artwork, it’s worth considering the use of standard sizes for your artwork. You’ll spend less time calculating custom sizing and can have a piece mounted and ready for sale in no time. Using pre-made supplies cuts down on work you may find tedious, difficult or counterproductive. Every hour you spend building frames, mats and the like is one less hour you have to devote to painting.

Your Custom Mat

If you’re really into the mounting and framing end of the art world, if you find the framing process a creative and enjoyable one, or if you’re on a very tight budget and need to stretch every dollar, do-it-yourself matting may be a great alternative.

You’ll have total control of the width of your matting, the number of mats, the color and the material selection. Manufacturers produce mat board in every color of the rainbow. There are many specialty mat boards to make your masterpiece really stand out with textures like grass cloth, damask cloth and marbleized paper.

Unique Touches

Whether you purchase a stock mat or make your own, you can add special touches to make your mat a unique expression of your artistic tastes and sensibilities.

You can add a gold liner around the inside of your mat to add a touch of elegance. Purchase gold foil-covered paper from your craft supplier, cut ½-inch strips with a paper cutter and tape the strips to the backside of your mat. Leave 1/8-inch to ¼-inch exposed on all four sides. If you cut the ends of two opposite sides at 45-degree angles, you will have the look of mitered corners when they are taped in place. Rather than using gold paper, try a marbleized paper or other decorative sheets that blends with the colors of your painting.

Add decorative painted touches to your mat. If you’re painting a floral with vines and leaves, extend a trailing vine and leaf buds from your painting onto the mat. Paint a tiny sprig of maple leaves in the corner of a mat to complement a fall landscape or add a few snowflakes on the mat of a wintery scene. Use your imagination to add a few well-spaced embellishments to your mat board for eye-catching appeal.

Matting For Competitions And Juried Shows

If you are matting a piece for competition, make sure that you are using the guidelines the show provides. Some juried competitions and many judges are not fond of decorative matting and insist on white or cream colored mats. They may or may not want double matting. Save your fancy decorator touches for customers and galleries.

Choosing Your Mat Colors

Using the right color can add drama to your piece or accent the colors within your work. You can set the mood with your choice of mat colors and also give it a contemporary, eclectic or elegant feel just by changing the color, width and number of mats.

Often, an artist will create a series of paintings based on a particular color or subject matter. He may mat these all in a similar color family and style to encourage potential buyers to purchase multiple items. If you’re painting for the home décor market, it’s a wise idea to keep similar types of paintings matted with harmonizing colors.

Multiple Mats

Use a double or triple mat to add depth and professionalism to your work. Often a white or cream-colored mat is lined with a colored or black mat. A triple mat may all be cream or white, or the inner mats may pick up colors from the painting.

If you have a small painting that you really want to stand out, double or triple mat it. The added depth gives weight and a sense of substance to a small piece that may otherwise be overlooked. Balance it with a strong frame to continue the tone of the piece.

Getting creative with matting can be an extension of the creativity you put into your painting. Unique mats are popular with the home decorating crowd, so inventive matting is a good way to boost your sales.

Making your own mats is not a difficult skill, and you can purchase a good set of tools at a reasonable cost. The price for a set of matting tools can easily be made up by no longer purchasing ready-made or custom-made mats. You also have the luxury and convenience of total control in the way your finished piece appears.

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