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Arlene’s Rules of Matting


How to Pick Out a Mat
In the 23 years Lenny and I have owned The Art Shop, I’m guessing I have selected over 1800 mats and frames for clients and for myself. (which is probably quite low.)  With that kind of experience, I’m thinking you might call me fairly knowledgeable about the subject.

Over the years, I’ve developed Arlene’s Rules of Mat Selection:

Mat for the piece – not for the room.
If the artwork goes with the room, the matting you select automatically will. That way, if you ever move the artwork, you won’t need to re-mat it.  Quite often, people come loaded with paint and fabric swatches and try to force a color into the matting that isn’t in the art, but is in the sofa across the room.  I usually try to talk them out of it, but in the end, it is their artwork and I do as they wish.

Let the artwork be the focal point, not the matting.
The purpose of matting is to enhance, not detract from the art.  I usually lean towards soft neutral outer mats and contrasting inner mats.  When you look at the finished product, you should notice the art first, not the matting.

Follow the proportions in the art.
If there is a tiny amount of blue in the art, show a small amount as an inner mat instead of having it be the highly visible outer mat. If there is a tiny amount of a vivid color in the art, sometimes it’s nice just to let it speak for itself rather than reintroducing it in the matting. Otherwise, you run the risk of having the matting call too much attention to itself instead of allowing your artwork to be the focal point, as we discussed above.

Don’t skimp on the mat width.
To me, a skinny mat looks like you are squeezing your artwork into a frame you already had and are trying to make it fit. If you have a small space and a proportional mat won’t fit, I recommend you don’t mat it at all or perhaps use a thin linen frame liner inside the frame.

Sometimes you’ve got to break the rules.

Fun and funky artwork, intense colors and whimsical pieces often inspire me to break many of the rules above. While I generally feel that “less is more” when selecting matting, some art lends itself to adding lots of bells and whistles. We have several clients who let Chris and Will use their creative juices to come up with something wild and different and they are thrilled with the results. 

Thank you for allowing us to mat and frame your treasures.  We love what we do!


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