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When you’ve created a truly amazing image that’s worthy of hanging or selling, you’ll want to make sure your presentation of the piece is both professional and archival.

The Basics of Mat Boards

Mat boards help to add a decorative element within the photo frame and also act to protect and provide a buffer between the work and the glass. Condensation can develop on the inside of the glass and be transferred to your print if they are not separated, resulting in water damage, mold or mildew.

Typically, matting contains only one opening per layer. Most mats are quite thin (usually 1/16 of an inch thick) and they are able to be cut to “stack” and allowing for double, triple or quadruple matting. There are also pre-cut mats in either one solid color or duotones, like Savage’s Double Photo Mats that come in 12 color combinations. Some artists also like the added protection of a double-thick photo mat as well.


If the correct color and proportionate size is chosen for your piece, the mat helps to draw the eye in towards the framed piece. The mat should complement, not interfere with your artwork. In fact, high-end art galleries often prefer neutral-colored mats. Savage offers mat board in Black, Gray and White, available in 8” x 10”, 11” x 14”, 16” x 20”, 20″ x 24″, 30″ x 40″ and 32″ x 40″ and in packages of 10 sheets. You can cut them to size as needed.


Typically, mats are cut to be the same width on all four sides. However, most fine art images contain visual “centers” that are typically lower than usual. In this case, bottom weighting, or offsets are used frequently in matting. The bottom margins are made larger than the side and top margins. The larger bottom draws the eye to physical center of the image.

Acidic vs. “Acid-Free”

It’s extremely important to use acid-free mats for long-term protection of your artwork. Acidic mats can cause mat burn or brown marks that creep in from the outside onto the print.

Mounting Techniques

No matter how fastidious you are about framing your artwork, eventually pollutants will get in from the air and walls and contaminate the piece. You’ll want to use the best archival mounting technique that allows for easy removal of your image so you can reframe it with fresh materials when the time comes. Additionally, you’ll want to prevent your photos from “buckling”. (Your image, mat and mount board all react differently to temperature changes and expand and contract at various rates). To allow the image to freely expand and contract beneath the mat, it should only be hinged at a couple of points along the top edge of the photograph. Larger images may require 3 points.

Picture Mounting – Hinging Photograph to Mat

The first way to mount your photograph is to use acid-free hinging tape or tissue and attach the image directly to the mat. This method allows the image to stay centered under the mat opening. If you plan to sell your image matted but unframed, this is not the best method since it may prove difficult to change the mat.

Picture Mounting – Hinging Mat to Mount Board

A second option is to hinge the mat board to the mount board so the mat will stay centered over the image on the mount board. Be sure to use a good acid-free linen hinging tape. This method is best used with your more valuable images.

Utilizing Mount Boards

Mount boards are important to give your images support underneath your chosen mat. You can also place your image directly on a mount board sans the mat frame. This is referred to as a “float-mounted” or “top-mounted” piece. And there’s many options out there to either cold mount or heat mount your image.

prestax mount board

Savage makes pressure-sensitive mounting board, PresTax®, that requires no tissue, no heat and no special equipment. It’s simple, fast, economical to use and comes in three weights: Light, Medium, Heavy.

Sometimes you’ll need a mount surface for images printed on resin-coated paper that may become damaged by heat-activated mount board. Savage’s NuCor® foam mount board is a great option that’s warp-resistant, smooth and extra thick (3/16″) so it will not warp or degrade when subjected to heats that are normally employed with mounting or laminating tissues. It’s available in both pressure sensitive and plain uncoated for use with most dry mount tissues.


Cheryl Woods

Cheryl Woods is an accomplished photographer, designer and branding consultant with a career spanning 20+ years. Her photographic work includes editorial, fashion, portraiture and product photography for major companies in the consumer products field including QVC and Hanover Direct. She received a B.F.A. in Photography from the University of the Arts and an M.F.A. in Media Design from Full Sail University. Cheryl's work has been exhibited at the Lowes Museum of Art in Coral Gables, FL, The New York Independent Film Festival and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. Check out her website here!


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