Choosing a Mat for your Favourite Art

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  • May 25, 2017
Choosing a Matt

So you found a wonder work of art, the perfect print but the mat that came with frame you put this artwork in just doesn’t work. So what’s the problem, the color of the mat, the size of the mat or both? Although there other aspects that can influence the overall look or appeal of a piece of art such as the frame or the rooms décor, in this article we are addressing tips to picking the perfect mat. When choosing a mat you must consider color and proportion.

When it comes to color the easy way out is to choose an off white mat. However, you are missing an opportunity to really make your artwork pop. Think of mat as a way of giving your art borders so it is like looking through a window. Now if the artwork had a lot of dark blue colour would you use a mat of the same color and shade? No- why? Because you would not have a definitive border between where the art work ends and the framing device begins. However, a light color, may be even in the blue family would work (this often referred to as the color temperature). Think back to your grade school art classes. Do you remember primary colors? Secondary colors? How about complimentary (opposite) colors? Ah…now we are on to something. Orange is the complimentary to blue….so why not an orange mat to go with our blue artwork. Sometimes the shade of colour after is secondary or tertiary color in the artwork itself. Lastly, do consider the décor or more specifically the wall color of the room you want to hang your precious artwork… try to draw a color that works with both the décor of the room and the artwork. Strick a balance, if the room is full of dark colour and the artwork is also dark then light mat or border will break up the room color. Otherwise prepare to paint the walls and call your interior decorator.

Another major factor is proportion. A very large work of art, say 60” x 40” with a 1” mat almost seems pointless. Conversely, can you image what a small art work, 8” x 14” would look like if it had 15” mat? The artwork would be visually lost in the middle of the ridiculously oversized mat. The point is to look for balance. Sometimes choosing a mat size could be determined by what portion of the artwork you want to “frame”- often the mat covers up a portion of the actual artwork. Generally speaking most mats are 2” up to 4” and these work just fine for most art sizes 8” x 10” to 30” x 40”. However, the larger you get the wider you will want your mat. Perhaps even consider a double mat to achieve a thicker wider border while creating depth. Usually a secondary inside edge mat will only reveal ¼” or a 1/8” and in some cases to achieve some visual contrast a different color can be used. As a tip, keep in mind the composition of the artwork. If the artwork is made of many busy intricate components then a wider larger mat (4” and above) will provide a much needed visual break. Of course often the artwork itself or even the space where you wish to hang it may actually dictate the size of mat and frame you can use.


  1. Jen Graves

    Thanks! You have given some really good tips.

    August 20, 2017

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