Matting enhances the look of framed art: prints, photographs, drawings, watercolour paintings and sentimental objects can all be matted to fit in a frame. Matting helps protect these items by keeping frames and glass from directly touching artwork. Mat boards comes in different finishes and can be made from different quality papers
Precut mats that come in cheap picture frames, or that can be purchased in craft and discount stores are often made of regular mat board, also known as acidic matting. This is the least expensive type of matting . Acidic paper mats are similar in quality to newspaper; the colours fade over time and the white beveled edge turns yellow with age. More importantly, paper mats can leach acid into artwork, resulting in discolouration called “acid burn.”.
These cheap mats are fine for framing cheap prints and posters, or for temporarily framing certificates and children’s art, but can devalue original or limited edition prints and permanently damage sentimental or antique artwork and photographs.
Acid Free Matting
Antique photographs, important documents, limited edition prints and anything sentimental or valuable needs acid free matting. Acid free mats, also called rag mats, are museum quality and help protect artwork from deterioration. The way to tell cheap matting from acid free matting is to look at the beveled edge of the mat If the core is bright white, the mat is most likely acid free. If the core of the mat board is a dingy white, then it is probably an inexpensive paper mat
Of course, there are exceptions. Antique core mat boards are custom mats made specifically for framing antique photographs and art. When a mat frames antique paper, a bright white bevel stands out and makes the old paper look dirty by comparison. Archival quality custom mats with bevels in softer colours such as off-white and beige complement antique artwork.
Other custom mats are available with black bevels. And custom bright core mats can also be used to create special effects or accent children’s artwork. Custom matting options also include fabric mats, such as linen, suede and moire silk, as well as many other textures.
Specialty custom matting options include fabric mats and other textured matboards. Some specialty mats are available in the cheaper matboard, but most specialty mats are made of acid free materials. When in doubt, consulting a professional picture framer is the best way to get the right materials for the job.
Conservation Framing Options
Matting is only one part of a framing package. When it comes to framing artwork properly, choosing the right type of glass, or glazing, the right type of mounting board, and using proper mounting techniques and picture hanging hardware are equally important steps to protect artwork.