Mounting and Matting

Materials Needed
Black Matboard 11 x 14 (Small Prints)
Black Matboard 16 x 20 (Large Prints)

Adhesives for Mounting (one of the following)
Rubber Cement
Spray Mount(3M)
Double Stick Tape
Dry Mount (described below)

Mounting photos for competition is relatively easy. You need to position your photo on the appropriate size matboard and attach it to the board using one of the recommended adhesives listed above. You should either center the photo or position the photo slightly above center to take into account the lightbox shelf. Make sure the photo is securely attached to the matboard so that it does not come loose while being handled during competition.

Dry Mount Method

To dry mount a photo you affix a sheet of meltable plastic the same size as the print to the back of the print, then affix the print/plastic sandwich to a piece of mount board and place this triple sandwich in a hot press at about 200 degrees for about 2 minutes. The advantage of this type of mount is that the print is very smoothly affixed and less prone to environmental damage as nothing can get behind it. The disadvantage is the fix is pretty much permanent and a press can be very costly (although used machines are now really cheap on E-Bay).


Following is a list of standard size frames found in the art, craft and picture framing industry (the sizes in bold are the most common:

Frame Sizes
4×5 11×14 24×26
4×6 12×16 26×32
5×7 14×18 30×40
6×8 16×20 32×40
8×10 18×24 36×48
8×12 20×24 40×60
8.5×11 22×28 48×60
9×12 24×30 48×96

Irregular size frames may be purchased at locations such as Ikea but then you need to cut your mat accordingly.
What color matboard should I use?
The three most often used criteria for choosing mat color are:

  • The Art: Based solely on the merits of the artwork — colors, textures, subject matter.
  • The Background: Coordinate mat color with intended surroundings.
  • Personal Preference: Such as your favorite colors.

Directions for trimming matboards

Start by cutting matboard 1/16” smaller than the size of the frame opening so that the matboard will slide into the frame easily.

Measure and mark back side of board with pencil.

Use straight mat cutter drawing the cutter toward you to cut the board.

Tip: Always have a piece of scrap matboard under the cutting surface so as to not cut the cutting board. It is important to trim matboard exactly square – take extra care to cut correctly and keep the cutter square.

Directions for cutting single mat: (3” border on all sides)
  • Set the mat guide and guide rail stop at 3: and tighten down knobs (do not make too tight, just enough to keep the guides in place.
  • Place the mat face down in the cutter on top of the scrap matboard. Make sure board is flush with mat guide and squaring arm.
  • Using edge of guide rail, draw line with pencil from top to bottom of the matboard.
  • Lift guide rail and rotate board 90 degrees to mark next side of board. Repeat until all four sides are marked.
  • After all sides are marked, place board in cutter (making sure it is flush with the mat guide and squaring arm) and place bevel cutting head on the guide rail at the top of the mat.
  • Line up the silver guideline on the cutting head with the pencil mark, insert the blade into the board and pull towards the guide rail stop, make sure you set the anti-crawl pin to keep the blade from “walking back”.
  • Lift guide rail rotate mat, and repeat on other three sides.
  • Center will drop out when last side is cut.

Cut slightly beyond the corner so that the cut is complete and the inside of the mat can be removed easily.

Directions for cutting double mat:

The second mat is the top mat and this mat needs to be 1/4 smaller than the first mat.

Set the mat guide and guide rail stop at 2-3/4” and tighten down knobs. Follow same procedure as for single mat.

Many frames will only hold a single and/or a double mat, so if you have a print mounted on a matboard, you can only use a single mat. Or you can adhere your print to the mount board temporarily with double stick tape and then remove the mount board when you are planning to mat (double mat) and frame your photo. Make sure you check the frame before you purchase it to make sure it will accommodate the type of matting you plan on using.

Adhere top mat to bottom mat using double-stick tape or other recommended adhesive.

Hang photo:

Hang photo on inside mat with linen tape on the top only (one across, one down in the upper corners – in a “┌” or “┐” shape). Do not fasten at the bottom. The photo should be “hung” to allow movement due to changes in humidity in the environment. You do not want your picture to buckle.

Arrange the photo to ensure the best advantage of the photo. If the photo is a little crooked, straighten it out on the mat. You can move it from side to side to find the best arrangement.

Clean glass:

Clean inside of glass with Glass Cleaner and check for lint or dust. Place matted photo in frame and fasten down.

Hang on the wall:

Eye level is generally preferred.

Watch your proportions; proportion is seen rather than measured. The matting should enhance your photos, not overpower them.

Frames and Matboard – Where to Purchase

Michael’s and Hobby Lobby have good selections and often have sales on frames (sometimes 50% off). Ikea has odd sizes but they are very reasonable in cost. Dick Blick has a large selection of matboard.
Starvinʼ Artist (downtown Des Plaines) has a more limited supply of matboards, but they are in excellent condition. They also carry some hard to find colors.

You can get four 16×20 matboards from one 32 X 40 board and six 11×14 matboards from one 32×40 board.

Mat Cutter – Where to purchase:
Dick Blick Art Supplies – 1975 Golf Road, Schaumburg, IL
(Additional locations in Chicago, Evanston and Wheaton.)

Have fun – once you purchase a mat cutter – you’ll be hooked. Your home will be covered with your photographic art!