Matting and Framing

Matting Instructions

Purpose of the matt

  • To isolate the piece from the surrounding environment on which it is displayed.
  • To protect the art piece from damage due to handling or transportation.
  • To provide a rigid support for hanging and presentation.


Matt board, foamcore board, pencil, art piece (image), Exacto™ knife, acid-free tape, Quilter's ruler or T-square/ruler.

Step 1: Measure the length and width of the image of the art piece to be seen in the window of the matt. This determines the "window opening" size of the matt. This area is what you want to see in the matt window. The image area to be shown through the window is 11" x 13" in the sample diagrams on the following pages.

Step 2: Determine the matt width around the art piece. In order to isolate the image from the wall on which it will be hung, it is recommended that a minimum of 2½" mat width on all four sides be used on even the smallest image (2"x3"). Use wider dimensions on larger images incrementally. The image should stand-out, not the wall behind the image. Discern visually how much separation is needed in the matt width in order to isolate the image from a busy wall behind it. See the following diagrams for examples. For example, if the image area is 11"x13", then the matt width should be about 4" to 4½" wide. If the image is 16" x 20", the matt should be 5"-6" wide (not to exceed 30" in any direction).

Step 3: To determine finished outside dimensions of matt and foamcore backing material, take each side dimension separately and add it to the matt width times 2. For example, if the image area is 11" x 13" and the matt width is 4" x 2 sides, this will equal 8 inches. So the one side is 11" + 8" = 19" and the other side is 13" + 8" = 21". So your new outside dimensions are 19" x 21" with a 4" wide matt. Once you determine the proper size for your image, cut both the matt board and a piece of foamcore your determined size.

Step 4: Lay the foamcore backing aside while you cut the window in the matt.

Step 5: Cut the matt window out of the matt board by first marking your determined matt width on the back of your matt with a pencil. (Consider using a 6" x 24" and 15" x 15" Omnigrid Quilter's ruler to do this; it makes sure the board is square as well as accurately measured on the matt board. It is fast and very accurate.) Cut with an Exacto™ knife for non-beveled edges. Cut with a razor bevel cutter if using a matt cutter system. Mark one side and then spin the board to mark the other three sides. Cut the matt from the backside, starting and stopping just past the intersection of the pencil lines. See close-up diagram below. The window should fall out on its own if cut properly. If not, carefully turn the matt over to cut the corners further to release the window piece.

Step 6: Place image (art piece) centered on the foamcore background, face up. Place the window matt on top of the art piece, face up. Line up outside edges of both matt and backing board. Reposition the image under the window until it is positioned evenly in the opening while also making sure the outer edges of both matt board and foamcore are even all around the outside.

Step 7: Carefully flip up the matt window to allow tape hinges to be placed over the gap between the matt board and the backing board. Place three pieces of tape about 2" long in the "H" format as shown in the diagram. Always place the vertical one first, then the two parallel to the edges of the board. This reinforces the hinge for strength. This will hinge the window matt to the backing board. Two hinges are placed on matts about 14" or smaller. On matts larger than this, use three hinges. Place two about 3" from the outer edges and the third one centered in the middle.

Step 8: Recheck the art piece's position under the window again before you mark it for hinging. Carefully, lift up the window matt leaving the art work on the foamcore backing board. Now lightly mark along the top edge and about 1" along the top side of the image paper. This will help you relocate its exact position under the window once your hinges are done.

Step 9: Carefully flip the art work, leaving it placed along the line you drew but now it is upside down above the line. Place tape hinges (as done on matt board/foamcore hinge in step 7) on the back of the art work and three on larger pieces as described in step 7. Artwork should hang freely from these hinges, invisible from the front once the art work is flipped back to its original "window" position. Lower the matt and check the position of the art work in the window. Reposition and adjust hinges if needed to get the art work to be evenly spaced in the window opening.

Step 10: Place small rolls of tape or use double-stick acid-free tape on the inside lower corners of the matt board/foamcore where the x's are on the diagram to hold the matt closed when done.

Finishing: The matt should now fulfill all the purposes stated for matting at the beginning of this instruction sheet.

Guidelines for Framing

Oil, Acrylic, Watercolor and Mixed Media Entries

Several strip frame formats are acceptable:

The least expensive and a very effective frame is a ¼” x 2” wide piece of flat board (lathe) from a lumber yard. Measure the whole image area through the center on each side horizontally and vertically to find the dimensions that the frame should be. Measure twice to be sure! Blunt cut the pieces so that they will overlap at the corners (see the following illustration). Paint the boards with enamel or spray paint and let dry. Nail boards flush or even with the back edge of the canvas so that they extend approximately ½” in front of the canvas. Nail with finishing nails about every 12” along the top and bottom, being careful to go into the canvas board and not through the painting surface. Do not nail the very ends of the boards where they butt together. Instead, nail them about ½” from the ends. The boards tend to split if your nails are too large or come too close to the ends.

An acceptable and reasonably inexpensive frame is a metal strip frame. These can be ordered from many distributors in pairs for each set of sides of your frame. Distributors can be found online at and and the materials can be shipped directly to you. Metal strip frames are less expensive than wood frames and they are easily assembled with a screwdriver. Many forms, from standard ½” width for drawings with a thin mat, to 2” plus for canvas are available. You will need to order two pairs for each frame, one pair for the top and bottom and the other for the two sides.

All entries require frames except banners, pottery, on-site art and fashion sketches. Glass may be included with the frame. This will protect entries from damage during transportation. However, the glass should be removed before the artwork is checked-in. Strip framing is the recommended method. Strip frames are plain (one color), simple, non-textured, light weight, and inexpensive frames one to two inches wide. They are readily available from a variety of suppliers and frame shops. Frames may be purchased online through sites such as and Frames are not considered in the judging of the artwork. Matting alone is not an acceptable substitute for framing (except in On-site Art).

The maximum size for the entry, including matting and the frame, may not exceed 30 inches in any direction. No multi-framed entries will be accepted. Entry must be contained within one frame. No double-matted entries are permitted. No entry is to exceed 15 pounds.

The back of the item must be easily accessible for judging. If the back is covered, the student must remove the back covering before submitting the entry for judging.

Guidelines for photography

Matting and Framing

Matting: For display purposes, photographs should be single matted in white or black picture matting board (available in the framing section of arts and crafts stores.) Matting should not exceed 3” in width. Refer to the Art section of this handbook for matting instructions. Note: The "window" may be cut in any shape (e.g. oval, rectangular, round, etc.).

Framing: All photographs must be framed. The frame should be a narrow black frame, either metal or wood with no additional colors or embellishments. The frame must be assembled with the glass removed. If you have any questions, please contact the Competition Assistant or the event facilitator.