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To Mat Or Not To Mat?

Posted by Greta Braddock on Apr 13, 2017

More goes into building a frame than just choosing your frame. You might be dead set on Gallery Luxe Silver—oh la la!—and then when you get to the section of Build A Frame flow asking to choose your mat style, you get stuck. To mat...or not to mat?

There's not necessarily always a right or wrong answer. Whether to frame your piece full bleed or with a mat is often about your personal preference. But to help guide you along, we broke down a few handy questions you should ask yourself every time you have to decide what (besides a gorgeous custom frame, of course) will surround your artwork.

1. What's the size of your piece?

For small pieces, a mat adds oomph, helping to give tiny masterpieces the wall space they deserve. Larger artworks and pieces that have a built-in border might look great framed full bleed (meaning the artwork goes all the way to the frame's edge). That's not to say that a mat won't work for larger pieces as well, but we may recommend a narrower mat in proportion to the artwork. Remember, our shop can always help advise on the ideal mat size for any piece of custom framed artwork.


Adding mats paired with our White Gallery Frames to these pieces from Linda Colletta gives the pieces' bright colors breathing room, while simultaneously providing a clean border that boosts the impact of small-scale artworks.


Drowning Princess from Jvdas Berra, available at These Fine Walls, is a large-scale photograph reads almost like a painting when framed full bleed in our Gallery Frame in Luxe Gold.

For this large-scale photograph by KT Merry, a thin mat is exactly what's needed to set the artwork apart from our Vintage Gold Heritage Frame.

 2. What medium is your piece?

For original paintings, works on paper and custom framed textiles, floating is usually our number one recommendation. First, we attach your art to an acid-free foam core lift, hidden behind the work but mounted to a supporting white mat. Second, we use a spacer to create space between the plexiglass and the surface of your work.

Like a mat, floating gives the piece some space. It also ensures separation between the plexiglass and the original work and reveals the outside border of the artwork, which looks lovely if the paper's edges have an interesting texture. If your piece has a border, a single mat with reveal (a small amount of room between where the artwork ends and the mat begins) is also a great way to elevate your matting style and add a small touch of elegance. If your piece is signed, this is the recommended way to go.


An original piece of artwork by The Cartorialist is perfect floated in our White Gallery Frame in this stunning space that interior designer Sarah Sherman Samuel created for Palm Beach Modernism Week.


Textiles look best sewn and floated on a linen mat, like this pink Otomi fabric we framed in our White Gallery Frame Deep for Liz Libre's Brooklyn apartment.

This high-contrast photo from Permanent Press Editions is matted with a reveal in our Gallery Frame in Dark Walnut, and we love to how the illusion of multiple layers mirrors the photograph itself.

What other mediums might determine your mat and framing style? Well, for large custom framed concert posters or movie posters, we usually recommend the straightforward look of a full-bleed custom frame job. And for important documents and press clippings, we recommend a mat.

A custom-cut mat and our White Gallery Frame are all it takes to make your finest press clippings to shine.

Framing a photograph? A mat can really make your photo pop and complement the flat nature of the medium. Personal photographs or smaller scale pics seem to transcend from casual snapshots to the realm of fine art with the addition of a mat. And for very large-scale and more atmospheric photographs, such as landscapes, framing full bleed can look fab.

Personal photos framed as part of a gallery wall from Angela Elias of POPSUGAR become much more elevated with the addition of a mat. We also adore how Angela mixed our Gallery Frame in Black, our White Gallery Frame and our Certificate Frame in Antique Silver.

But...when it comes to personal photos, mats aren't a given. Photographer Max Wanger created his gallery wall of family photos using all full-bleed black and white images in our Natural Gallery Frames.


A large-scale aerial photograph by Ryan Longnecker looks fabulous framed full bleed in our White Gallery Frame. Photograph by Eva Black.

3. Where will you piece hang, and with what other pieces?

We like to frame pieces in a timeless way, so they can be easily moved from one wall, room, or home to another. That's why we only offer mats in varying shades of white (our shop will always choose the mat that best matches your artwork). But it's still worth considering where and how you will hang your art when deciding whether to add a mat or not. We think gallery walls can be super successful when they incorporate a mixture of matted, floated and full-bleed framing styles.

Artist Teil Duncan demonstrates how a range of custom frame styles—matting, floating and full bleed—can all hang together on one gallery wall.

 
A mixture of our White and Natural Gallery Frames—and matted and full-bleed framing styles—from our friends at Loft Creative.

Finally, be sure to always consider the fact that a mat will add to the final dimensions of your finished piece (so if you're artwork is 11x14", you final framed piece with a mat could be around 17x20") and make sure that the space in which you are hanging your artwork can accommodate the size increase.

4. What's your instinct?

Hopefully, you love and care about the piece you're custom framing with us. Usually, we all have some instincts about how we think it will look best on our wall and in our life, and whether adding the extra space around the image that a mat provides is a good move. And if you don't have a clue—no worries. We're here to help!

Stuck on whether to mat or not to mat? Email hello@simplyframed.com for advice and any questions you have about your next dream framing project. And keep perusing the blog and our Instagram to learn more about when to frame and when to mat.

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