The purpose of a mat is to lead the viewer's eye to your carefully chosen artwork or image. A mat creates a neutral zone between the visual interest of the frame and the artwork or image itself. The colour of the mat can affect our experience of the art, either by drawing our attention to some particular colour, or by isolating the art so that nothing intrudes on the artist's original intention.
Mats also provide a functional role by separating the art from the glass to protect it. In humid conditions, the small air space keeps any condensation on the inside surface of the glass from touching the print. This prevents mildew, paper buckling and colour loss. Museum quality, acid free mats will retain their colour and protect your artwork and images for many, many years.
Premade mats in a selection of shapes and colours
A poster with a double mat. The outer mat colour picks out the colour of the dress.
The same poster and frame with a single neutral coloured mat.
The basic rules of how big a mat should be is decided by the frame. The recommendation is that the width of the mat should be at least double the width of the frame. A sturdy frame would need a wider mat than a thin frame would. Apart from that, the mat can be just about any size you want. A small size image, for instance 4" x 6" can look brilliant in an 16"x 20" mat and frame.
A few tips when selecting a mat:
Our image ready for framing.
Single mat in a colour from the image.
Double mat with the lower, inside mat picking up on another colour in the image.
Double mat and a thin frame with bronze tones to complement the colour of mats and image.
Framing shops should have a good selection of different matting colours to choose from. Printing shops also carry a range of matting options. If you want to frame your artwork yourself, Target, Big W, Ikea and KMart carry a range of frames and many of them include a mat. There are also a number of online framing options easily found by searching 'picture frames'.
A thick, wide frame with double matting.
The same frame with the inside mat a neutral white.
Double mats in neutral shades.
No mats at all.