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Have you ever wondered why mats are used in framing artwork and photographs?
Martha Stewart shares some matting examples here :
Well, they serve several purposes. One of the main purposes is to protect the piece in which you are framing. Artwork and photographs over time, and with temperature changes, can stick to the glass if there is no barrier in between the piece and the glass. Glossy photographs are the most likely to stick to glass – matte finish papers usually won’t.
A piece of fine art should be allowed to ‘breathe’ in the frame (expand and contract) and the mat allows for that. The mat serves as a layer of protection so that the image is not in contact with the glass. Especially if you have an original piece of art (like a pastel) or a photograph that you want to preserve for years to come.
No Mat vs Mat
Another way that mats are used is to make an image stand out. When you mat your image it can help by adding depth and dimension to your piece, thus making the eye focus in on the image. It can also help enhance certain colors in the piece making them pop off the page. If you would like to add more depth and dimension to your work you can double or even triple mat your piece. Also, if you have a small image, instead of enlarging it you can put a larger mat on it, making the piece overall a lot bigger.
Most picture framers will have dozens of colors and textures to choose from to help enhance your piece and help you show off your precious piece of artwork and photographs, as well as show off a little of your personality at the same time.
Always choose mats that are acid-free so they will not harm your artwork or photographs and the bevel will not yellow over time.
So…. to mat or not? Some pieces of art need to be matted; pastels (so the color doesn’t transfer to the glass), needlework, shiny photos, and delicate papers like rice paper.
It also comes down to budget – single mat vs triple mat – and personal preference. Same with the width of mats. I love the look of a wide mat on a piece of art… others don’t.