mat boards

A Clear-Cut Guide to Mat Boards


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The stunning combination of mat boards and picture frames

What is your eye drawn to when you look at a framed artwork?

Perhaps it’s the complexity of the linework, or the beautifully intricate frame surrounding it. However, there is one element that often goes unconsidered, despite having an enormous aesthetic impact on the piece your viewing; this comes in the form of mat boards.

At Frames Now, we stock a wide variety of high-quality mat boards to accompany your frame. However, before you start shopping for that perfect backing board, let’s delve into the specifics of this oft-neglected framing necessity.

What Are Mat Boards?

To put it simply, mat boards are a thin piece of card or paper-based material that rests underneath your picture when framed. This can often be seen as a simple border separating your artwork from the inner border of your frame. However, while this may seem negligible when compared to your choice of frame, there are more factors to be considered than meets the eye.

Some of These Factors Include:


Just as your picture frame should be chosen to compliment the image within, so too should the colour of your mat board. As the mat board acts as a border surrounding your artwork, it can be used to draw out or accentuate certain elements of the piece itself.

For example, the idea that surrounding a piece with a darker border will make it appear brighter is slightly inaccurate. In truth, utilising dark tones in your border will accentuate the darker hues and, in some cases, can make an otherwise-flawless painting or photograph feel aesthetically unbalanced.

Alternatively, a white or cream mat surrounding the same image can draw out the brighter tones, playing off the image’s strengths whilst still keeping focus on the piece itself.

The Question of Quality

Unfortunately, not all mat boards are created equal. While the manufacturing process for creating them will inevitably vary slightly from supplier to supplier, the most important factor to consider is whether or not your board is acid-free.

By removing the acidity of materials used to create the mats through a process referred to as “buffering”, you remove acids that would otherwise lead to damage and discolouration of your piece over time. Another option is “conservation grade acid free” mats, which have both the harmful acids and a harmful complex compound called Lignin removed.

Lignin is found in vascular plants, and can give off carboxylic acids as it begins to deteriorate. Because of this, art conservationists prefer to use these mats, as it minimises the risk of damage or degradation over time.

The Benefits of Using a Mat Board

While a mat board is mainly used to avoid irreversible cosmetic damage, which can occur when a piece is pressed directly against the picture frame glazing, there is far more to be gained by using a backing with your art.

Aesthetic Appeal

Most pieces of art, documents and photographs benefit from having a strong border; lending a sense of cohesion and shape to the piece, whilst still drawing the eye toward it. As stated previously, colour plays an important role when deciding which mat board will be the most effective. While the most popular choices for galleries are white and cream, there is a wide array of colour options available to you.

Protecting Your Piece

Aside from just distancing your piece from the glazing of the frame, a mat board acts as an additional layer of security by keeping your piece stable. This can become especially valuable in the case of a drop or crack in the frame, as the likelihood of tearing or irreparable damage is minimised.

How Are Mat Boards Made?

While most would assume that a mat board is a single piece of card or paper, it is actually comprised of two separate components:

  • The foundation, or core, makes up the largest portion of the mat board; acting as the body material that provides strength and durability to your board.
  • The facade, or face paper, is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a thin outer layer that can be pigmented and dyed in a variety of colours. This is the part of your mat that you will be able to see once your piece is framed, making it the most important factor when determining whether it will work with your piece.

While most people will likely choose their mat board based on colour and style, it’s important to consider the materials that go into them, too. This is a material that will be pressed against the piece you are trying to protect, so making choices based on that piece’s safety and longevity is important.

At Frames Now, we have an enormous range of acid-free mat boards to choose from in a wide variety of styles, textures and colours.


Beautiful job!

Staff have a good eye and are great at explaining different options to suit your decor, personal taste and budget. For a customised product, the prices are reasonable.

-Arthur T

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