The first question when it comes to matting a work of art is esthetics. What color to choose? Whether to “float” the piece or cover the edges of your paper? What size will the mat be?
Ultimately framing is about protection. Making sure the work is safe from environmental damage. Matting a piece will do this not only by covering the edges of the work (if you choose not to float the piece) and by keeping it flat. The mat will also keep your piece away from the plexiglass or glass (glazing). This is especially important if if charcoal, pastels, graphite or other smudgeable materials are used. Floaters can also be used (pieces that separate the frame from the piece without a mat) but a mat is the ultimate protection for a work of art.
Choosing a Color For Your Mat
There is a myth – mostly in academic circles – that all mats must either be white or off white. This is certainly not true. In the first place, why would Neilsen Bainbridge or Crescent offer choices in so many colors and textures (they even make metallic, fabric and marbleized mats in some cases).
Think about your concept first and foremost. Will the mat (and the frame) enhance or even be a part of the design and actual concept of the work. In addition to protection and color it can actually help or create a new idea in the work.
Secondly, think about the colors in the piece. A good rule of thumb is to look for a pinpoint of a color, a spot of green in a corner for example, that an untrained eye would not see. By matching that color it not only enhances the piece overall but can bring out elements that you wouldn’t otherwise see. This trick can be absolutely remarkable sometimes and it can transform the piece into something that it was ultimately meant to be. Brilliant!
Of course, these two suggestions are just that. There are no hard and fast rules. Only the artist knows the original intention of their work and the best way to present it. It is essential for artists to have a hand in the framing as it really can make or break the piece. Think of it as the final brush stroke on the work.
Acid free is extremely important, especially if the artist wants to avoid mat burn or damage that can occur in a matter of one month. Materials are usually considered archival if their acid content is zero. PH is a measure of the acidity of a piece. High acidity is reflected in a low PH and vice versa. A good range is between 6.5 to 8.5. However your material should not register much below 7.0. It also depends on the quality of it’s synthetic content and fiber as well as the sizing. Sizing is the material used to hold the fibers of a piece of paper together.
Not only should you choose acid free mats, supports and materials for your work but adhesives as well. Using drafting tape or masking tape can be damaging because the actual adhesive contains acids that can also create burn marks on your work. There are simple methods that you can use to attach the work to the backing board that will be addressed in the next article.