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Picture Framing, Matting and Mounting
   Questions and Answers -- Page 2

What is a mat?
A mat is the thick paper-like material you often see surrounding artwork. Mats have several functions:
The original and most functional purpose of a mat is to keep the glass of the frame from touching the framed image. When glass is in direct contact with artwork or photographs, there is a risk of condensation damage, mold, and adhesion where the surfaces touch.

Mats provide visual separation of the image being viewed and the frame. Generous mats tend to better focus the eyes of the viewer on the surrounded image. Narrow mats often make artwork looked cramped and tend to pull the eye of the viewer toward the frame and away from the central focal point.

Strategically selected colored mats can help focus the attention of the viewer on subtle elements in a piece of art and help enhance the viewing experience. Mats may also contain accent elements, decorative cuts, spaced layers, and other elements to compliment framed objects. Today, matting as a design element has overshadowed the original purpose of protecting the artwork.

Current mat choices go well beyond the traditional paper finish. This makes matting as much a part of the design process as frame selection. Mat finishes now include marbleized designs, fabric surfaces and wraps, textured surfaces, leather, foils, printed finishes, and appliques.

Asymmetrical and bottom weighted mats can help control the position of artwork within a frame.

Good mats will contribute to the conservation of framed items. However, lower quality mats may actually accelerate or even cause deterioration damage within a frame.

Mats can sometimes be used to make a piece of artwork fit into a pre-made frame that is too large. The design may not look balanced but this sometimes provides an economical alternative for someone on a tight budget.

What is bottom weighting?
Bottom weighting is accomplished by cutting a mat wider at the bottom than on its sides and top. This style is widely used as the standard in Europe while evenly balanced mats are more common in America. Bottom weighting can have a functional purpose. Many works of art have a focal point that is lower than the physical center of the image. This is common with landscapes that show an expanse of sky. By increasing the size of the bottom mat border the focal point is raised within the frame. This technique may lead to a better-balanced look.

Framing, matting and mounting questions and answers:
Frame types - page 1
Mat types and mounting - page 3
Mounting and glazing - page 4
Glass and backing - page 5

As you consider custom framing, you may wish to:
Review questions and answers about custom framing
Review frame, mat, and mounting questions and answers
Learn about different classifications of printed art

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