Skills Corner: Learning To Mat Artwork

It’s always a good feeling to add any skill – big or small – to your repertoire. Since following a watercolor course at the Ann Arbor Art Center this semester, I’ve made some pieces I’m quite pleased with and wanted to offer for sale. With these finished pieces, the practical question I was facing was how to professionally mat these works. In this blog post, I share what I’ve recently learned about matting artwork and the tools that helped me get a sleek and polished result for my recent watercolour artwork.

Since I most often work with acrylic paint on canvas, I had to reframe how I was thinking about presenting my works, in this case small, 5 x 7 inch, watercolor pieces. Back in October, I had visited the downtown Ann Arbor art fair  – Artoberfest – where I saw some great works by artists, including the work of watercolour artist Janet Alford. I admired her original framed watercolour works as well as the high quality prints of her work, which were nicely matted and presented. I thought back to this experience when thinking about how I would like to present my own artwork. I knew I had to learn more about matting works on paper.

My first stop was Michael’s. There I found the perfect size window frames but these did not come with a backing board to match. Without the tools to cut my own mats, I was looking for a pairing of the front window mat and the backing board. I found what I needed at Blick: the Crescent precut mat board and ordered what I needed for my 5 x 7 inch watercolour pieces. 

My second question was a simple but important one: how do I attach the front and back pieces? To answer this, I turned to You Tube and found this useful video made by the framing company Rinaldin. This video helped me identify two more essential tools for mounting my artwork: a paper folding tool and a special hinging tape. 

Hinging tape is used first to attach the window mat board to the back board, as the man in the video instructs, always along the longest side. The tape I ordered came with a handy adhesive backing so I did not have to wet the fabric (as per the video). 

I used this tool to press the tape down ensuring that the adhesive sticks well and that the mat and the artwork inside will stay in position long term. Using the T-hinge method, I attached my artwork to the back board, making sure of course to center the artwork in the window. 

At the end of the day, this was a small and uncomplicated project, but the result  – a professionally finished and presented artwork – made me feel extremely proud and satisfied!

I had also asked my watercolour painting instructor, Susan Mankowski, for tips about matting artwork and she was kind enough to bring her supplies to our last class yesterday evening. Susan showed the class different window boards and form core we could use for the backing board and we watched a demonstration on how to position, measure and cut our own custom mats. It was interesting to see the mat cutter and all the materials needed for custom matting! Now back to painting!

Thanks for reading!

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