what is a matboard

What is a Mat Board?

What is a Mat Board?

A mat board is a piece of dense cardboard with a window cut-out which surrounds the artwork like a border inside a photo frame or a picture frame. A mat board (also sometimes referred to as a window mat, frame mat, matboard, matt board, border or mount board) is commonly white or off-white but can come in different colours.

Mat board

A matboard and can also be multi-layered, such as a double-layered matboard (also called a Double Mat or Step Mat), which is used in our popular Elegant Deluxe range of photo frames, as picture below: 

Timber Photo Frame

A mat board can also have more one window opening, creating a multi-window collage effect such as our popular Collage Frame series as pictured below. 

Collage Photo Frame

What is the Purpose of a Matboard?

A mat board can provide a many useful purposes inside a picture frame:

Balance and distance

A mat board can provide visual distance between the edges of the artwork and the inside edges of the picture frame, to help provide an aesthetic balance and proportion for viewing the art or photo. Different colours or tones in matboard can also help highlight and enhance the artwork it surrounds as well.

Spacing away from the glass

A mat board helps to protect the photo or artwork by slightly lifting the glass away from any direct contact with the artwork or photo inside a picture frame. When glass directly touches artwork inside a frame, it can possibly stick to the photo or the artwork over time, causing permanent and irreparable damage to it. This can be caused when the frame and glass are exposed to any severe changes in humidity, causing moisture and condensation build-up on the inside of the glass.

Lifting or spacing the glass away from the art will help prevent any moisture from reaching the art. For this reason, a double-layered matboard is even better, because it provides even more space and distance away from the glass. A double-layered mat board also looks more refined as well.

Protective backing

A blank layer of premium, acid-free, buffered matboard without any window cut-out, can also be used as a protective substrate behind a photograph or artwork. This acid-free frame insert can create an extra barrier from harmful surfaces or backing boards that might become acidic over time and contribute to deterioration of the picture inside the frame. 

Types of Matboards for Picture Framing

Cardboard matting comes in various sizes and colours, and they are an important component of picture framing. Choosing the right type of matboard can enhance the visual appeal of the artwork or photograph while also providing protection against damage.

Mat Boards


One type of matboard is the standard paper matboard which comes in a wide range of colours and textures. Acid-free matboards prevent yellowing and deterioration over time, ensuring that your artwork stays vibrant for years to come.

Another option is conservation-grade cotton rag mat boards which have a longer resistance to degradation, and commonly used by museums and art galleries for valuable artworks with cultural significance.

Mat board

For those looking to add more flair to their picture framing projects, fabric-covered mats can also be a great option. These types of matboards are made with materials such as linen or silk and provide a unique texture to complement any piece of art or photo. Fabric-covered matboards can be more premium in price and can usually be sourced from specialty custom picture framing shops. 

What is a Double Mat Board?

A double mat board (also sometimes called a "Step Mat" or an "Accent Mat") is when two separate layers of mat board are used together, both cut with window openings that are aligned to intentionally reveal the inner edge of the bottom layer of matboard around the artwork. This inside edge of the bottom matboard layer is usually around +/-0.5cm (5mm).

The two matboard layers can be two different colours, for example, a light tone or white matboard on top and a darker tone or black matboard underneath. The exposed 0.5cm reveal of the bottom matboard layer around with window can create an intentional visual accent, which can be used as a decorative tool to highlight or enhance a specific aspect or feature of the image. 

Alternatively, when using the same colour of matboard for a double layered matboard (such as a "white on white" matboard combination), you can create an elegant, tiered effect, which looks like a step down, creating an element of depth. This is a premium look popular in custom framing. 

Mat board

A double matboard is a designer method of matting frequently used in custom framing as a premium, decorative enhancement. 

How to Choose the Right Matboard for your Frame

Choosing the right mat board for your artwork can be quite challenging as it affects not only the protection but also the visual presentation of your piece. When selecting a mat board, consider its colour, texture, thickness, acidity level, and conservation quality. The colour should complement your artwork without overpowering it while the texture should be appropriate for both traditional and contemporary styles. For these reasons, generally white or off-white matboard colour tones are more suitable for most types of artworks and photos.

