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Matting and Hinging Works of Art on Paper


Before starting to make a mat, decide on the type, the mounting method, and the aesthetic parameters.
Consider the following:

Physical preservation needs of the item:

  • Does it need a sink mat?
  • What type and thickness of board does it require?
  • Does it need any special supports or features to allow access to the verso?
  • What kind of hinging or mounting would be best/safest for the item?
  • Does it have friable media or a delicate surface that may rule out certain mounting methods?

Aesthetic or curatorial needs/wants:

  • Should the item be over-matted so that the edge of the window mat overlaps the edge of the object, or floated in the window to reveal all edges of the object?
  • If floated, what sort of hinging or mounting would be best to secure the object while not detracting aesthetically?
  • What color board and type of cover should be used?
  • Does the verso need to be visible or otherwise presented? (For example, would a photocopy or photographic label provide enough information)?
  • Should the item be easily removable for display? Can the storage mat be hinged into another mat for display?
  • How much of a border should be shown around the object? Consider:
    • Should the window be sized to show only the art, text, or other media?
    • Are there inscriptions or evidence that appear in the border of the object to be shown or hidden?
    • Is there a reason to show the full size of the object?
  • Would it be best to mount it in a double-window mat, or multiple opening mat with a related item?
  • Will the item be frequently shown, requiring stronger materials and/or more protection?


1. Once you have decided on your type and materials, measure your object for the window mat. Be sure to measure your object in several places across each dimension to check for variation.

If the item will be overmatted (with the mat resting on the blank borders of the artwork), decide how much of the blank border you would like to show within the window around the media/art. Often ¼” is considered standard, but this may vary. The edge of the window mat should not fall directly on the edge of the object. If there is a large blank border around the image you may choose a larger overlap which will create a wider window mat. Make sure that your outer mat size will allow room for handling, usually at least 1" on each side.

If the item will be floated (having no part of the piece or even its borders behind the mat), determine how much of a border will be around the piece. This is often 1/8 to ¼” for smaller pieces; larger pieces may look better with a larger border. With floated objects, mats can be custom cut to conform to the border of a non-standard rectangle. However, slight variations in the gap between the edge of the object and window mat can be averaged to allow for the use of a standard rectangular window.

2. Cut your window mat, back board and wrapper to the same external size. Always check the fit of the window mat over the art before compiling your mat. (A slight error is not too hard to fix when you've just cut a mat, but can be heartbreaking if you've spent time carefully putting your mat together). A note about weighting: for storage mats, we usually center our single window mats. But if the aesthetic appeal or a curatorial decision dictates, it is fine to add weight to the bottom border (making it thicker).