How to "mat" photos and art

July 27, 2015

There are so many things that I do in my home and after all this time I tend to assume most know how to do the same -- but it's not the case! And sometimes I take shortcuts that turn out just fine (and save a lot of money!) and those are the little tips that I LOVE about blogging, so I'm sharing anther one of those today. 

This is one of those basic projects I do ALL the time. I've done this DIY "matting" for years when framing artwork -- it's super easy and way cheaper than buying a mat or paying to have one custom cut. I do this so often because most of my frames are from Goodwill and don't always have a mat or are an odd size. 

I have some art I've had hanging by our fireplace that I've been meaning to re-mat. Years ago when I first framed these I painted the "mat" gray and I've been warning to switch them out for bright white. You don't need much to do this -- just some scissors, tape, your art and a piece of poster board: 
DIY photo matting

The paper trimmer is not necessary but I'll show how I use that shortly. 

The great part about this is you can use basic poster board from the dollar store -- super cheap. You could use anything really -- I've even taken the cardboard backing from the frame and painted it. ;) That's the SUPER cheap way to go. You could use wallpaper, scrapbook paper, wrapping paper for your mat -- the possibilities are endless. 

For this I wanted simple white and I went with a little more expensive paper I find at Michael's -- it's got a pretty texture to it that I love. They were $3 each but you can use a coupon or get them on sale at times. 

I just trace the size of the cardboard backing onto the paper so I know exactly what size to cut out: 
This cut doesn't need to be perfect, the edges will be hidden behind the frame. 

Cutting out the art is where I like to use the paper trimmer: 
free art prints
By the way, that art was a free download -- I blogged about that years ago here. It is an AWESOME resource!

I like using the trimmer for the art or photos to get a really clean cut -- even if I have a straight line traced on it I don't tend to get a super straight line with my scissors. I didn't use this trimmer last time I did this so I just cleaned up the edges a bit.

I like to use double-sided tape on the back of the art and then I eyeball where it goes on the poster board: 

It looks a little wavy here because it's not pressed against the glass yet. 

I honestly can never tell a difference between art that has an actual mat and those that I use this method on: 
free art printables

You want the back to be as secure as possible on the frame so the papers are snug against the glass -- if you have any give you'll be able to tell the art is just taped on top. If not, it's hard to tell even close up!

Love it!:
I used to buy a mat the size of my frame but I quickly realized it's not something I need to spend money on. I especially love this because of all my second hand frames -- it makes them easy to reuse for exactly what I want to frame out. I use this method a LOT for my son's artwork that doesn't fit in a mat perfectly:

You could make your art any shape or size that you want. :) 

It's been almost a year since we finished the family room renovation and we are SO happy we took down that wall! Our fireplace is one of my favorites in our home: 
dark gray fireplace herringbone tile

There you go! My simple, cheater photo matting method. ;) 

When you combine it with a Goodwill frame and a free printable, you get some super inexpensive art! This is especially helpful when you're putting together a big gallery wall with a lot of frames. I've also painted the poster board the same color as the wall so it looks like the art is in a floating frame -- love that look too.

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  1. Looks great - it totally looks like that photo has a mat!

  2. Awesome -- I totally use this method too! I also found a really affordable and easy mat cutting kit ($50 on Amazon) that makes it easy to cut a custom-sized mat with a beveled edge and everything. It's worked surprisingly well, so I've started to use that for some of my art framing. I did a little tutorial on my blog awhile back, if it's helpful! (

  3. Hello Sarah. Good tip, I will definitely give it a try. A question about the glass container with the moss balls: why do you have it in front of the picture frame? Wouldn't you use one or the other, so there is no obstruction? Admittedly, I am new at styling. Best, ML

  4. This works well for inexpensive or easily replaceable art, but I wouldn't do it with anything that you value. Photographs in particular stick to glass when pressed against it. Part of the point of a mat is to separate the art from the glass.

    1. Good point! I find as long as I clean and dry the glass well then even photos don't stick.

    2. You beat me to it Corah!

      This is definitely not a method that should be used on anything irreplaceable, like an old original photo (AKA not something you can reprint) or expensive art.

      Anything touching art/photos of value should be acid free (which I doubt poster board is) and used to keep the glass OFF the art, not hold it against it. ESPECIALLY in a high humidity area (mats also help absorb moisture!) where a photo is more likely to start to stick after a while.

    3. This poster board is acid free, from the art supply section in Michaels. But yes I agree about old photos!

  5. OMIGOSH! I do the same thing! Once it's pressed against the glass, who's to know? It gives a very custom look to the piece without all of the cost of a custom mat. (:

  6. Perfect! I LOVE the idea of using a pretty textured paper. And yay for simple and quick projects! :)

  7. The pops of blue look so nice in your family room!

  8. I love the fact that you chose to talk about one of the simple projects. I love the room reveal/ bigger projects but at the same time they can be overwhelming and make me feel bummed (that I can't do the project, that I don't have that style, etc.). This small project is something that can be done by everyone (even one who isn't able to put holes in the wall).

    My Bright Blue House

  9. Love this idea as I also love to score at Goodwill or garage sales. It looks great!

  10. Thanks for this tip. These are the kind of projects I can complete.

  11. What a great idea for pictures. Simple and creative. Limitless on the different sizes and works of art you could decorate the home with. Also, if you change up the themes for the seasons, this is a very inexpensive way to do that! Thanks for posting.

  12. Totally thought it was a mat in the picture! Genius!

  13. I love this!! Can I ask where you got those cool frames? Love the brass/gold on the corners. Did you do that??

  14. This is genius!! I can't believe I didn't even think of that, and it looks like its matted professionally! Love it!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Lauren Baxter | LB Designs


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