Matting and Framing Your Art
(On a Shoestring Budget)
Once a piece is finished, scanned in and archived, you are ready to mat and frame the piece for display. Your
first objection to this could reasonably be, "But last time I framed anything, I had to pay for the frame with
my own blood and sign away my first born child to boot!" Luckily, both matboard and frames can be found for MUCH
cheaper than most stores want you to know, as long as you are willing to do the assembly yourself.
First comes the matting.
If you order a mat precut, you will pay for the board plus a significant
mark-up and labor. A mat that you could cut on your own for around $1.00 in materials plus a few minutes of
your time could end up costing you as much as $30 or more from someone else.
The matboard can be ordered fairly cheaply online. The cheapest deal I have yet found is through
Presto. Presto carries acid-free Crescent matboard in a
variety of styles and colors. They deliver quickly and I have never had a problem with them. There is a
delivery fee, but even with this fee factored in, I have not found a cheaper way of getting matboard. Standard
32" x 40" matboard through Presto costs approximately $3.50/sheet. A 30" x 40" sheet of mounting board is less
than $2.50 a sheet.
The caveat to ordering through Presto is that you must order in sets of 25 sheets at a time. If you do not use
more than a couple sheets a year, this large of an order could be a problem.
Another company that offers matboard at a great price is Frames
by Mail. The details vary from Presto, but the prices are fairly close. While you can't yet order matboard
online through them, you can ask for a catalog and order through that.
Need a mat cutter?
Ordering uncut sheets of matboard isn't much good unless you have a cutter with
which to make mats. There are several brands and styles available. I have a Logan #401 Intermediate
Mat Cutter. Some artist friends of mine have a similar level Alto mat cutter. Presto has good
prices for mat cutters, as do other sites. I ordered mine for around $150. Check out a few places, look for
deals or sales, and find you one. If you go through many mats and have the time to cut your own, a
mat cutter is a great investment.
There are a few final matting considerations.
There are many different techniques for mounting and matting the artwork, too many to go into here. Matting
refers to placing the artwork behind a piece of matboard with a window cut in it. Mounting refers to fixing
a backing behind the artwork (usually by taping the backing to the mat- see the next paragraph on tape). I use
mounting board, which is considerably cheaper than mat board because the thick center is basically cardboard.
This cardboard is coated on each side with acid-free paper so that the mounting board is archival and safe to
use next to originals. Another backing alternative is the thicker foamboard.
The final ingredient for matting is the tape. This needs to be acid-free and secure enough to hold the
artwork securely for many years. My suggestion is to use framer's tape. Again, a source such as Presto will
have rolls of tape available for cheaper than stores will offer it.
Frames are available very cheap as well.
Frames By Mail, a close second on matbaord prices, is by far my favorite company for frames. You can order
frame sectionals in lengths of 1/8 inch increments in a variety of materials, profiles and colors. I have
always received the order quickly, with the necessary hardware included to assemble the frames. One order
contained a scratched sectional, but Frames By Mail quickly sent me a new one without charge.
Having simple tastes, I tend to order satin black aluminum sectionals in a low-profile cross-section. One of
these frames costs me an average of $5 to $10 depending on size.
There is more to framing.
You still have to add in the hanging wire and the plexiglass.
Presto has large spools of hanging wire available for
a fraction of what the same amount would cost from a framing store. This is because Presto sells spools instead
of small bags containing only enough wire for a picture or two.
I get plexiglass from my friendly neighborhood Home Depot. They will cut the plexiglass down to whatever size
I need for the current piece of artwork. I used to get sheet glass instead in order to save
a few cents. I have learned the hard way that plexiglass is much safer. You don't have to worry about plexiglass
breaking on you and cutting clothes, hands, artwork, etc. It's also lighter than glass and, chances are, you will
only have to buy it once per frame since it won't shatter. A final bonus to using plexiglass- being lighter and
virtually shatterproof, a plexiglass-framed piece is much cheaper and easier to mail.
As is often the case, glass and plexiglass is much cheaper from other sources (in this case hardware stores)
than from a framing shop or art supply store. Costs of glass and plexiglass can also vary greatly from one
hardware store to another, so shop around and find the best local source. For me, that source is Home Depot.
Throughout the entire matting and framing process, you can get your artwork ready for display while spending much
less than you would through a professional framer or by buying sectionals, assembled frames or matboard in an
art store. The internet is a great resource for finding the supplies at a great savings, as long as you are
willing to do the work of cutting and assembly yourself. On average it probably costs me about $10 to $20 to
mat and frame a piece of artwork. You don't have to pay incredible costs to have your artwork look incredible.
The sites mentioned in this letter are also listed under Art Supplies on the