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How to Choose Your Mat Board Size

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This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to make choosing your mat size a breeze.

Outer Size

The outer size of your mat board are the dimensions measuring the outside of the mat board.

Choosing Your Outer Size

  • This is the same as your frame size. (a 11x14 mat will fit perfectly in a 11x14 frame)
  • If you don’t have your frame in hand and have only your artwork, your outer size depends on how wide you’d like your mat board to be. (this guide will go over pros and cons of different widths further on)

Opening Size

The opening size of the mat board is the inner measurement of the mat board.

Choosing Your Opening Size

  • If you’d like the edges of your artwork to be covered by the mat board, the opening size should be ¼” - ½” smaller than your artwork size. How much smaller depends on how much you’d like your artwork to be covered.
    • (An opening size that is ¼” smaller will cover ⅛” of your artwork on all sides. ½” smaller will cover ¼” of your artwork.)

How Wide Should Your Mat Board Be?

Thicker mat borders are more effective at directing attention towards your artwork. (great for when part of a gallery wall, next to some furniture, etc)

For this reason, we recommend a mat border of ~2-3” for small - medium sized artworks and 4+” for larger artworks.

Thin mat borders can work in some instances, but it takes a trained eye to get it right.

The issue with thin mat borders is the mat board ends up competing with the artwork and frame for attention.

If your frame and mat are the same exact color, however, this becomes a non-issue.

The perfect mat board width also depends on how wide you frame is.

The wider the frame, the wider your mat border should be. At the very minimum, try for a mat border that is wider than the frame so the frame isn’t visually dominant.

Should You Bottom-Weight Your Mat Board?

Bottom-weighting is when the bottom mat border is wider than the top and side borders.

There are three reasons to consider bottom-weighting:

  • If art is high on the wall, bottom-weighting will “even out” the effect of looking up at your art. This way your artwork will look centered even when looking up at it.
  • If you’re familiar with graphic design, you’ve probably heard of the “visual center.” It’s a point slightly above the geometric center. This is considered to be the true center as the eye/brain feels the weight of gravity and the bottom mat border will feel narrower without it.
  • Stylistic reasons. In these cases, the bottom mat border is made substantially wider than the top and side borders.

In most cases, it is simply up to taste.

Some general tips:

  • Square prints generally look better without being bottom-weighted
  • If your print features a signature over some white space at the bottom, it is already bottom-weighted. Additional bottom-weight is up to you.

PS If you plan on re-purposing the mat board for other pictures, don’t bottom-weight. Once you bottom-weight, the mat board is only suitable for one orientation (vertical or landscape).

Save Money Framing

To save money framing, one thing you could do is figure out the mat border you’d like and then find the closest standard size frame that’ll give you what you like.

Here are a list of common print sizes and mat board outer sizes we suggest (for frame width = 1”):


Artwork/Print Size Suggested Outer Size Mat Board Width (centered)
4x6 8x10 top/bottom: 2”

right/left: 2”

5x7 11x14 top/bottom: 3”

right/left: 3.5”

8x10 12x16 top/bottom: 2”

right/left: 3”

11x14 16x20 top/bottom: 2.5”

right/left: 3”

11x17 18x24 top/bottom: 3.5”

right/left: 3.5”

12x16 18x24 top/bottom: 3”

right/left: 4”

13x19 18x24 top/bottom: 2.5”

right/left: 2.5”

16x20 22x28 top/bottom: 3”

right/left: 4”

Conclusion

Matting is an art. And in any art, there aren't any hard rules. Instead, think of these as guidelines or a good starting point to creating an aesthetic finish.

Some key points to remember: 

- Outer size is your frame size

- Opening size should be slightly smaller (1/4" - 1/2") than your artwork size to cover the edges

- mat border of ~2-3" for small to medium artworks and 4"+ for larger artwork is a good rule of thumb

- mat border should be larger than frame width

- bottom-weighting is ultimately up to personal taste

- save money by using standard sizes

Thanks for reading!

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