Matboards 101: A Guide to Choosing, Cutting, Mounting, and Buying

Matboards are an essential tool for artists, photographers, and art collectors looking to display their work in the best possible way. From understanding what matboards are, to learning how to customize them, this blog post will guide you through everything you need to know about matboards and how to make the most of them in presenting your artwork or prints.

What are matboards?

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What are Matboards?

Matboards, also referred to as matting or matting boards, are robust, flat surfaces made of paper-based or archival material. They frame and showcase the artwork, photographs, or prints. Matboards serve several purposes: safeguarding the artwork, creating depth, and complementing the visual appearance.

shop textured black matboard

Types of Matboards and Their Thickness

Matboards come in various materials and thickness levels. Here's a breakdown:

Paper-based Matboards:

  • Description: Made from paper products, these are an economical option suitable for everyday use.
  • Best For: Temporary displays, decorative framing, or situations where archival quality isn't essential.
  • Considerations: While affordable, they may not be the best option for valuable artwork or long-term display, as they might not be acid-free. So be sure to always double-check what you need before buying.

Archival Matboards:

  • Description: Crafted from acid-free materials, these offer superior preservation and are often used by professionals.
  • Best For: Valuable or sentimental artwork, limited edition prints, and long-term storage, as they protect against yellowing and deterioration.
  • Considerations: Typically more expensive than paper-based matboards, but the investment ensures that artwork remains in pristine condition for years to come.

common ply matboard thickness

    Matboard Thickness Options:

    • 2-ply: This is the thinnest option available and is typically used for delicate or subtle framing needs. It's an excellent choice for temporary displays or artwork that requires a minimalist touch. Although it may not be suitable for heavy or valuable pieces, it's a flexible and lightweight option for specific artistic requirements.
    • 4-ply: The most common choice for most artworks and prints. It provides adequate depth without being overly bulky.
    • 6-ply: A medium-thick option that provides more depth and sturdiness than 4-ply but is less bulky than 8-ply. This thickness is ideal for medium-weight artworks or prints and offers a more substantial feel, enhancing the overall appearance of your framed piece.
    • 8-ply: For more substantial or larger pieces, this thicker option offers a pronounced, luxurious presentation.

    Colors, textures, and types of matboards

    Selecting Matboard Color and Texture

    Choosing the right color and texture is vital for your artwork's visual impact. Consider the following:

    Color Considerations:

    • Complementary Colors: Choose a matboard color that complements or enhances the tones in your artwork. If your piece is rich in warm hues like reds and oranges, a cooler matboard color might provide a striking balance. This brand has a lot of colors to choose from.
    • Neutral Colors: Subtle, neutral hues like white, cream, or gray work well with most artworks, allowing the focus to remain on the piece itself. They’re especially good for intricate or highly colorful works where a bold mat might distract. Here is a great collection of conservation grade neutral-colored matboard.
    • Accent Colors: A bold color that matches a minor color within the artwork can create a striking effect, highlighting specific elements of the piece.
    • Avoid Clashing Colors: Be mindful of colors that might clash with your artwork and divert attention away from it.

    Texture Considerations:

    • Linen, Fabric, or Suede: Experimenting with various textures can add depth and visual interest. For instance, a linen texture might add sophistication, while a suede texture could provide a soft and luxurious feel.
    • Match with Artwork's Theme: Consider the subject and style of your artwork. A rustic or rough texture might suit a landscape painting, while a sleek, smooth texture might be best for a modern abstract piece. This high-quality RagMat matboard has a nice texture, but most brands like this will have a little texture as well.

    Matboard cutting tools

    Tools to Cut Matboards

    If you plan to cut matboards yourself, you'll need:

    how to cut matboard

    How to Cut Matboards

    1. Measure Artwork: Get exact dimensions including any desired borders.
    2. Mark the Matboard: Use a ruler and pencil to sketch the cutting lines.
    3. Align Mat Cutter: Adjust the mat cutter to the marked lines, ensuring alignment.
    4. Execute the Cut: Hold the mat cutter firmly and slide it along the marked lines. Apply steady pressure for a clean cut.
    5. Check and Adjust: Inspect the cuts and make any fine adjustments needed.
    6. Repeat for Other Sides: Continue the process for all sides of the matboard opening.
    7. Smooth Edges if Necessary: Utilize fine-grit sandpaper if any rough edges need smoothing.

    Making your own matboard

    Where to Buy Matboards if You Don't Want to Do It Yourself

    Not everyone wants to take on the task of cutting their matboards. Thankfully, there are numerous places to shop where you can purchase pre-cut or custom-cut matboards to fit your specific needs. Here are some options to consider:

    • Art Supply Stores: Often, your nearby art or craft stores will carry a variety of matboards in different colors, textures, and sizes. They may even offer custom cutting services.

    • Framing Shops: Many framing shops specialize in mat cutting and can provide expert advice on the best type and size of matboard for your artwork. Some offer online tools to help you visualize the finished product.

    • Amazon: You can find some great deals and selection of matboards here on Amazon.

    learn how to paint with step by step videos and reference photos

    • Online Art Shops: Websites that specialize in art supplies often have a wide selection of matboards. You can usually filter by color, material, thickness, and size. Some even provide the option to order custom cut matboards.

    • Art Fairs and Galleries: Sometimes, local artists or galleries will have connections with suppliers or in-house services to create custom matboards. Don't hesitate to ask for recommendations!

    Where to shop matboard and what to choose"A Wanderer's Dream" Signed Art Print

      How to Mount Artwork to Matboard

      Methods to consider:

      • Hinging: Attach around the edges with acid-free tape for stability.
      • Floating: Suspend the artwork so that it is attached only at the top edge, giving it a suspended appearance.
      • PVA Adhesive: Using a few dabs of quality, acid-free PVA, is a great method to attach a print or even a painting. Align and lay the print down on the matboard. Use a Q-tip to apply a little bit of glue to the edge, and then let it dry.
      • Backboard and Mounting: Enhance protection and presentation with a backing board.
      how to mount matboard to artwork

      Recommendations for Working with Matboards

      Follow these best practices:

      1. Use Acid-Free Materials: Always choose acid-free and archival matboards and adhesives if you plan on selling or preserving your artwork. This protects your art from turning yellow or breaking down over time.

      2. Avoid Direct Glass Contact: Avoid letting the artwork touch the matboard or glass directly. This can cause discoloration or sticking. Using acid-free spacers (or matboard pieces) can prevent these issues if necessary.

      3. Invest in Good Cutting Tools: For clean and accurate cuts, invest in a high-quality mat cutter and cutting surface. It ensures your matboard fits your artwork perfectly. Also, take your time when mounting the board to your artwork. Attention to detail matters.

      4. Explore Colors and Textures: Try different colors and textures to personalize your matboard. From subtle hues to bold contrasts, finding the right combination can enhance the look of your artwork. Experiment until you find what works best for your piece.

      5. Test with Samples: Many framing stores offer small samples of matboard. Placing them next to your artwork can give you a better sense of how the final product will look.

      6. Seek Professional Advice if Needed: If you're uncertain, don't hesitate to consult with a framing expert. They can offer insights based on your specific piece and the effect you want to achieve.


      Artwork with matboard"Eternal Reign" storm clouds art print

      Matboards are not only a functional tool, but a platform to allow your artwork to shine in a creative way. With the right materials, color, and texture, matboards can transform the appearance and appeal of your artwork. I hope that this has helped you in finding the right solution for your matboard needs. Happy matting!

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