Far From The Matting Crowd: How To Make Your Own Double Mats For Your Pictures

Using a mat around your framed picture will highlight the colours in the artwork or photograph. This technique will also enlarge the framing area and protect the print or painting from pressing against the glass. Using two mats in compatible colours adds even more depth to the piece. Here's how you can make your own double mats to bring to the frame shop or use to frame a picture yourself.

Take the time to choose two suitable mats.

When you go to the framing shop or art supply store to purchase your mat boards, you should know the size of the frame you'll be using. You'll be able to find mats already cut to fit standard-sized frames. If you have an odd-sized frame, the shop can cut the mats to fit, or you can buy a larger mat and cut it yourself at home.

Bring your picture with you to try out the various colours of mats. It's okay to use two mats of the same hue, but using two mats in contrasting or complementary colours will add depth and interest. Remember to consider the décor in the room where the picture will hang when selecting your colours.

Have the right tools ready.

You'll want a clean, flat work space large enough for the matting, with a surface that can handle knife cuts, such as thick cardboard or an artist's cutting mat. For very small pictures, a clean kitchen cutting board is fine.

You'll also need:

  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Tape
  • Mat cutter (small tool that sets a beveled edge as it cuts)

Measure very carefully.

Using the back side of the innermost mat, place your picture where you want to to be, measuring it so there's equal distance from each side of the picture to the mat sides. It's okay if the top and bottom edges are varied; often framers will have the bottom border of the mat be slightly deeper or narrower than the top border.

Trace a faint pencil line onto the back of the inner mat using the picture as your guide. Using a ruler, measure a space 3 to 6 mm. smaller than the tracing so the mat will overlap the edges of your picture and hold it in place. Use your ruler to measure these lines parallel to each other rather than using the edges of the mat itself, as the mat may not be perfectly square on its outside edges.

Use the mat cutter and a ruler to cut out the opening. Then, place your picture behind it to be certain it looks good. Next, place the inner mat on top of the back side of the outer mat. Carefully trace the outline of the inner mat opening onto the back of the outer mat. Using your ruler, measure out 6 to 10 mm. wider than this tracing to get the opening for the outer mat, then be certain these lines are parallel to each other.

Cut the outer mat the same way you did the first. Place it over the inner mat to check that both mats are even. Next, cut only a small bit of the corners off the inner mat to give you a way to tape it to the outer mat.

Now you're ready to frame your picture, or you can take it to the frame shop for a professional mounting with your own hand-cut double mat. For more information, go to websites of frame companies to see what services they offer.