Carolina Custom Frameworks
Columbia, SC

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To Mat or Not to Mat

Originally, the purpose of the picture frame mat was to separate the artwork from the glass.  They came in only a few colors are were more functional than decorative.   Over time, manufacturers began providing professional framers with many color options.   Today, custom framers use mats for both reasons, decorative and conservation.     

So why is it important to separate the art from the glass?   There are two main reasons.  One, it provides protection from moisture that may condense inside the glass by providing a little “air space” to help the moisture dissipate.  Second, it provides support for the artwork.   When sandwiched between the mounting board and a mat, the artwork will not warp as easily when temperature changes cause the paper to expand and contract.   

A few years ago, I was contacted by a former high school classmate who now works at our school.  She was leading an effort to reframe about three decades worth of 8” x 10” valedictorian photos that had been hanging in the halls.   When I began taking the photos out of the original frames, which contained no mats, I found some of the photos were stuck to the glass.   Humidity had caused moisture to collect in the frame and caused the photo paper to stick to the glass.   I had to do some unexpected photoshop recreation work and reprint them.   In this case, just a single mat could have prevented the photos from being ruined.   So, unless you are framing an inexpensive item and you have no concern about its long-term protection, always use at least a single mat.