MAT DESIGN IDEAS
When mats were first invented, they had two core functions. One was to provide an area for visual relief so the art could be viewed without the distraction of the nearby surroundings. Secondly, the depth of the mat also serves as a spacer to keep the glass from touching the face of the art.
In the past few decades mats have taken on a more decorative role. Since mats are now available in many colors, patterns and textures, they are used to match colors in the art and to coordinate with the room decor.
Mat borders are also an important consideration. It is best to avoid having mat borders the same width as the frame surrounding them. Generally it will look best if the mat is somewhat wider than the frame. Too narrow a border can bring down the perceived value of the art and it tends to look crowded in the frame.
Most mats have square or rectangular window openings, but other cuts are possible. The opening can conform to irregular art shapes. An angled corner (octagon) can cover damaged corners on the art, etc.
When mats were first introduced to framing, they were all a single layer. Today it is much more common to use two or three layers. Single mats are probably used most on high end art where the frame designs are simple and classic, not decorative. Single mats also have application when matting vintage, classic or antique pieces as it helps them look authentic to their era.
Double mats allow you to add an accent color that can be used to help draw attention to the art by outlining it. However, a double mat can be made using two of the same color for a more subtle look.
When using three layers, you have even more opportunity to use color, but once again all the layers can be the same or you can sandwich an accent color between two of the same color.
Mat with Fillet
Fillets are narrow mouldings used as an accent, either inside the lip of a frame or more often in mat openings. Fillets have more depth than mats and finishes comparable to frames so they are useful to coordinate with the frame for a highly customized look.
Mat with Spacers
Spacers can be added between mat layers for extra depth. The spacers can bring out inherent depth in the art, such as a landscape with perspective. It can also add actual depth to accommodate an object or dimensional art.
Although most mat openings are square or rectangular, shapes can be cut to mimic irregular art shapes. Angled corners (octagonal cuts) can hide dented or broken corners on the art, etc.
Mats can be cut with more than one window opening. Doing so allows you to place more than one picture in a frame. This works especially well with things such as family or vacation photos, stamp collections or anything else you want to display together.
There are numerous mat colors to choose from yet neutrals account for most mat sales. People tend to tire of specific colors more quickly than neutrals. Yet there is a time and place for color. When using colorful mats, remember the art should be the focal point of the completed frame design.
Neutral mat colors tend not to compete with the art as much as colorful mats. They also offer more flexibility to hang the frame art in other situations, following a move or redecorating project.
This shows the same print matted with three different colors. None of the choices are wrong, they are just different. Dark mats tend to allow the light in the art to pop while a light mat usually intensifies the darker colors. A mid tone mat keeps both the light and dark details in the art more equal
Fabric covered mats can add a richness a paper surfaced mat may not provide. Fabrics can be used on art, photos, etc. They are nearly always used when framing objects. When choosing which fabric to use, consider the subject matter, era, and be sure it sets off the item being framed rather than blending so perfectly that it gets lost in the mat.
Patterns and Textures
In addition to fabric textured mats, other mats are available with printed patterns or embossed textures. These are used for decorative purposes only. Be careful to avoid mats that distract from the item you are framing.
Uniform Mat Borders
When the unframed art looks well-balanced, it is generally OK to use uniform mat borders on all sides to maintain that look.
A bottom-weighted mat is one where the border below the image is wider than the borders above and beside it. This technique is used both for aesthetic and functional reasons. When an image has darker colors, larger shapes, or more texture or pattern in the lower half than it does in the upper half, it can look like it is sinking into the mat once it is framed. By increasing the width of the lower mat border, the completed piece looks more balanced. If the image itself has a larger margin below than on the other sides, it is necessary to bottom-weight the mat in order to avoid cutting the art.
An elongated mat has a wider border both above and below the art. Elongation tends to look best on images that are vertical or those which have strong vertical lines.