Art

Why Extra-Wide Matting Isn't a Framing Faux Pas

January  6, 2016

If you've ever been to a restaurant, an office, a school, a museum, a store, or the home of a grown-up (that is, if you've been indoors ever), you're familiar with matting—that stretch of blank paper often placed between a piece of artwork and its frame. It's there to separate the art from the glass, thereby protecting it, and also to enhance the overall look of the finished piece. Matting helps art breathe.

The standard recommendation from a good framer would be to add 2-ish inches around all sides of a small artwork, 3-ish around a large one, etc. Just a little bit, to keep things proportionate. But what about overdoing it?

Photo by Bresic Whitney (via The Design Files)

There's nothing stopping you from asking your framer to add a few extra inches of matting—even dwarfing the size of the art with lots of extra space before the frame. True, this move hugely effects the way the art looks and interacts with its neighbors (as you can see in the image above), and isn't always the answer, but doing so can lend just the dose of unexpected drama that your wall needs.

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Top Comment:
“and then matting several pieces of art with the intention of sharing the same frame . . . the size of the mats will be adjusted with that in mind. Establishing safe storage for the items not on display will also be a necessary consideration. For some light-sensitive collectible items one needs to consider the use of the proper protective glass. It can be especially wise to switch some pieces of art as a protection against over exposure. And the notion of less is more is often true with hanging art.”
— bobbe
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Here are some reasons—along with a handful of pictures from around the internet to prove it—that we think using a whole lot of mat board can be very good thing.

To Cover Some Wall Space

Groups of small prints cover more wall with the help of matting. Photo by Kris Kendrick (via Flickr), Head Over Heels

Large-format art can be a pricey indulgence. The easy solution when you have a big blank wall is to hang a cluster of smaller pieces in a group ("the gallery wall")—but another option is to make a small piece much larger—by adding lots of roomy matting when you frame it.

When you do this to a set of artworks (or a quartet of them, seen above), what was once a very small wall hanging will cover way more real estate and will catch far more attention.

To Keep a Small Piece From Getting Lost

See that little black piece in the top right? Wide matting keeps it from getting lost in this wall. Photo by Soho House (via My Domaine)

Extra matting adds grandeur—but also negative space—so choose the pieces you frame larger by using it wisely. A tiny painting that you want to give more prominence, a wispy drawing that you fear would get lost in the gallery wall: These are candidates for big mats.

To Make the Art Fit the Frame

The flexibility of custom-cutting mat means you can make use of oddly-sized art or frames. Photo by ASH NYC, Dabito (via West Elm)

If you collect old frames or buy a piece of art that's irregularly-sized (that is, not 4" x 6" or the like), you're going to run into a situation where the art will not fit in the frame you love for it in a standard way. Enter mat board, which can be custom cut to fit art of any shape to frames of any size (so long as they are, of course, larger).

This scenario is what breeds some of the most interesting framing: matting that's weighted on either side of a square piece of art so it fits in a rectangular frame you'd like to hang horizontally, or matting that's weighted on the top and bottom of a piece in a portrait-oriented frame simply because you can.

How do you creatively use matting when framing? Do you ever use color matting? Dish in the comments.

7 Comments

Nancy B. January 11, 2016
Yet if one of the reasons you're going with extra wide matting is to splurge less on "large" art, you must consider the expense of a large frame. When you get a piece custom framed expect to spend much more for a larger frame necessitated by the larger matte.
 
bobbe January 11, 2016
As another option, for those who would like to consider the option of rotating the display of some of your images, it makes sense to find the perfect frame considering the wall space etc. . . . and then matting several pieces of art with the intention of sharing the same frame . . . the size of the mats will be adjusted with that in mind. Establishing safe storage for the items not on display will also be a necessary consideration. For some light-sensitive collectible items one needs to consider the use of the proper protective glass. It can be especially wise to switch some pieces of art as a protection against over exposure. And the notion of less is more is often true with hanging art.
 
AntoniaJames January 7, 2016
My best matting tip: Go to the professional framer who works with the owners of the gallery you like the most; take with you photos of the other pieces already on your walls, and specs on their mats and frames, if you can. <br />Trust their judgment. They are artists, and will never let you down. What you spend on the right mat - not just size, but texture and perhaps most important, color (and did you know there are over a dozen different "white" options) -- is well worth whatever extra you pay by not doing it yourself. ;o) P.S. Save in a file all details on all materials used on all pieces that have been matted and framed. A PDF of the work order, filed intelligently, should be included. You will thank me for this tip. <br />
 
Carolyn P. January 7, 2016
Any tips for good places to order mats online?
 
Kristen M. January 7, 2016
So much wallspiration in here! I need wallspiration, so I made up a word about it.
 
Morrissex January 7, 2016
I use to make my matting black. The photographs I tend to make are rather lowkey so black matting goes along the composition by not providing extra brightness to my photos.
 
PG T. January 6, 2016
Frame, schwame - PLEASE tell me all there is to know about that bed coverlet (folkloric climbing vines w/pomegranate fruit?!?) in photo #1. Thank you in advance.