How to pick out the right matting and frame for your picture...

How to pick out the right matting and frame for your picture...

March 11, 2019

Selecting the right mat-board and picture frame for your photograph or original painting is an art-form; it takes patience, a critical eye and a little imagination. But with a bit of practice and some of these helpful tips, you'll be able to dress up that picture of yours and make it pop...

The first thing I look at when picking out the mat-board is the dominant color in the artwork. In other words, the color that is used the most throughout the piece. Generally, I match the top mat to this color so that the matting does not detract from the art.

For example, observe the image of the poster below:

The color of the top mat is very similar to the deeper shadows of the poster print, if not slightly darker in order to draw the eye in towards the subject matter and make the art glow even more.

Notice the accent mat, beneath it. Sometimes a picture framer would choose one that might match the skin-tone of the woman but in this case, I chose one that brought out the softer blues throughout so that it complimented the background instead of detracting from her. And when choosing a frame for this particular one, I would instead, pick out a color like a warm cherry-wood to match the girl or even black to further compliment the rocks.

I used a very similar process for the Bird Lady:

Of course, every image, painting and photograph will pose a different challenge. But the purpose of selecting matting and picture frames beyond just to protect the art is also to enhance it.

I once had a customer who brought in a print she purchased along with a swatch of her couch and she insisted that the final frame job matched. So, I humored her for the next several minutes until I found matting that matched her furniture. It-was-HIDEOUS! Then I looked at her and asked: "So would you like to match the picture now?"

I suppose the point of that story is if you want your matting and framing to match your living room, then buy art that already matches your furniture.

It also helps to have two sets of eyes when framing up your picture, as was the case for my pastel "Creation". Fortunately, I already had a frame that matched the picture but was limited to a copper and kind of periwinkle blue matting. The others I had in stock just weren't cutting it. Now notice how the picture frame ties in closely with the center of the image. This was why I chose it because generally, that's what I go for.

Creation - Original Pastel

There were two ways I had decided to frame this up. The first, was to have the blue matting on top and the copper as the accent and the second was the other way around. But there were issues. One, was that the blue as a top mat would contrast with the picture frame, being a complimentary color and the other issue is that my second set of eyes insisted that he was right. I do agree that it turned out great but I still would like to see it the other way around.

Now here is another of my favorite ways for picking out colors for a picture...

As a professional artist, I always have my artwork either scanned or photographed for prints. The process takes some time, often several attempts before I go into production. Lately, I've even spent hours myself adjusting the colors with Cyberlink Photo Director in order to get the digital image exactly like the original. But, in the end I have a quality image with cropped, square corners.

Anyhow, if you have access to a decent digital image, you may want to bring it into a simple image editing program like paint and pick out mat colors, possibly even a picture frame from there.

That's the process I use when creating product images for my posters and often original art, too. I may already have a mat in stock, but it is more difficult to get a square photo of the matting than it is to create it from an editor.

Basically, the process is basically your image inside of two different colored rectangles. And then you can use the color picker to pick colors from your picture and instantly change the colors of the matting on your screen to match. (I may do a tutorial later)

And when all else fails, you can always use whites or blacks...

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I've been matting and framing artwork for nearly two decades now so I plan on writing a follow up article to this one based on requests.


Some people may not know this but mat board is not used on canvas paintings and prints ;-)

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