Many framed drawings and prints are protected by a window mat. The artwork is hinged to a backing board with a window board hinged to the backing material. The mat and window provide layers of protection to the work. A mat also provides some security from the environment. It's a safe way to handle an artwork because it keeps oils and dirt from your hands settling onto the edges of the piece, and also helps to minimize potential rips or tears to the work along its edges.

There is no one correct way to mat something but there are lots or guidelines to help get you started. My demo shows how to make a fine mat without the need for an expensive mat-cutter. We'll do it all with readily available hand tools.

Before you buy the matting materials, decide what type of board you will need. Mat boards are made in various thicknesses and from various materials. I always recommend getting the best product you can afford. A handmade print on expensive paper should be matted with a high quality mat board while a drawing made on newsprint could probably be matted with poster board or less expensive matting material. Acid free is good; all-cotton acid free boards are best.

We're going to use a 4 ply acid free museum board for this project, but you can use any good quality mat board.

Step 1: Tools you will need

You can make a very good mat with only a moderate investment in materials. Some supplies you may need to purchase but many of the tools and materials may already be in your artist supply boxes.


Snap-Off Blade Cutting Knife
Extra Blades

24 inch or longer Cork-Backed Straight Edge Ruler

Mechanical Pencil or a well sharpened Number 2 Pencil


Pony Clamp or other spring action clamp

Seamless cutting mat or a large sheet of heavy weight Chip Board to protect the surface on which you are making cuts

White or cream color 4 ply Museum Board, Mat Board, or Poster board

Hinging material - 1 inch strips of archival quality sketch paper or lightweight inexpensive Japanese rice paper

Elmer's glue, SOBO brand or other white flexible glue

1/2 to 1 inch bristle brush

Burnishing tools: bone folder, or a plastic disposable knife (optional)

A weight such as a paper covered brick
Thank you! I have more artwork than I care to name, waiting for a mat and nice frame. Now I'll have to give it a try and with your very precise directions, I can start treating this artwork well. Great instructable, too, I found your writing to be very clear and the photos added just the right amount of information.
Thanks so much. Good luck with your project.
Wow! Got to give that a go. This looks like the simple and effective means I have been looking for. All my artwork has a cycle. Pad, desk, cupboard, floor (where it sees damage), then I get annouyed I have treated it so bad and ruined it, so I through it out. Me thinks you have broken my cycle. Thanks!!

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Bio: I am an artist, educator, tinkerer, and repurposer, err, recycler.
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