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Picture Framing, Matting and Mounting
   Questions and Answers -- Page 3

What kind of mats should I use?
For protecting artwork, only conservation or museum grade mats should be used. There are three basic types of mats used in picture framing.

Regular or paper mat - These mats, while being cost effective, contain a product called lignin. Over time lignin breaks down creating an acidic gas that can leave a burn mark on artwork. The color of the mat will also change over time and the white bevel will gradually darken. Because art sellers and artists generally want to maximize their profit, this type of mat is often used on pre-matted artwork. For this reason art sold with these mats should be rematted before framing.

Alpha cellulose mat - Cellulose is the chief material in all plant life. Alpha cellulose is the purest form of this material. These mats are buffered to maintain a slightly alkaline pH. They are considered to be preservation quality. As long as the buffering agents are active these mats will not harm artwork, nor fade. Alpha cellulose mats provide protection from acids for many years.

Rag mat - Made from cotton linters are naturally lignin free. Some are made with a buffered color surface paper and are considered preservation grade. Rag mats may be 100% cotton rag and tinted only with pigments with a solid color throughout.

What about fabric mats?
The use of fabric mats can really add a distinct elegance to your framed art. Whether it is suede, linen, silk or various other fabrics, the colors and textures of fabric take your framing design to a new level. There is a wide range of fabric types and colors that come pre-covered onto alpha cellulose and rag mats. The majority of these mats, though, are not preservation grade. This is because the fabric does not meet standards for bleed resistance.

If you cannot find a pre-covered fabric mat to suit your needs, mats can be hand wrapped with virtually any fabric. Studio Seven Arts has a large selection of fabrics from which to choose. You may also bring in your own fabric for us to wrap.

How many mats should I use?
The use of two mats is common -- a wide outer mat, plus a narrow amount of inner mat exposed from under the outer mat. The color of the outer mat is often selected to expand the feeling of the image being framed. The color of the inner mat is often chosen to accent secondary or tertiary colors within the image. 

Sometimes no mat is necessary. Sometimes three, four, or even six mats might look best. Each mat adds depth and multiple mats can expand the number of accent colors. There is no set rule for determining how many mats should be used. The artwork and framing budget are the significant determining factors. Keep in mind that the effect of matting should always be to enhance the artwork, not to overwhelm it.

What is a liner?
Liners are special frames, usually covered with linen or other fabric, that are designed to fit inside the main frame around a picture. Like mats, they provide visual separation between a frame and artwork. Liners also add much more depth and dimension than mats. Generally liners are used when framing artwork on canvas, such as original oil or acrylic paintings or giclee prints on canvas. But they may also be used in combination with mats to give other types of framed art a look of sophistication or flair. White, black, and oatmeal colored liners have been commonly used,  but now liners can be custom wrapped using any fabric to create truly spectacular frames.

What is mounting?
Mounting is the process of securing and holding artwork or artifacts in place. There are a number of ways to mount items for framing. But the most critical consideration is the importance of preservation. Some items have little long-term value and are framed strictly for decorative purposes. Permanent mounting often provides the best looking, most secure and least expensive alternative for these things. Other items have value, either financial or sentimental, that will be diminished if a permanent mounting is used. In these cases conservation mounting techniques should be used. Before framing anything you should understand its value to you, your family members, or as an investment. Once you know this your framer can help determine the best type of mounting technique for your project.

Permanent mounting is irreversible. An object is attached using adhesives, to a backing material that will hold it securely in place within a frame. Permanent mounts can hold paper and other thin objects flat to avoid waving and can minimize creases or folds. Permanent mounting techniques can also avoid the use of visible attachments such as straps, wires, thread, or other mounting materials that might detract from the appearance of a framed object because they are visible to the viewer. But with permanent mounting artwork or objects cannot be dismounted and returned to original condition.

Conservation mounting holds artwork and artifacts in place without subjecting it to irreversible mounting processes. The objective of conservation mounting it makes possible to later remove objects from the frame without evidence of it being framed and in its original condition.

Frame, mat and mounting questions and answers:
Frame types - page 1
Matting techniques - page 2
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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