LETS TALK ABOUT MAT BOARDS – Coastal Framing and Design
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Mat board designs

Mat boards are a critical part of the design in a custom frame.

These are sometimes called “the surround” the “cardboard stuff” the ‘board” the ‘coloured board’ that goes around the art work. Framer’s generally refer to it as a mat board.

MAT BOARDS offer a range of benefits for your framed art work:


The purpose of a good custom frame is to ensure the artwork remains the hero in the frame. It is important that the art work is protected against the elements, such as light, air and moisture for many years into the future.  

The construction of the frame needs to be supportive of the artwork in relation to its size, the weight and design.  A custom frame is an engineering project as you are taking something supported on a table and then flipping it vertically to hang on the wall. The mat board can be used to hinge the art work onto it, thus holding it up in the vertical position.

The overall look also needs come together and compliment the interior space in which it will be showcased.


  1. They provide a visual space between the artwork and the surrounding timber frame.  This allows your eye to focus more on the artwork, rather than a frame that is too close to the art. 
  2. They keep the glass from resting directly on the art. Mats are usually 3mm or 8mm thick and sit directly on the artwork to create a ledge. This is important because glass is porous and moisture can seep through it over time, destroying the art. 

Often when finding old, framed photos, you discover that the photo is stuck to the glass.  Using a mat board would have prevented this. 

3. Mat boards are decorative and help create a visual delight for your walls and come in a huge range of choices.  Plain colours, textures, black core, thick 8 ply, suede, linen, silk, grass weave and foils are my favourites.  These decorative mat boards are part of my “treasure trove” that come out when a unique design is required, such as complimenting an interior space, such as a lounge room, kitchen, casual space or a formal space.

Use your imagination when framing your photos. By selecting beautiful matting, you can turn your photos into masterpieces for your walls.


The overall proportion of the size between the art, the mat board and the frame is important.  It’s a good idea to select the frame before determining the final size of the mat board width. 

Mat board samples come in 10cm widths but the sheets when ordered in are a standard size of 1020 x 810mm. This gives us the option of varying the size required for the design. We cut the mat board from the large sheet on our computerised mat cutter, to the exact size required for your unique frame.

A rule of thumb is that the mat board width should be either smaller or larger than the width of the frame so that visual balance can be achieved when the frame is hanging on the wall.  In the design world, remember that space is elegance.  I would always recommend a minimum matting of 50mm, knowing that this will look smaller on the wall.  For large, landscape images, the bottom width may be ‘weighted’ or made a little wider to give a more balanced look when the art is hanging vertically on the wall.

For a great design, the wider the matting the better because the space created by the mat board allows the eye to focus on the art.  Of course, the space that you will be hanging your finished frame can determine the matting size.  However, this should not compromise framing your artwork to its best advantage. 


Look at the three frames below for 10 seconds. Now close your eyes for a few seconds. Open them. Where does your eye go first? Please write a comment in the comment box to share your experience.

Left: Poppies A3 print with no border, 20mm black frame. Middle: Poppies same size A3 print with a 30mm white border and 20mm black frame. Right: Poppies same size A3 print with a 70mm white border and a 20mm black frame.


In days gone by, the early artisans painted their enormous paintings, on site, as the framer climbed ladders and scaffolding to build the frame around the artwork at the same time.  The artist and the framer worked together to build a single creation.  Over time, this became impractical and expensive, so the two became separate items.  

There’s so many ways we can use the mat boards to create fabulous frames.  A few of my favourite tricks are a double or triple mat, 8ply mat board with a deep cut, play with the bevels on the mat board cut, add accents or switch the textures up to compliment each other. I also can’t go past the black core mat board for drawing, charcoal works and photos.

I’m not going to give all my design secrets away, however when you make your CONTACT US NOWppointment and come in with your art work, please make a point of asking for some great design ideas using different mat boards.  

The brown accent matting sits close to the sepia photo and adds to the character of this vintage photo. The inner frame matches the colour of the accent bringing the whole frame together. Photographs lend themselves to experimenting with matting to give them that special, signature look. Photo credit: © Grainy Shutter -Chadwick. Bilinga Beach House.


Colour is making its way back in 2022 as people are looking for happy and bright additions to their homes. I love the range of the cotton rag mats with their smooth luxurious finish. Don’t be afraid to use colour and really let your art work pop.

Introducing our new colours in Mediterranean Interior styling. Perfect for those images of the Caribbean Coastal themes.

The latest trends in colour remain with the neutral backdrop but with exciting and interesting colour pops which include the Mediterranean influence in styling themes.


At Coastal Framing and Design, we stock three main grades of quality, archival mat boards.  It is important that matting is of archival quality where lignum from trees, which end up in paper products do not have this acidic glue like substance present. These acids can leak away at your artwork over time and cause ‘foxing’. 

We offer you the choice of our highest-grade cotton rag mat boards which are made from natural cotton which do not have any lignum near them, as they do not originate from trees. 

Our slightly lower grade archival mat boards are made from paper, but have the lignum leached out of them during the manufacturing process. 

Museum grade are offered for the high -grade conservation framing that is often associated with very valuable work or heirlooms and are also made from cotton. 


Decorative mat boards are finished with a fabric and are exciting to use when a luxurious design is required. By utilising the many choices of these finishes, we can design frames that integrate with both the artwork and an interior space. 

I love the suede, denim, seagrass and woven mat boards, silk, and linen and these mat boards are in my special ‘treasure trove’, and come out when a unique and customised design is required.

The range of textured mat boards come in many shades and colours.  These are neutral colours and include black linen, black weave, cream fine linen and suede.  


If you are not a fan of mat boards, don’t despair.  A spacer, or small length of tubing can be run around the ‘rebate’ in the frame to allow the glass to sit above the artwork. The spacer is not visible, but achieves the result of the glass sitting above the art. 


There’s more to custom framing than simply nailing four pieces of wood together. As professional framers and designers, we can give you the best options to create a look that will suit both your special art piece and the interior space where it will proudly hang. Mat boards can go a long way to achieving the perfect frame as they protect, decorate and connect your art work to the interior space in which it will hang.

Take the time to enjoy the process and select the mat boards that work best for your art work.

Book an appointment to work with our designers to have fun around the framing table with designing your frames.


All text and images are  © Jen Hutchison Coastal Framing and Design Updated March 2023. . Text or images cannot be used without permission. This includes print, social media, advertising or other.  

Coastal Framing and Design