Skip to Main Content

Matting and Hinging Works of Art on Paper

Basic Storage Mat

A standard window mat consists of two pieces of matboard cut to the same size, hinged together along the long edge, with a window cut out of the front piece. Usually, we will add a front cover hinged on (sometimes called a wrapper), called a wrapper in these instructions, making it more suitable as a basic storage mat. This will protect the surface of the matted item from dust and light, and provides a nice surface for labels.


To make a basic storage mat:

  1. Cut your window mat, backboard and cover to the same exact external size (either on the mat-cutter, or by using the external window mat to set the gauge on the board shear). The grain of the board should be parallel to the long side / hinge if possible.

  2. Check the fit of the window over your artwork before starting to hinge it together. Double-check at this point that you do not need a sink-mat – sometimes distortion in the piece is more noticeable when you line up the mat.

  3. Hinge the window mat to the back mat along the long side (to the left, so it opens like a book for portrait orientation; along the top for landscape orientation) using the following procedure:
    graphic showing the parts of a basic mat
    • Place your window mat face down on the table, aligned to the back board along the long edge. Leave about 1 mm space between the boards so it will close properly after hinging. Put weights on both sides to keep them in place.
    • Take a strip of hinging cloth (either from a roll or cut perpendicular to the roll direction from a large roll of cloth). Cut it longer than the mat by a few inches to give yourself handling room. (Often an internal hinge will be 1 – 2” wide depending on the size and weight of the mat).
    • Before pasting out the hinge, make slight tick marks on the mat to guide you in applying it straight. You can make it precise by folding the end of the hinge in half so the middle line is evident, and then using this to mark the mat with a tick mark at the top left and bottom right of where the hinge will be.
    • Place the hinge on scrap and apply PVA with a brush or roller (or apply water if using gummed hinging tape), leaving a little room free of adhesive at each end for handling.
    • Keeping the hinge taut, place it on the boards and securely bone folder down, especially well at the top and bottom edges. Wipe off any extra adhesive if necessary, and weight down with Hollytex, blotter, and Plexiglas. Allow to dry. While still slightly pliable, test closing the mat and make sure the edges line up neatly. If making several, you can place Hollytex or glassine inside the hinge, folding and stacking with others of the same size to dry under weight.
    • When dry, neatly trim off the overhanging hinge material and move on to the cover.

  4. Attach the outer hinge to the cover and mat:
    graphic showing where to place the outer hingegraphic showing where to place polyester adhesive guard.


    graphic showing how to place the hinge on the mat


    • Cut your outer hinge slightly longer than your mat. You can use the same cloth you used for your inner hinge, or use book cloth for extra strength or a tailored appearance. It will usually be slightly wider than the inner hinge, depending on the size and weight of the mat. Add the depth of all three layers of the mat to the distance you would like the hinge to come down each cover to get your hinge width. Make even tick marks at the spot you would like the hinge to reach on the cover.(If you're doing a whole collection, come up with a standard for this distance).
    • Apply the hinge to the front cover first. You can either apply adhesive to the hinge or to the mat cover before joining them. If applying to the cover, mask off the cover beyond your tick marks with a straight piece of polyester sheeting, weight it down, and roll or brush on PVA to the cover. Pull your strip taught, and apply, lining it up just barely overlapping the polyester and your tick marks. Pull the polyester out, and bone folder down your hinge.
    • If putting adhesive on the hinge, you will want to apply it to only the part that will join the cover board to start. Fold your hinge to represent this point, apply PVA (or water) with a roller or brush to this segment, and then stretch taut and apply just barely covering your tick marks. Bone folder down.
    • In either case, bone folder down and press under Hollytex, blotter and Plexi for a brief period. Once it is secure, attach the cover hinge to the mat as follows.

    • Flip the cover facedown, place the mat on top with the hinge aligned and the window mat face down on top of the cover. Carefully line up the edges, and weight the entire package well.

    • Place some scrap paper under the exposed un-adhered hinge cloth. You usually will not want the spine of the hinge cloth to be adhered to the mat (so that you will be able to fold the front wrapper around to the back for display). This means you will not want to apply adhesive to that part of the hinge. (You can make a fold or tick line to indicate how far to apply the adhesive to the hinge). Apply adhesive, and remove your scrap paper.

    • Keeping everything well aligned, fold the hinge around the back cover, pulling it taut around the spine edge but not stretching (a crepe eraser can help with gripping the cloth). Bone folder down, working from the middle to the edges so you don’t create bubbles or creases. Open the mat and make sure the adhesive hasn’t seeped into the interior.

    • Reclose the mat, and place Hollytex-lined blotter above and below the entire length of the hinge, add a board or Plexiglas strip along the entire hinge length, add weights, and leave to dry. Trim excess cloth.