It’s been many years of collecting, but I’ve finally developed a pretty substantial hoard of prints. We have lots of wall space, thankfully, but even still we are running out of room! I’ve been shuffling things around and finding space but still have some nice pieces that have yet to be framed. I’m kind of past the phase of just pinning things up… they look so much better (and more substantial) when in a frame with a cleanly cut mat board.
If you’ve ever taken something to be custom framed, however, you may also have suffered sticker shock like I do when you see how much it costs to have it done right. As much as I love my Audrey prints, each time I have to drop $500 to frame them properly I nearly have a heart attack. While I won’t bang any collectable art into a ready-made frame, I have accepted that not every postcard I want to hang needs to be custom done. I’ve also learned that to make things look nice in an Ikea frame sometimes you have to cut the mat board yourself to be the right dimensions.
Of course this process is infinitely easier if you have access to a mat cutter. Hahaha. Lucky for me my Mom’s old neighbour used to be an art supplies dealer and he gave her a spare (Logan Compact Classic Mat Cutter) many years ago that ended up being given to me. I haven’t used it a ton, but have continued to cart it around with me and it was super useful while I was in school and producing presentation boards.
Since then it’s been collecting cobwebs but I busted it out a few weeks ago to fit some prints into a couple frames we had.
Cutting a mat board is a fairly simple process, you measure the print you want to frame and make the window slightly larger if you want to include a border around the image itself, or slightly smaller if you want to crop the image. For this Wes Anderson themed print the lighthouse at the top extends beyond the border of the rest of the image so to avoid cutting it off I left a space around the entire print which you can see above.
1. Measure the frame and using a straight blade trim the mat board to fit the frame. If you have a mat cutter or can get access to one at school or work, there are two types of blades; one vertical blade for trimming square edges, and one angled blade for trimming the beveled window itself. Boards can be bought at any art store for fairly cheap, these medium sized pieces were about $6 each. So if my frame is 24″ wide and 36″ long, I will trim the board to 24″ wide and 36″ long.
2. Measure the printed portion of the piece of art you are framing (not the paper, the actual image that will be showing in the frame). Subtract about 1mm from each side to cover the edges. If my image is 20″ wide and 30″ long, I will subtract 2mm from each measurement to make the window slighter smaller at around 19.9″ x 29.9″. Remember not to let the sides of the mat board get too thin, if there won’t be enough room for at least 1-2″ then you might want to consider a larger frame.
3. Now to ensure the window is centred on the board. Take the width of the board (24″) and subtract the size of the window (19.9″) = 4.1″. Divide that number by 2 = 2.05″. This will be the thickness of each side of the mat. Repeat for length. Carefully measure in 2.05″ in from both sides of the board width-wise, and repeat for length on the board length-wise. Mark the back of the board with a light pencil line that goes right across the back to make a big square grid. The two width measurements should be the same, and so should the two for length and the square should be clearly centred on the board.
4. Align the edge of the mat board track (the flip up piece that the blade runs along) with your cut line and secure the backing piece so the board doesn’t slip out. You will set this once to make both width cuts, then again for both length cuts. This will ensure the sides are cut equally. With a backing board (second piece of mat board used as scrap) under your mat board to protect the front and ensure a crisp cut, make the first cut being careful to line up the markers on the blade to get a clean corner (there is a marker on the handheld cutter itself that you align with the pencil mark on the back on the board – this can be seen in the image below. Careful not to cut past your line as then the cut will extend beyond the corner and not look neat and tidy. You want to cut the window square EXACTLYYYY.) Slowly but firmly lower the blade into the board and slide along the track until the mark aligns on the other end, then retract the blade. Repeat for all sides.
5. Be super careful that you are cutting the bevel the right way!
6. Gently pop out the centre, careful that all the cuts have gone through cleanly and you don’t tear anything, especially the corners. Lay the mat over the image and line it all up, securing the print to the back of the board with tape. Sandwich the board and print between the glass and backing board and slide or drop into the frame and secure, careful to not get any dust, hairs or fingerprints under the glass. Stand back and admire your craftiness!
This is a simple process, and once you get good at it you can do fancy things like layered mat windows and using different colours and textures. Have fun with it!