One of the questions I get so frequently from customers is why they need a mat on their artwork. Sometimes it is an issue of space on their wall, cost of materials, wanting it to look more like an oil painting or some other reason completely, but they do not want a mat.

In addition to aesthetic reasons, a mat performs several functions. Here are just a few:

  • A mat creates space between your artwork, document, photo or whatever you are framing and the glass that is protecting it. Just like with a cold glass of ice-water, condensation can and will occur with moisture present, and that space allows that moisture to evaporate before coming into contact with the precious item you are framing. Why is this so important? Because, when paper is made, there are always minerals and tiny bits of materials that are susceptible to oxidization when they come into contact with water. This, in the world of paper, framing and restoration, is commonly referred to as “Foxing”. You may know it better as those pesky little rust spots on your old books and the poorly framed prints at your Grandparents house.
  • Paper expands and contacts. All those ripples and ridges you see in framed pieces without mats is almost always caused by the paper butting up against the rabbet (where the wood is routed) of the frame. Mats allow the paper to be hinged correctly and lay flat, with plenty of distance from the frame. Unless the artwork is dry-mounted to a rigid board, which is a permanent process that devalues the art and is never a good option for anything but an easily replaceable poster or photo, that space under the lip of the frame is very important for the preservation of your paper artwork.
  • And, even if the artwork is dry-mounted, photos and glossy prints/posters can stick to glass. I see it all the time and am far too often the bearer of bad news. Someone comes into the gallery with a sentimental, irreplaceable photograph, forever stuck to the glass in a cheap 4”x6” or 5”x7” frame. Unfortunately, even the most experienced conservators can’t help them at that point.

There are plenty more reasons to mat your artwork, but hopefully you get the point. Take care of your artwork, documents and photographs – you may not value you them so much now but in the future, either you or your relatives will be thankful you put a little more effort in to make sure they were preserved.