Choosing matboard to suit your art

Darker colour tones, such as black, navy blue or dark green are also popular for specific styles of artworks and documents, such as certificates. However, using these darker, heavier colours around traditional artwork can be bold and contemporary. 

Quality is also important. Cheaper, paper-based acidic matboards may cause damage and discoloration over time. Thus, it is always best to choose materials that are acid-free or better, long term preservation.

Lastly, if you have valuable pieces with historical significance or sentimental value that require long-term storage or display purposes, look for museum-grade matboards as these are specially designed to provide maximum protection against multiple aging factors.

Overall, choosing the right type of mat board depends on factors such as personal preference, budget constraints, and intended use.

Infographic for What is a Mat Board

What is a mat board infographic for picture framing

Does the Quality of a Matboard Matter?

Quality - There are different qualities when it comes to mat boards, and some mat boards can be made from poor quality cardboard which can deteriorate by becoming acidic and going brown over time. This acid can cause damage to the artwork. A good quality mat board should be made from high quality cardboard which is buffered to be acid-free and will last much longer.

Mat boards can also be affected by fading from light. Better quality mat boards will be more resistant to fading and hold their colour longer than cheaper mat boards, which may fade in colour more rapidly.

At Profile, we only use mat boards that are premium quality and acid-free to ensure you can properly protect and elegantly display your treasured memories for years to come.

How is a Mat Board Made?

Matboards are made from dense cardboard which is manufactured from wood pulp or cotton fibers, which are then treated with chemicals to improve their durability and strength. For example, calcium carbonate can be added to the pulp to make the board acid-free, specifically suitable for framing artwork.

The process of making a mat board starts by blending liquified pulp with various colours of pigment and adhesive into a slurry. This slurry is then poured onto large sheets of paper or cardboard, which are dried and rolled into continuous rolls paper. These paper and cardboard layers are then combined and pressed together using roller machines and an archival grade of adhesive.

Factory

Once all these combined matboard layers are bonded and dried, they're cut down to workable sized sheets of about 1.3mm thick. These sheets are commonly 32x40 inches (101.6x81.3cm) or 40x60 inches (101.6 x 152cm).

These matboard sheets can then be processed by cutting machines to cut the outside dimensions to the frame size requirements. The matboard windows are then custom cut-to-size with decorative beveled edges, revealing the white core of the board.

Matcutter

All of our window mat boards used in our photo frames are precision cut to perfection on one of our Swiss-made computerised mat cutters, located in here in our factory in Sydney, Australia. 

Here is a demonstration video below, which shows how all of our matboards are custom cut-to-size to suit our picture frames:

Profile can produce a variety of different styles of matboards for different requirements. For example, additional to standard rectangle mats, we can also product oval window matboards. Oval mats can be ideal for portraits.
Also, multi-opening collage window matboards are popular for showcasing a series of photos in the same picture frame.

Are Mat Boards Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly?

Profile Australia only uses frame mats and window mat boards which are eco-sustainable and made from environmentally sourced wood-pulp.

Mat boards are also a recyclable product, because they are a high-quality dense cardboard. Profile has also taken steps recycle the matboard waste create in our production process. 

Choosing Australia's Best Range of Cut-to-Size Matboards Online with Profile

Explore the complete range of pre-cut matboards from Profile Australia. Whether you're looking for picture frames, photo frames, metal framesposter frames or even specialty frames like shadow-box frames, we offer a full range of DIY picture framing accessories, solutions and acid-free hinging tape

Australian Made Logo

All Profile pre-cut matboards and picture frames are proudly made in Australia with eco-sustainable materials and a lifetime guarantee! 

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This article was written by Jared Davis - www.jareddavis.com.au

Jared Davis is one of only a few qualified Master Certified Picture Framers in Australia with over 30 years of custom framing experience.

Jared is published author, writer and an industry-recognised educator who teaches classes and workshops to professional picture framers all around the world.


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