A mat is a border made of paper or illustration board that compliments as it
surrounds an image. Matting a picture is done for protection, ease of
handling, framing, and appearance. Before displaying or presenting a
certificate, a photograph, or a piece of artwork to an individual, you should
mount, mat, and if possible, frame it. It takes skill to cut professional
A mat focuses your attention on the image within the mat. When used in a
frame, mats protect image surfaces from direct contact with the glass that
may trap moisture and cause mildew. When used alone, mats protect image
areas from fingerprints and smudges.
To cut a mat requires skill and patience. You need a pencil, a rule, a steel
straightedge, a crafts knife with a sharp blade, sandpaper or an emery board,
tape, a matboard, and a backing board. You may be fortunate enough to
have a hand-held mat cutter or, better still, a carriage-type mat cutter.
The width of the top and the sides of a mat are equal. The width of the
bottom of the mat is slightly larger in dimension than the top and sides. A
good ratio to work with is 3 to 4.
Cutting a mat
The key to successful mat cutting is to use a sharp blade in your knife. The
first thing you prepare should be the blade. Lightly mark the mat dimensions
on the surface of the mat. Place the steel straightedge on the mat and cut
along the inside edge. That way, should your knife slip, the cut would be on
the portion of the mat you intended to discard. Begin your cuts at the
corners. Hold the knife at a right angle to the mat to make a square cut and
at a lesser angle to make a bevel cut. Maintain the same angle of cut for all
sides of the mat.
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