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Judith Ring, Director
R.A. Gray Building
500 South Bronough Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250

State Library
R.A. Gray Building
500 South Bronough Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250
Mon.- Fri. 9:00am - 4:30pm
Closed Weekends

State Archives
R.A. Gray Building
500 South Bronough Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250
Mon.- Fri. 9:00am - 4:30pm
Closed Weekends

Capitol Branch
Room 701
The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1400
Mon.- Fri. 9:00am - 4:30pm

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4319 Shelfer Road
Tallahassee, FL 32305
By Appointment Only

Preservation and Conservation : Preservation Matting

How to mat a piece of art

Preservation matting will provide an attractive and safe presentation of your art or photographs, with the additional advantage of also providing a storage option. Below are step by step directions for preservation matting and framing. Preservation Matting and Framing Overview will provide a more general introduction and also give some suggestions on how to choose a frame.

The following example will be using two front mats, a back mat, and a backing board.

All the mats and the backing board should be acid free, pH neutral, and lignin free. Cotton mat boards are available at most art supply stores and meet all of those requirements. If possible, use mats that are colorfast. These will fade less over time than non-colorfast ones and will bleed less if they get wet.

First cut all the mats to size to fit into the rabbet of the frame.  If the frame has come with a backing, it can be used as a pattern to cut the acid-free, lignin free, pH neutral boards that will be used in the preservation framing.  Cut the mats to fit snugly, but not too tightly, into the rabbet of the frame.

The picture in this example has a nice, broad expanse of white surrounding the center art. 

Place the picture on the back mat (grey).  Mark directly on the back-mat where the picture will be placed (the red lines). Do not yet attach the picture to the back mat.

The windows in both the inner and outer front mats will be cut in conjunction with the precise positioning of the picture.

When measuring for the window of the inner front mat, keep in mind that each edge of the window will cover each edge of the art to hold it flat and in place.

Measure from the outside edge of the back mat (grey) past the edge of the art by at least 1/4 of an inch on each side.

The blue dotted line in the picture represents the theoretical position of the window of the inner-front mat.  Do not actually draw on the art. 

Mark the lines for the window (blue) on the back of the inner front mat (white). The red corner marks are included for reference here.

Cut the window out, using a straight edge and utility knife or mat cutter.

Replace the art on the back mat, using the corner marks as a guide.  Then place the inner front mat over the art, using the edges of the back mat as a guide.  The art should show properly through the window.

You can quickly measure the opening for the outer front mat now, using the inner front mat as a guide. 

Place the inner front mat on the back side of the outer front mat, and trace the outline of the window lightly with a pencil.  Since the outer front mat window will be larger, use a ruler and add about ¼ inch all the way around the outside of the pencil line.  Use this outside measurement to cut the outer mat window.

Check the fit of the outer mat window to be sure the art shows properly. It is better to discover any changes that will need to be made now, rather than after items have been attached to one another.


Attach the art to the backmat.  This can be done by hinging it with linen tape or kizukishi and wheat starch paste. It can also be attached using photograph corners (shown below).

Hinge the inner front mat to the back mat. Linen tape is suitable for this. Be sure the tape does not touch the art.

Photograph corners work best for photographs and for artwork on stiff paper.  This also works well if the item has been encapsulated. 

If you use photograph corners, be sure they do not show through the window of the front mat.

You have achieved a "Mat Packet."

Now for the framing.

Fit the entire mat packet and the front mat into the rabbet area of the frame.

The glazing and the mat packet should fit snugly into the rabbet area of the frame’s window without any bending of the mats. It also should not have too much room to slide around.

Place the backing behind the entire mat packet, and fasten it into place with the brads, strips, locking devices, or other method used to keep the mats in place in the frame.

If you are using a point driver, shoot the points parallel to the backing, straight into the wood of the rabbet.  Do not shoot through the backing. 

Add a hanging wire.  Some frames come with wire attachment points. For those that do not, be sure to attach the wire to the frame itself, rather than to the backing or a brad. Eye screws work well with wood frames.

Hanging and Displaying Art and Photographs

State Archives of Florida
Hours of Operation
  Mon.-Fri. 9:00am- 4:30pm
  Closed: Weekends and state holidays

R.A. Gray Building
500 South Bronough Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0250

(Two blocks west of the State Capitol)

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