How to Mat Artwork

Updated: Sep 19, 2021

Greetings! Today I wanted to share a very simple tutorial on how to mat your artwork. I'll be demonstrating this tutorial with a painting I made with watercolors on hot pressed watercolor paper. Making your artwork look fabulous in its frame is extremely easy. Let's get started!

 

Gather Your Supplies

To begin, gather up the materials you'll need to mat your work. Pulling everything out before getting started makes the process a lot smoother.


Here's what you'll need:

  • Ruler

  • Artwork

  • Artist Tape

  • Hinging Tape

  • Pencil

  • Mat Template

  • Scissors

  • Backing Board

  • Mat Board

  • Frame

 

Test the Template

Before I pick which mat I want for a piece, I'll create a test template to see how it looks. Some pieces look good with a lot of negative space around it, some look better with a smaller mat. So to save myself a headache, I like to test it out with a simple sheet of printer paper.


Pro tip: save your templates for future matting projects! It will save you so much time.

 

Prep the Backing Board

To ensure my painting is perfectly centered, I like to draw very light pencil lines on my backing board. I place my ruler on the board and move the painting around until it has an even amount of space on both sides. I make two little tick marks for each dimension (length and width). Then I line the ruler up and connect the dots.


Your painting should now have a custom box that fits around it perfectly. This is where you'll place your painting when you adhere it to the backing board.

 

Tape It Down

The next step is to simply tape the painting down. This is the exact reason why I leave a border around all of my paper pieces. Not only does it result in a very clean, finished look when I'm done painting - it also gives me easy-to-follow lines when I'm taping my artwork to the backing board. So place your painting in the box you just created and tape around all of the edges.


Pro Tip: make sure you use artist tape or any type of archival tape to adhere the painting to the backing board. This will prevent yellowing over time, which is crucial when selling art made on paper.

 

Make the Hinge

At this point, go ahead and grab the mat board that will be placed on top of your painting. Place it upside down on your surface and line it up with your backing board.


To make a lasting hinge between the backing board and the mat board, I use linen hinging tape. I measure out a piece of tape that's slightly smaller than my framing boards and put it down across the two boards, ensuring that it's flat and the boards are equally covered by the tape.


Essentially you're making a little "hinge" where the mat board will fold over top of your painting. This makes it super easy to pop into the frame and keeps them lined up permanently.

 

Frame It

The last step is to place your work into your desired frame. The painting here is 3.5"x4.5" with a 0.25" border all around. I placed it in a mat board sized to fit an 8"x10" frame.


I don't personally cut my mat boards. I find it much simpler to purchase them pre-cut. It saves me time and they come out much nicer than what I could manage to do.


Pro Tip: always place paper works behind glass, especially those made with water-activated mediums. This will keep them safe from moisture and dust. (I didn't photograph with the glass due to glare, but I put the glass in after I finished taking photos for this post.)

 

And there you have it! Matting artwork is much easier than I thought it was. I now have a process that makes it super simple to make my work look professional.


As I mentioned earlier, I prefer to order all my framing supplies. It's just easier and saves me so much frustration. My go to store is Frame Destination! Everything I've bought from their site has been great quality and came exactly as described. I buy mat boards, backing boards, frames, and framing tape from them. (No, this isn't sponsored. I just really love their products.)


Also, this painting is based on a beautiful photograph by Sunxjin on Instagram. You can see their beautiful image here. As this piece is based on a photographer's work, it is not for sale and will be living amongst my personal collection of Scottish-inspired artwork. Please go follow them on social media and support their work!


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Thanks for reading and happy creating!