How to Mat and Frame Your Artwork

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Getting ready for an exhibition is always a time when I try to remember all the tips I've ever had from anybody about how artwork should be framed. I thought it might be timely to try and record some of them and this post is a summary of tips for how to mat and frame artwork. Please feel free to comment on mine or share any tips you have by using the comments function.


Bear in mind I'm not an oil painter so I'm not framing boards - although I do have a tip for that!


On the right is one of my pieces of feline artwork which has been accepted into the 14th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Feline Artists at the Llewellyn Alexander Gallery. You might be able to guess that is Cosmo extremely proud of his tail. He's in a white waxed tulip wood frame with a bevelled edge with a mat cut from Daler Rowney Studland mountboard in Ivory.

What follows are my tips - but they're certainly not the last word on this topic. They all been derived from observation (mainly in London), information and advice from framers and galleries and other artists - and trial and error on my part!



A mat separates a work on paper from the glass or perspex. It is the first stage in the visual framing of a work and needs to work with both artwork and frame.

  • Competition requirements: First - be very careful about how you mat work for competitions. Some competitions (eg CPSA) have very strict rules about the type of mat that can be used. If you don't observe the rules then your artwork will not be hung even if it has been accepted for exhibition.
  • Quality: Always use an acid free mat (neutral pH) from a reputable source. Relate the expense of the mat to the value of the work. Conservation quality mats are 100% rag. Always use museum conservation quality mats for expensive and/or investment pieces.
  • Colour: Choosing the right colour of mat for a work is a bit like decorating a house to get a quick sale. You want to aim to enhance the work while avoiding any strong colours which people may dislike.
    • Save mats in colours which are strong or a personal choice for the work on your own walls. Leave choices about matching the colour of the mat to the artwork or decor to the person buying the piece.
    • Overall, you can never go wrong with variations on an off white neutral mat colour eg ivory, champagne, old white, pale cream. (Plus the neutral colour of the discarded 'cut out' mat makes a great support for new work!) However stark/brilliant white mats are difficult to work with.
    • dark mats create focus but also tend to confine and control the edges of a piece while lighter mats tend to open it up - you see the work not the mat.
    • If producing work for a group or sole exhibition, try and promote unity within your collection by using the same colour for all the work . . . read more
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